by Preston Tolliver
“The Last Man on Earth” has spent two seasons showing us the light side to a dark world, but Sunday’s finale reminded us how grim the world can be for the world’s last known survivors.
The episode starts with the obvious follow-up from the penultimate episode, with Phil (Will Forte) trekking to find his younger brother Mike (Jason Sudeikis) after Mike left at the end of the last episode, sick and all but exiled by all members of the surviving group not named Phil. There’s also some follow-up to the mysterious drone that appeared before a drunk Gail (Mary Steenburgen) two episodes ago that proves to the rest of the group they’re not alone in the world, and, perhaps more importantly, validates Malibu’s resident village drunk’s finest quality and saves us from a sober Gail.
The scene between Mike and Phil in the yard, where Mike learns the extent of the true terrors his older brother endured while he was in space, is for sure one of the best of the series so far, but perhaps better than that was one a little less obvious. The scene when Mike awakes in his bed after passing out to find Phil coughing blood, seemingly infected, getting drawn in to find that his brother was still holding on to their usual pranks, even in dire situations, was a blatant telling of what the show’s become so good at – in post-apocalyptia, things are only serious until they aren’t, and the writers have mastered drawing us in only to sell the punchline even better (for example, the scene in which Carol (Kristen Schaal) consoles Phil, only for the camera to pan to Melissa (January Jones) in the stockades right after).
That’s why the virus-fearing Pat (Mark Boone Junior) and the anonymous two other survivors, decked out with their hazmat suits and rifles, don’t concern me too much. Sure, as the writers have shown, while it’s a comedy show, it’s still a comedy show about the end of humanity. But by the same token, it isn’t the ‘Walking Dead.’ We’re not going to get headshots and gore, and if (in all reality, when) someone’s card gets punched, we know it won’t take long for Tandy and Co. to lift us back up again.
The second season was full of transformations. While the first season was full of masturbatory jokes and the biggest conflict surrounding Phil was his desperate attempt to sleep with Carol, Melissa, Erica or Gail (or all of the above), the second was one in which the realities of an infected world without doctors really come to light, as seen with the other Phil’s death on the operating table, and the grim position we see Mike in as Phil pulls out of the driveway of their childhood home.
We also see a lot of transformation among the survivors. From Phil starting the season as the not-so-lovable screw-up, seemingly destined to become cast out by the group almost immediately after rejoining it at the beginning of the season, only to end it as more of a leader than anyone else in the group, or from Melissa starting the season as the group’s mouthpiece to a jaded woman left in shackles after nearly blowing Carol to smithereens with a shotgun, or Todd (Mel Rodriguez) going from lovable teddy bear to male gigolo, the season proved that even in a world that’s just about ended, change is still the only constant.
The possibilities for the third season go sky-high. What danger is the crew really in once Pat and Friends reach the Malibu shore? And as we know from television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, no character’s story is concluded until we see them go on-screen, so will we see Mike again? (Though I’m betting that the shot of Phil driving by a sign sprayed with “Alive in Tucson” on his way to Malibu is an indication that Mike is anything but). All we know for sure is that change is coming in some way, and the writers proved with the second season that in “The Last Man on Earth,” the road to change is paved with arguably the best humor Fox (or network television, for that matter) has to offer.