By Ariana Bacle
Updated January 29, 2016 at 01:53 AM EST
Credit: Ed Miller/NBC

You, Me and the Apocalypse

S1 E1
  • TV Show
  • NBC

[This post contains details from the You, Me and the Apocalypse episode that aired Jan. 28]

Dave (Joel Fry) thinks routine is killing his roommate, Jamie (Mathew Baynton). That doesn’t really matter, though, because something else is about to get to Jamie first: a comet racing toward Earth that the President of the United States is publicly labeling an Extinction Level Event — you know, the same kind of incident that wiped out the dinosaurs.

This bombshell is no surprise given the NBC comedy’s title, but that doesn’t make it any less intriguing. The You, Me and the Apocalypse premiere opens with Jamie and a cast of some colorful characters stuck in a bunker and then flashes back to 34 days ago, right before news of the approaching comet makes it way to the world. It’s a jarring framing device that previews an equally jarring episode to come, one full of enough mystery that it draws you in without ever becoming impossible to follow.

Mystery No. 1: Jamie sends a video message to someone named Layla, telling her it’s his “seventh birthday without her.” Did they break up? Did she die? Either way, why is he sending her video messages — 2,610 of them, to be exact? That part is kind of explained just moments later when Dave chastises him for his adherence to routines. It makes sense that a guy who makes the same exact breakfast the exact same way each morning would also engage in a one-way conversation with his maybe-dead girlfriend every single day. Weird, but it makes sense.

Mystery No. 2: Rhonda, played by Office favorite Jenna Fischer, is in prison for a crime high-profile enough that it earned her a spot on the news. The scenes set at that New Mexico prison aren’t anything special at first — inmate arrives, inmate gets hazed by hardened prisoners — but the promise of new, probably juicy information to come and Fischer’s natural likability make them easier to swallow.

And when that information does arrive, it makes everything before it worth it: Rhonda’s 14-year-old son, Spike (Fabian McCallum), hacked the NSA, and she’s covering for him despite seemingly knowing absolutely knowing about hacking. The good thing, though, is that Spike didn’t steal or leak anything when he was in the system for a short 20-minute period. The bad thing is that prosecutors want to “make an example” out of Rhonda anyway and lock her up for five to 10 years.

Later on, Jamie also gets arrested on hundreds of charges including cyberterrorism and identity theft. Turns out he has a twin he didn’t know about who’s been wandering the world and causing mischief — and, as he finds out during the questioning, hanging out with Layla, who was Jamie’s wife for two weeks before she disappeared seven years ago. So, in this episode alone, Jamie finds out that he was adopted, he has a twin brother, his wife is still alive and hanging out with said twin brother, and everyone is probably going to die in a little over a month. It’s a bad day to be Jamie.

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Over at the Vatican, a young nun named Celine (Gaia Scodellaro) is interviewing to be a researcher for the Devil’s Advocate — yes, an actual job that requires looking for past mistakes committed by would-be saints — played by a pessimistic, chain-smoking, charming-as-ever Rob Lowe. After some amusing back-and-forth, she eventually takes the job, partly because their job just got bigger: The Catholics interpret the comet as Jesus’ second coming, and therefore Father Jude assumes more and more people will be stepping forward as “prophets.” The more false prophets, the more opportunities for the office of the Devil’s Advocate to shoot them down. Note to NBC: If You, Me and the Apocalypse doesn’t work out, this would make a stellar spin-off.

If this all sounds a little overwhelming and scattered, it is. But that’s forgivable given the episode’s bright spots — Celine and Father Jude discussing whether or not the phrase “Christ on a bike” is offensive and Rhonda’s blossoming friendship with a white supremacist played by Megan Mullally are some notable highlights — and its probably brighter future: These characters are goofy and compelling enough on their own, so putting them together to form a ragtag group struggling through pre-apocalypse chaos can only make the show stronger.

And that guaranteed pre-apocalypse chaos is another thing that’s going to, hopefully, make the show shine going forward. The world ending is one of those topics everyone thinks about but most are too afraid to dive into. Even in my own nights spent awake worrying about this exact thing — a comet hurling toward our dear planet — I never think about the time leading up to it, only about the fact that we’d all be dead, and that would, well, suck. Now here’s a show devoted to that topic, and it’s a comedy no less. What better way to address something so deeply terrifying than to laugh about it?

Could it crash? Definitely, especially if it remains as scattered as its pilot was. But it’s more likely that it’ll come together and soar, exceeding expectations and reminding audiences that wacky comedies built on horribly dark premises can be the most delightful ones (see also: The Last Man on Earth). Let’s just hope a comet doesn’t hit before we get to find out.

Watch You, Me and the Apocalypse when it airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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You, Me and the Apocalypse

2016 TV series
  • TV Show
  • 1
  • In Season
  • NBC