by Matthew Thompson
I love the idea of The Last Man on Earth. It seems like such a novel concept in a network TV landscape often lacking in them. And the first episode largely delivered on that unique premise giving us something that was equal parts funny and depressing while leveraging its unusual – for a comedy at least – setting. As the season rolled on it slowly became something else entirely and I couldn’t help but lament the wasted potential. Luckily the finale reset things a bit and the second season premiere acts as a welcome return to the show I was hoping The Last Man on Earth would be.
The opening segments of Season 2 recapture a lot of that first half hour’s spark. Sight gags like Phil and Carol driving to the store in a stealth bomber and goofing off in the White House recall our introduction to Phil Miller in the series’ opening moments. These sequences bring the laughs, but also speak to the world they are living in now. Here they make the most of the freedom that comes with being among the last remaining survivors on Earth despite the inherit drawbacks. It is the kind of the thing this show should be doing.
Soon enough the back half of the episode taps into the loneliness of their new lives when the couple ends up separated by mistake. One of the things that initially attracted me to The Last Man on Earth was the idea of a small cast. I never thought this show would just be Will Forte wandering around a post-apocalyptic United States for a whole season, but I did think his time alone would last longer. And I did think him and Carol’s time together before adding more cast members would last longer. Season 1 just went too fast in adding more characters for my taste and some of the appeal of the whole thing was lost. This episode gives me more of what the first season sped by too hastily and in the process emphasizes the importance of our leads’ connection, lending weight to the devastation of them losing each other – however brief I suspect that may end up being. Meanwhile the show smartly mirrors many of Phil’s experiences on the surface with that of his brother’s in space. I can’t help but appreciate how The Last Man on Earth is taking the series’ three primary players at the offset of this season and having them off on their own. It is such a stark contrast to the bulk of sitcoms that rely on having their ensembles play off each other and it plays to the strengths of the show’s setup. I don’t want things to be different just for the sake of it, but here it works and it feels like a breath of fresh air as a result.
It is possible The Last Man on Earth could head in the wrong direction after a promising start like it did last season, but I am hoping that isn’t the case because the unusual combination of humor and poignancy present in this show at its best could make for a special TV series. Let’s hope this season builds on the premiere’s great start.
A few more things:
- My favorite bit from this episode was M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” masking the sound of Carol’s gunfire when she was trying to let Phil know she was being left behind. The outcome was sad, but the writing/situation was incredibly clever.
- Speaking of guns, I still laugh whenever someone shoots out a glass door to enter somewhere. Still hilarious.
- I’m guessing the Tucson crew just moved burning Phil’s house on the way out. I’d prefer they not really be a big part of the show again anyway if they do pop up again. Perhaps for an episode or so, but nothing more.