The dream sequence, as a narrative tool, is probably the oldest trope in the history of visual storytelling. I can’t prove this, but I’d be willing to bet that the first movie ever made—the one that was just train footage—had a dream sequence shoehorned in somewhere. It started as a perfect way to tease the viewer, and to sneak an alternate reality into a narrative without committing to it. Like any good tool, it became an overused cliche, and here in 2015, I was pretty sure it had settled permanently into “hackneyed gimmick” territory.
I was wrong. The Last Man on Earth (no. 2 on Paste’s TV Power Rankings this week) has revived the dream sequence. I never thought I’d say this, but the dream sequence is cool again, and it’s all down to this strange, awesome show.
The revival began in episode one, when Phil Miller (Will Forte) dreamed that a beautiful woman had come to his rescue, and was stroking his head lovingly. “May I sing to you?” he asks, and goes into a rendition of the GhostBusters theme song. She loves it, of course, and then start making out. When he wakes up, the woman of his fantasies has been replaced by the oddball Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal), who tells him that he’s pissed himself. Now that’s an A+ dream sequence.
It continued in episode three, when Carol strong-arms Phil into marriage, and he only agrees because he wants to have sex with her. In this dream, imagines that the world is suddenly re-populated moments after he marries Carol, and he’s committed to a lifetime of misery. When he wakes up, he looks out the window in a panic. “Everyone’s still dead!” he exclaims in relief. “Oh thank God!” Again, winner.
In the very next episode, the Melissa Shart (January Jones), dressed in a flowing white dress, leads him on a sexy chase as saxophone music plays in the background. When he catches up to her, though, she’s transformed into Carol—sitting on a toilet while wearing a wedding dress, and cackling as she tells him about her diarrhea. Phil wakes up with a scream.
I realize this is starting to sound weird, so I better just show you a video. What you’re about to watch is a sneak preview of this Sunday’s double episode, starting at 9 p.m. this on FOX. In my mind, it’s the best dream sequence yet, and that’s really saying something. The genre lives!
I choose you, Phil Miller.