If you caught the Family Guy episode that preceded tonight’s Last Man On Earth, you know they made a little joke at this show’s expense. After originally being a show that focused on, well, the last man on earth, the show’s cast has expanded considerably since it debuted in 2015, and has now become an ensemble program. You could say that this is a bit dissimilar to the original premise, but the post-apocalyptic themes are still there, they just involve a greater number of people. This has largely proven to be a positive change, as some of the show’s best characters have emerged in the last two seasons. This was especially true in tonight’s episode, which focuses on the budding romance between Chris Elliott’s Glenn and Kristen Wiig’s Pam, both of whom have made their debuts very recently.
Due to her foul history, Pam has become a pariah to the entire gang, but she’s desperate to win their affections back. Perhaps her efforts are ultimately superficial, but it’s nonetheless admirable to see her be willing to see her volunteer for least dignified chores that ship life has to offer, and it shows that ultimately, she’s been humbled. Her misery doesn’t last long, however, as Glenn takes a romantic interest in her, and the feeling is quickly revealed to be mutual. The pair are both quite damaged, and it’s not hard to believe they would take solace in one another. Even knowing Pam’s obvious faults, we can still feel happy for her as she finally finds some companionship.
While this is going on, Todd is in denial about his extreme disappointment about Zihuatanejo. Anyone who saw The Shawshank redemption (so basically everyone) is familiar with the mythology surrounding the Mexican town, and when it turns out to not be the paradise he was hoping for, he’s understandably devastated. However, he spends most of the episode convincing himself that Zihuatanejo is just as great as he thought it would be, and it’s only when he’s confronted by Melissa that he’s willing to acknowledge his disappointment. In one of the episode’s most amusing moments, she points out that Shawshank wasn’t actually filmed there, so even the producers knew the place wasn’t as great as they were making it out to be. Really, though, the resolution of this plot is that despite Todd’s disappointment, he’s a lucky man to have a woman like Melissa beside him, and eventually, he realizes that, and Zihuatanejo is no longer important.
Indeed, the theme of love mattering more than anything else runs through multiple plotlines in this episode. Phil and Carol only play a small part, but as they continue to prepare for the arrival of their child, we see them consider a potential room for their baby, and it’s hard not to be emotionally invested. Unfortunately, the good vibes between Glenn and Pam quickly grow sour. When Glenn abruptly starts acting cruelly to her, she assumes it’s because he doesn’t want to let the rest of the group (who are all still united against Pam) about their situation, but it’s really because he’s leaving, and doesn’t want her to get attached before he goes. His nastiness seems to ultimately cause Carol to be the first to forgive Pam, but it’s cold comfort. They were the two loneliest people on the ship, and it’s naturally hard to watch them separate.
Of course, it doesn’t last for long. The day before Glenn leaves, Pam decides she’s coming with him, and while Glenn isn’t entirely certain about how this will work, he can hardly say no. The common thread in the three main romances is love conquering adversity. Zihuatanejo wasn’t what Todd thought it would be, but Melissa’s love comforts him. Phil and Carol are still figuring out how they’ll raise their child, but their optimism is inspiring. Finally, Glenn and Pam just developed romantic feelings for each other, and it could prove to be entirely fleeting. But what’s to stop them from following their hearts?
In its first three seasons, The Last Man On Earth has established itself as a show that can get a bit quirky at times, but never enough that it gets in the way of its strong knack for emotional resonance. “Skeleton Crew” was a great example of this; even knowing Pam’s past mistakes, the show still puts us in a position where we can’t help but root for her, and even though we’ve only recently met her and Glenn, the show tells us just enough that we hope their relationship will somehow survive as they try to make it apart from the group. The show’s cast might have expanded greatly, but it hasn’t lost any of the charm that it made a cult hit. If LMOE keeps producing episodes of this caliber, it should thrive for years to come, no matter how many new characters are added to cast.
-Thanks to Vikram for letting me fill in for him this week. I’ve been a fan of this show from the beginning, and it was great to have the chance to share my thoughts on an episode.
-I couldn’t help but love the scene where everyone is rocking out to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘N Roll.” I feel like the official position on that song is that it’s bad, but I can’t help but enjoy myself whenever I hear it.