For the second episode in a row, The Last Man on Earth turns in a disappointing installment. The plot of “Whitney Houston, We Have a Problems” feels like a wild goose chase that’s only purpose is to hang a couple solid gags on. Nothing really happens, and the driving force of the episode – the group’s search for Melissa – ends with her appearing out of nowhere.
It didn’t have to be this way: Melissa’s abrupt departure at the end of last episode could have resulted in a more interesting plot. Over the course of the third season, Melissa has lost her grip on reality and her change in demeanor has existed largely in the background. A few episodes chasing after her could have been a welcome change for the show. Instead, we don’t really where or why Melissa left, and her arc really isn’t resolved when she appears at the end.
It would have been better if Todd was right and she had really left for Zihuatanejo, the city on the south-Mexican coast that Red dreamed about in The Shawshank Redemption (bringing her role-play of that movie full circle) and it would have left space for an interesting plot and would have built up to a good mid-season finale.
Aside from the search of Melissa, the B-plot with Gail similarly goes nowhere. At the end of the episode, she’s still trapped in that elevator at the end. It would have been good to resolve this thing, and for the rest of the group to finally rescue her. The only reason I can imagine for her continued confinement is that the writers have something clever under their sleeve for the finale; Perhaps even the reveal of something or someone in that building.
The things that work best in “Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem” are a couple little gags strewn around the episode: Tandy’s insistence on using a full-size dinosaur puppet is cute, particularly the way he animated the mouth and does little titling movements with its head. Also great is Tandy’s bizarre reading of Melissa’s simply “goodbye” note, which he ascribes all sorts of weird acrostics and codes. The sudden switches from the goofy story with the rest of the game to Gail’s tense, cramped perspective are solid, but I wish more was done with her than leaving her in the elevator for what’s going on three episodes.
Overall, this episode is filler, and a letdown that does very little to build anticipation to next week’s mid-season finale. Back-to-back middling episodes isn’t a humongous step down in quality, but it’s a disappointing one for one of television’s most underrated shows and one that had been on a roll of great episodes beforehand