Two weeks ago, TLMOE’s episode ended with the Tucson Crew heading towards a light on the horizon – literally. The light turned out to belong to a building that still, somehow, had electricity. From the moment they saw it, it was clear that property was going to be their new home.
Their new home is a gorgeously decorated, self-sustaining office building. The cinematography is amazing, especially as the group walks into the building for the first time. Their worn, casual clothes are at odds with the sophistication of the office. They hesitantly gaze around, looking bewildered at the facilities that a few years ago, they would have been accustomed to. The beginning two minutes of the episode are a nearly wordless, overjoyed tour of the new home.
The audience has fun watching the Tucson Crew have the time of their lives as they get readjusted to electricity and running water. They gaze in wonder at a working toilet, they sing about frozen pizza, and react with shock at an elevator. It’s a fun, goofy side of the group we haven’t seen for a while. Even Gail seems more relaxed – she even puts up with Tandy. (Although if there’s any idea of his she would admire, it would be his drink pool.)
The office building gives the writers plenty of space to play out new ideas with the characters. Each person or couple gets an entire floor, and each is decorated differently. From Tandy and Carol’s empty first floor, to Lewis’ lushly decorated third floor, to the scattered cubicles in Todd and Melissa’s floor, each level has a different design to it. The extra space also allows more room for the characters – Tandy builds a small cottage right in the middle of his floor, while Melissa uses the fifth floor for target practice, much to Todd’s dismay.
As she breaks up with him, Gail tells Todd that he has a real connection with Melissa, something that’s highly important as Melissa continues to spiral. But later on Todd laments to Tandy that his connection with her is gone. Melissa has been changed permanently from taking a life. It’s a change from the normal post-apocalyptic genre, where gunfights and death aren’t lingered over. But The Last Man on Earth has always been a show digging into the emotions of normal people surviving the apocalypse. Melissa, despite what she initially thought, isn’t the hardened survivor who can shoot someone and not think about it.
Despite the fact that Melissa’s shooting arc initially began with jokes – shooting Jon Hamn (Jones’ ex-husband in Mad Men) and putting up extravagant defenses in the Malibu house – the show is now stressing the severity of it. Todd’s relief at Melissa talking rationally is touching, which makes it even more of a gut punch when she later makes it clear she’s still spiraling. When Melissa announces that she wants to get pregnant, Jones’ acting, the music, and the camera framing all serve to create a feeling of unease.
Whereas last season the group was in trouble because they didn’t have a doctor to deal with appendicitis, this season the group is in trouble because they don’t have a physiatrist. Nobody is trained enough to help Melissa deal properly with her issues or even know what she’s really going through. Even poor Todd, who’s trying his hardest, doesn’t know how to help Melissa in the way she needs. It’s a shame because as this episode showed, Melissa needs help now more than ever.
Notes and Observations
- The one thing I’m really missing from Melissa’s arc is her friendship with Carol. Melissa makes a point of telling Todd that he’s the only one in the world she really loves. But in the second season, Melissa showed that she really does love Carol as well. Also, if there’s anyone who could try and get through to Melissa, it would be Carol.
- Is the show trying to work its way up to Gail leaving the group? Last episode she was headed off to Napa solo before the office appeared, and in this episode she breaks up with Todd saying she’s “ready to be alone”.
- I didn’t get to talk about it, but this episode was a really great showcase for Tandy and Carol’s relationship. It’s was really sweet to see how both were willing to give up what they loved in a house to please the other. And Tandy’s compromise – a little cottage in the middle of their huge floor – was a sweet gesture.
- A great small detail – while the rest of the group celebrates their new surroundings Melissa is off to the side swinging, showing her isolation from the rest of the group.
- The music was fantastic in this episode, especially the futuristic theme when the group entered the office building for the first time.