We pick up where we left off: The Malibu gang looking out their window to see three intruders—Pat Brown (Mark Boone Junior), a conspiracy theorist who believes the United States government has plotted to trap survivors of the virus, and two others—armed with rifles and planning an attack. Everyone panics. Carol releases Melissa from the pillory on the condition that she promises not to be reckless with firearms, so naturally she grabs a gun from her boots as soon as she’s freed. The rest of the gang heads to the driveway but find that The A-Team van has blocked them in, which sets off a manic search for car keys attached to a plastic Mr. T.
All this happens within the first couple minutes of The Last Man on Earth’s third season premiere. By the end of the episode, betrayal, murder, fake eyebrows, and jean art will all come into play, and the gang will set off on a brand new journey.
If there’s one thing that’s immediately evident in “General Breast Theme With Cobras,” it’s LMOE’s increased confidence in its ensemble. The series improved steadily on this count over the course of last season, but with this third season premiere, everything works like clockwork. The established characterizations—Phil’s surefire confidence and his tendency towards terror, Carol’s levelheaded calm, Todd’s good-hearted nervousness, etc.—feel so organic at this point that the writers can play around with them in different contexts. Everything about the pre-credits scene feels rooted in the honesty of the characters, from Gail’s broken wine bottle gag to Melissa cocking a gun tauntingly in Carol’s face, and sets the appropriate tone for the upcoming season.
Melissa ends up killing one of the intruders (played by Jon Hamm, in the single funniest gag of the episode, especially with a nicely timed post-reveal reaction shot of Melissa), which leads to one of the gang’s patented funerals, complete with Gail’s accordion and Todd singing Starship’s “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now.” We learn that Pat and Lewis, the second intruder, come in peace, but the gang isn’t too wild about Pat, whom they believe is a dangerous, unstable man, partially because of his Hazmat suit and his belief in a government conspiracy. But Phil, flattered by Pat’s belief in his leadership and sympathetic to his loneliness at sea, decides that they should take them both in.
Naturally, this leads to problems immediately. The group soon learns from Louis that Pat has already killed someone and that he poses a serious threat to their safety. But Phil doesn’t know that the person Pat “killed” was Mike Miller, Phil’s brother, who contracted the virus and died back in Tucson at the end of last season. Of course, this doesn’t stop Phil from staunchly defending Pat’s character, bringing up his classic points about how the group shouldn’t be so defensive and that the answer isn’t to throw someone but to embrace them wholeheartedly. At that moment, Pat sees an old family photograph of Mike and Phil and quickly turns a gun on the group.
LMOE’s careful grip on its vacillating tone crystallizes in the scene when Pat turns on the group. It starts off comedically with Pat introducing himself to the gang without his suit on, finally feeling accepted by a new makeshift family, even mimicking Phi’s “Boom!” joke structure. It’s when Pat goes to “feel” the world again—couch, lamp, table, etc.—that the direction of the scene turns into the dramatically sincere. Phil reminds everyone that murder can’t reasonably be a disqualifying factor from the group seeing as half of them have also murdered someone, and that throwing someone out in the cold isn’t a permanent solution but just another quick fix. Then, it turns into a brief, absurd hostage situation with Pat demanding that Phil remove his eyebrows just before he makes him choose between his head and his heart, Pat’s target after he shoots his balls off. Though he doesn’t get the chance because his gun (conveniently) runs out of ammo.
When a sitcom enters its third season, it’s important that the series be able to generate new ideas but also to place existing ones in new frameworks. LMOE settled into its new mode as an ensemble comedy last season after the dark morality tale in its first season failed to take off. It found new ways to play the characters off each other, suss out strengths and weaknesses, and create patterns of character behavior that facilitated both comedy and drama. But now, the series seems like it’s removing the safety net from underneath the characters by switching locations and placing them in further danger. The best part about LMOE is its ability to switch things up on a dime while always relying on a formula, and it seems to be following through on that promise wonderfully.
We end with the gang jumping into The A-Team van, and just as the plastic Mr. T tells the gang he pities the fool, Todd runs over Pat. In shock, he realizes that the group has murdered yet another human being, as they frantically drive into the great unknown…
- Funniest scene has to be when Pat and Phil blow up the Santa Monica Pier if only because it reminds the audience about the flexibility of a post-apocalyptic world.
- The series’ production designers deserve kudos for the elaborate jean art, which are the best sight gag next to Phil’s eyebrows.
- Speaking of those eyebrows, I wonder if they were going for full Peter Gallagher, or…
- “Okay, guys, the key is attached to a small plastic Mr. T. It’s a classic T look—Mohawk, muscles, lots of gold chains. If you push it, it says, ‘I pity the fool.’”
- “He’s great. I mean, he’s definitely a rescue. Might pee on the carpet from time to time, bark at a minority, hump some legs, but once ee housebreak him, he’s gonna be licking faces and wagging that tizzy…tail.”