For three seasons, The Last Man on Earth — created by Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte — has been exploring what it might be like to live in the world after a devastating (and very disgusting) virus wiped out almost everyone on Earth in 2020. The show kicked off in 2015 with a strange, spectacular episode starring Forte as slacker Phil Miller — and that’s it. Not a single other person made it onscreen until the very end of the pilot, at which point Phil was three years into trying to navigate a completely empty world (which mostly involved stealing Van Goghs and passing out in margarita pools).
On March 6, The Last Man on Earth’s third midseason premiere, “Got Milk,” became an instant series standout by tapping Forte’s old co-worker Wiig to anchor an episode that evoked the one that kicked off the show, flashing back to a far different apocalyptic experience than the one slacker Phil went through in Tucson.
It’s not the first time the show’s done this. Exactly a year ago, the second season took a break in “Pitch Black” to check in with Phil’s astronaut brother, Mike (Jason Sudeikis), after he fell to Earth and had to readjust to the new post-virus reality.
This time, though, the flashback episode follows rich charity-ball-thrower Pamela (Wiig) in Beverly Hills as she tries to leverage her riches into security from the spreading virus. But as we know from the show’s other flashbacks, there was no stopping the virus, and so we get to watch as Pamela cringes in horror and frantically applies Purell as everyone around her — including a society rival played with perfect condescension by Laura Dern — starts dropping dead. Not even President Mike Pence was immune, not to mention President Paul Ryan, President Rex Tillerson, President Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, President Betsy DeVos…
In the end, Pamela does end up surviving, leading us to believe she might be one of the few humans who, like Phil, are immune to the virus. Still: She only does so after she and her dog Jeremy retreat to an underground bunker for three years.
Just as with the pilot, “Got Milk?” depends on the person at its center being agile enough to pull off what’s almost a one-woman show, and Wiig delivers. As with most any (comedic) Wiig character, Pamela is a little spacey, well-meaning but self-absorbed. Wiig rarely wastes an opportunity to turn a line into something weirder and more fun, a skill she puts to use as Pamela — getting more and more squirrely in the bunker — keeps trying to get Jeremy to say the word “milk,” just to have someone to talk to.
Yeah, Pamela gets to wait out the worst in a luxury bunker, complete with a wide array of canned foods, a wet bar to rival Don Draper’s, and a drone she can use to see the rapidly emptying Los Angeles outside. But by the end of three years, she’s just as drunk and lonely as Phil was in Tucson.
If you’ve been watching Last Man on Earth all along, the ending of “Got Milk” is especially exciting. Pamela, idly flying the drone because what else does she have to do, ends up stumbling upon the commune Phil and the gaggle of survivors he stumbled upon have built in Malibu. This both ties up a loose end from the second season finale, when we first saw the drone through the stunned eyes of Gail (Mary Steenburgen), then later witnessed Melissa (January Jones) shoot it out of the sky. The drone’s sudden disappearance inspires Pamela to finally leave the bunker and try to find the others. (Though viewers know the Malibu gang has already decamped and is currently hanging out in a San Jose office park; whether Pamela will eventually make her way there is an open question.)
But even if you don’t watch Last Man on the Earth, “Got Milk?” lifts right out as an individual half-hour of comedy that is, thanks to Wiig, a whole lot of fun to watch even without that context.
While shows like The Walking Dead and The 100 dive into endlessly grim and sometimes sexy post-apocalyptic futures, Last Man on Earth might be showing the most realistic version of what it might be like to be one of the few remaining survivors on the planet. If the world doesn’t end with a bang, it’ll peter out in desperate attempts to figure out how the hell to pass all the time (i.e. passing out in margarita pools).
“Got Milk?” is currently available to stream on Hulu.
Corrected to reflect that Sessions’s first name is Jefferson, not Jeffrey.