The spring premiere of The Last Man on Earth was a pet-ticularly inspired and unusual episode. Fur real. Instead of resuming the story of our post-apocalyptic survivors by resolving the fall finale’s “Is Gail dead or did she not shoot herself because it kinda seemed like she did?” cliffhanger — and instead of showing us Phil (Will Forte) and his friends working their way up or down the California coast — the Fox comedy uncorked a wild and weird episode that introduced a new character who was trying to find a fellow survivor or two on this crazy, virus-decimated planet. (See: A year ago, when the season 2 spring premiere turned out to be a standalone episode with Jason Sudeikis’ Mike, in which we followed Phil’s astronaut brother after he plummeted back on Earth.)
This time, we flashed back to the earliest days of the virus and got to know Pamela (Kristen Wiig), someone who might possibly make Carol (Kristen Schaal) look straitlaced, and someone who went from pun-ticulating socialite to trashbag-wearing, cat-food-eating mess of widow over the course of 30 minutes. It all began with Pamela enjoying the good life, raising funds for dogs in wheelchairs, and trying to match wits with Catherine, a rival lady of high society played by… Laura Dern. (Uh-oh, high-profile cameo alert!) Soon, the virus starts to take down everyone, and Pamela watches news break about the death of President Mike Pence (interesting, considering that it’s 2019 and Donald Trump should still be in his first term), and then all of the replacement POTUSes. (R.I.P. President Paul Ryan, President Jeff Sessions, President Betsy DeVos — pretty much everyone in Donald Trump’s cabinet).
Pamela and Catherine are left to scavenge for food — Catherine, a cat lover, is forced to shame-eat dog food in a decimated grocery store. After losing her husband to the virus, Pamela goes to Catherine’s house, only to find her lifeless body in bed. (Props to Dern for actually making it half an episode; big-star cameos usually mean instant death on this show. See: Will Ferrell, scared to death in season 2; Jon Hamm, shot to death earlier this season). Taking the key to her bunker, Pamela holes up for what turns into years of drinking wine, trying unsuccessfully to teach her dog Jeremy to say the word “Milk,” and resorting to eating cat food after Jeremy ditches this crazy woman for parts unknown when she opens the bunker door as a bluff.
Also worthy of mention: Pamela has been flying a drone that she can watch from her bunker monitor, and after countless days/weeks/months/years of nothing, she spots our survivors in Malibu. (Mystery solved: So, it wasn’t Pat who was flying the drone!) After Melissa (January Jones) shoots down the drone, Pamela decides to leave her bonkers bunker to go forth into the world, perhaps to reunite with Jeremy but definitely setting a course to find Phil and company. Before she does, maybe we should find Phil — or at least the man who plays him, Last Man creator Will Forte — and break down this standout standalone episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You mentioned that Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and pretty much the rest of Trump’s cabinet died, each after serving as president. There is no mention of Donald Trump. But we say that we’re in 2019, and Mike Pence is president. That would mean that Trump either (a) died in office, which is why Pence was serving in that capacity or (b) he was impeached. Which one was it? And why was that not specifically addressed?
[Laughs.] That’s kind of a Choose Your Own Adventure. We had a little fun with that. We just kind of dropped that in there. You know, it’s funny because we actually had come up with that joke before the election. It basically just happened that that was the way the election went, so I think all these people are like, “Oh! They’re getting [political]!” Really, that section was mainly to show how serious the virus was, and how seriously there was no vaccine. Because if there’s anybody who’s going to have a vaccine, it is the [highest] echelon of the government, so we thought that that was an interesting way to tell the story. How scary would that be if that started occurring around you to the people in charge? How scary that would be going through life — and how hopeless you would feel.
So, what you’re saying is that President Jill Stein would have met an untimely demise, too.
Yes. In our show, basically, there are seven people alive. There was no malice intended. We’ve shown that Cher is dead, and I’m a big fan of Cher.
So do you imagine that Trump died in office, or was he impeached?
As I said, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure. Maybe he, you know… I don’t know. [Laughs.] Whenever I hear that joke, my brain always goes to a certain place, but I don’t want to spoil it for the viewers because I want them to feel whatever they want to feel… What was your opinion? What do you think happened?
I think he was impeached. Because otherwise, I think you would have showed viewers that he died, and all the successions.
That’s a reasonable take. [Laughs.]
Did you do a less mysterious version where you had it as impeached or killed, and the network said, “Maybe you should leave it vague”? Or was it always going to be that way?
No, we always wanted to keep that vague. I know there are some people who enjoyed the joke and some people who [didn’t]. Your enjoyment of that joke falls on partisan lines, you know? Although I think there could be some people who enjoyed it who are Republicans and some people who wouldn’t enjoy it who are Democrats. But again, it was really a joke that we thought of before the election was even decided. Once the election happened, then that part of it fell into place.
It feels like a bold joke, like “Oh my god, they’re killing the President(s)!,” but logically we know that almost every single person on the planet was killed in your show.
This whole show is about a virus that killed off the entire planet, so this is just logically what happens to every single person on the planet, and we thought, “What a way to tell the gravity of the situation by seeing all of the line of succession.” And I will say for a certain segment of the population, there is an added horror of thinking of Betsy DeVos as the President of the United States.
How many presidents do you imagine that we went through before it was just like, “Eh screw it. Let’s let chaos reign”? Do you just give up after Besty DeVos is president?
In my head, once the virus got to a certain point, things just got very, very chaotic, so just bedlam ensued. It’s a very-man-for-himself situation. But I bet they went a little deeper than that.