Sunday, March 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Last Man on Earth' - The Deadly Virus Outtbreak is Seen From a New Perspective in 'Got Milk?'

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 3.10 "Got Milk?"

The first moments of the deadly virus outbreak are revealed through a special lens.

The Last Man on Earth began its run three years after a devastating virus took out most of humanity on Earth. Phil and the rest of the characters all believed they were the last people on the planet. That's what gave the show its title. Reuniting is proof that there is still hope and a world to live for - even though it's very different from the one that preceded it. So, there is always the potential for a new survivor to appear and join the community. "Got Milk?" takes a different approach to that familiar twist. This episode largely doesn't include any of the main characters. Instead, it's seen from the perspective of Pamela Brinton - played by Kristen Wiig. All of the characters have experienced the fall of civilization. They have made references to it in the past - details of the virus, how the government responded, what pop culture was like during the outbreak, etc. But this is the first time the audience has actually seen these events take place. It's very informative. But it's also just a story about one woman's survival throughout all of this. It's her transformation from a wealthy socialite in charge of a foundation for dogs with bad hips to one of the last few people alive.

It's fascinating to see what the reaction was from the public. "Got Milk?" opens with Pamela at a fundraising gala for her foundation. All of it seems to be going as normal as possible. Sure, she's bombing as a host because she's making bad puns that don't work at all. She doesn't seem like a great head for this charity. She gets into tiffs with her fellow socialites. And then, a man coughs up blood and is carried away. She sees it as him trying to make the event all about him. It's just this casual thing. He's coughed up blood but these people want to maintain at least some semblance of normalcy in their lives. That's essentially what Pamela and her husband, Benjamin, do. They live in a mansion believing that this outbreak isn't that serious. Pamela believes the President must have a cure. Scientists wouldn't let him die. The montage of the presidential succession line all dying while in the office is absolutely hilarious. It's also the show taking a very political stance on the world. It's saying that this outbreak happened in real-life. But it's also taking a bold stance in having Mike Pence be the 46th President of the United States. That means the creative team thinks something will happen with Donald Trump between now and when the virus starts appearing in the world. That's a brave stance to take. But honestly, it's just hilarious watching all of these public faces from his administration get killed off one-by-one. None of them survive the end of the world in a bunker of some kind.

It's also intriguing to see Pamela slowly get isolated in this cruel world. All of the main characters have lost people close to them. Of course, Mike eventually came back to Phil. That was a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime miracle. So, it's compelling to see the virus slowly infect Pamela's world. It all starts with her friend, Catherine. It's hilarious that the two of them bump into each other while shopping at a store. It's a very mundane, normal task. But it's in the high stakes world of the virus where looters have already struck and the two of them are fully masked up. They then exchange pleasantries which is so delightful. From that moment, it's clear that the episode will build to the deaths of these characters around Pamela and she would take the underground bunker from her friends. But it's still absolutely brutal when that actually happens. Pamela is forced to abandon her home after Benjamin contracts the virus. He tells her to run so that she doesn't catch it too. She immediately flees to Cat's house where she is discovered dead as well. It's a brutal sight that is played for laughs because Pamela is poking her friend to see if she's alive.

All of this is building to the moment where Pamela seeks shelter in an underground bunker. That's a new perspective that the show hasn't touched on yet. It has talked about people fleeing to the sea to avoid any contact with the virus. That led to Pat, who was crazy in his own unique way. Pamela wasn't the one who actually bought this bunker and stocked it up before the virus happened. Nor did she get it after the virus was clearly killing millions of people. Instead, she stole it from her friend who didn't get there in time. The following montage that shows Pamela living in this place for three years is pretty special as well. As soon as the "Year One" message pops up, it's clear the show is quickly fast-forwarding this story to get up to the current timeline with Phil and the rest of the characters. So, Pamela may be a new survivor about to join the group at some point this season. But that's not the purpose of this episode. This moment is all about examining how the mind works in isolation for years. The bunker is stocked with enough food to last her for awhile. It also has a drone for her to examine the world around her. But all she has for company is her dog, Jeremy. Dogs were so important in her life before the virus. So, it's fitting that she's clinging onto Jeremy now. It's great that she tries to get him to speak English over the years. It's great to see her grow frustrated in that endeavor and ultimately lose Jeremy to the outside world. That's such a devastating moment. Jeremy gave her hope and a companion. And now, she's all alone.

That sets the story up perfectly for the reveal of how Pamela connects to the rest of the survivors. This season has never really addressed the drone that Gail saw and that Melissa ultimately shot out of the sky. It was easy to assume that it came from Pat, Darrell and Lewis because they appeared quickly thereafter. And yet, it's a brilliant twist for the show to reveal that the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The drone actually came from Pamela. After losing Jeremy, it was a miracle to her to see other survivors still out there. Of course, she doesn't know that there is no way for her to communicate with them. The drone doesn't have speakers for her to tell them that she is friendly as well. Instead, it's demoralizing when the drone loses picture. However, it's an empowering move for her as well. Seeing the rest of the survivors in Malibu gives her the confidence to leave the bunker. She does so without wearing a mask or any protective wear. Even when she let Jeremy out, she was still in the mask and garbage bags for protection. But now, she's confident that the world is safe again and there is a place for her to go and be around people once more. So, she's coming to be with the rest of the survivors. It should be fascinating to see if she ever finds them considering they don't live in the Malibu house anymore. But still that's an intriguing thought to keep in the background moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Got Milk?" was written by Maxwell R. Kessler and directed by John Solomon.
  • Just how privileged is Pamela? Well, it takes seeing a dog walking the streets and wearing a mask for her to grasp the reality of the situation. Sure, she is taken aback by the same image with a mother and her kid in a stroller. But it's really the dog that gets to her.
  • This episode also feels like the show once again addressing the concerns that the world isn't realistic in its depiction of the apocalypse. With news coverage of a ton of dead presidents, a store with barely any supplies (except dog food), and a stadium full of dead bodies, that criticism no longer seems valid.
  • The way that Benjamin so matter-of-factly tells Pamela about the death of their maid is hilarious. She texted that she's dead. It's only after a beat that he realizes someone else must have sent that message. Still it's not that big of a deal either.
  • It would be pretty miraculous if Pamela finds Jeremy on her adventure to Malibu, wouldn't it? It seems hopeless since he left the bunker long before she did. And perhaps the show just didn't want to kill a dog. But the hope is still alive too. It'd be absurd but potentially fitting the show's tone as well.
  • No one left a note at the Malibu house saying where the survivors are currently living, right? Phil and Lewis left notes in Seattle and Tuscon but not Malibu. Please, correct me if I'm wrong and there's some way for Pamela to suddenly just show up at the new building complex that houses the survivors.
  • It's a bold move to pick up the season with an episode like this after the last one ended on a cliffhanger of Gail's death. And yet, this episode is solid enough on its own to not be that concerning. But it would still be good to get back to the rest of the survivors and their complicated lives.
  • I knew Kristen Wiig was coming at some point this season but I had no idea that Laura Dern would be popping up as well. That was such a welcome surprise.