Last season, The Last Man on Earth grew into a show that succeeded through its strong ensemble cast; Ironic considering the show title and what we were lead to assume was its premise. The actors bounce off one another perfectly, particularly our leads Will Forte and Kristen Schaal.
The second season also got progressively darker in tone as it went along. It often cruelly reminded viewers that all of its goofy antics are happening in a post-apocalyptic world with depleting resources.
Both the show’s setting and the chemistry of the cast are addressed in this week’s season premiere “General Breast Theme with Cobras,” which picks up directly where last season left off: Pat (Mark Boone Junior) has discovered the group’s Malibu hideaway, and he is heading ashore with two others.
You could probably figured what the resolution would be months ago: Despite all of his tinfoil-hat paranoia, of course Pat isn’t coming to kill our heroes. Of course, there’s a misunderstanding during the home “invasion” and a trigger happy Melissa shoots and kills one of the intruders; A dying Darrell (played by Jones’ Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm in a brilliant piece of casting) tells the group that the three come in peace.
Pat has been a known entity since the last mid-season premiere, when Mike encountered him. We knew he was still out to sea, and it was totally possible that he’d find the crew.. He’s not necessarily an antagonist figure, but he’s the closest thing to one that the show has. He’s such an unusual figure to re-introduce on his own, that it’s only natural that the writers have brought on another, more reasonable character like Lewis (Kenneth Choi) to level things out.
Lewis was an arborist before the virus and is keen to detach himself from Pat. The group isn’t comfortable with Pat either, and only Tandy (now even calling himself that) objects to casting him out.
Pat insists that his only real quirk is designing weird, creepy patterns on jeans, but he’s still the same paranoid weirdo that abandoned Mike in Florida. He ominously tells Lewis that the Malibu group will give them both a “fresh start,” when it is just him that has skeletons in his closet.
Pat’s presence brings a sense of foreboding throughout the entire episode. It seems inevitable that Lewis will tell the group that Pat is unhinged and dangerous, or that Pat will discover that Tandy and Mike are brothers, cry conspiracy, and turn the whole place upside down.
At yet, when both of these things happen, it still comes with a sense of legitimate danger. Indeed, the entire scene leading up to Tandy and Pat’s final entrance into the house is played with a muted color palette and a look of concern on every character’s face. Credit to the actors and episode writer-director John Solomon that this scene doesn’t seem jarring compared to what immediately proceeded it: Tandy and Pat bonding while they destroy the Santa Monica Pier in one of the show’s great set-piece explosions.
When Pat comes in to the scene, he seems sincere about toning down his paranoia, but still comes off as extremely creepy. Then, as expected, he discovers a photo of Tandy and Mike and reverts into pure tinfoil-hattery, holding the cast at gunpoint. When he reloads, the gang – with Lewis in tow – split in the A-Team Van (long story) and Todd runs Pat over. Cut to black.
I wish Pat was presented as a bit more three dimensional than he comes off in this episode. The Last Man on Earth really relishes in showing the good in every character, but it feels like Pat doesn’t get any of that here.
If he’s really gone for good, it will feel like a waste of both the character and Mark Boone Junior. We haven’t spent enough time with Lewis to determine if the character fits in with the cast, so it will be interesting to see how he develops. It’s also interesting to see Tandy’s latest development: He’s now a friendly optimist as opposed the horrible lying asshole he became was season one.
As for the rest of the cast, their chemistry is just strong as it ever was and everyone turns in a solid performance. However, this seems to be another episode where the writers have no idea what to do with Cleopatra Coleman’s Erica. I’m surprised that the show has gotten into season 3 without really developing one of its six main characters beyond a quip or two
Overall, The season premiere has great tonal moments, but it feels like some of the beats are predictable. That’s understandable: It was obvious wasn’t going to go incredibly dark right off the bat. However, there’s considerably less humor in this episode and tensions run high. It’s a solid return for one of the most underrated and understated comedies on television.