The Last Man on Earth
Last night’s Last Man double-header may not have had any of the fireworks or stunts we’ve seen so far in the series, but watching the characters settle into the show’s reality was certainly preferable to the crass humor we stomached last week. Much like the developing society it depicts, Last Man is starting to pay attention to the details and long-term effects of its plot points. And we finally see Phil grapple with the shittier aspects of his personality — literally.
For starters, Phil’s poo-filled pool is starting to stink, and Carol is tired of shoving dryer sheets up her nostrils to cope. And that’s not the only issue in Tucson: Todd and Melissa’s relationship is far friskier than Carol and Phil’s, and the new couple scores their bedroom romps to the Fine Young Cannibals song the episode’s title references. Turned up to 11. So an already-fragile President Phil calls together a town meeting. His attempt to curb Todd and Melissa’s sex drive backfires, with his neighbors shifting focus to Phil’s sickening toilet.
Phil suits up Breaking Bad style to clean out the hazardous material in the pool, and wading through actual shit prompts an emotional breakdown. Melissa finds Phil crying into his helmet and realizes how hurt he might be in the wake of last week’s rejection, so she apologizes for her sex soundtrack. Phil, depressed, dives into the deep end: “It’s weird how life works, all the what-ifs,” he speculates with Melissa, imagining that the two might have shacked up had Todd not stumbled upon Phil’s incendiary display of affection. She suggests that they compartmentalize: “We just can’t go down that road because Todd is here now.”
Despite Melissa’s inarguable happiness, it’s just like Phil to take her statement literally and fixate on the idea of Todd no longer being there. When he invites Todd to go for a drive, we all know there’s a sinister plan in place. Under the guise of sharing his favorite spot to think, Phil drives three hours into the desert with Todd in tow. Phil requests his ever-affable passenger check out a mysterious noise coming from the tires, and speeds off, leaving Todd in the dust.
Will Forte is great at conveying Phil’s internal struggle here, and we watch him grapple to keep his id in check, the truck’s back-and-forth diagramming his emotional flip-flopping while Phil cries out in frustration. There’s gotta be a ton of confusion for Phil in his new life; letting it unfold onscreen humanizes his cartoonish insolence, and it’d be great to see more moments like this one. Thankfully, Phil’s conscience wins this fight, and he turns around to pick Todd back up. “Nice try, Phil. I knew you were coming back the whole time,” Todd says, upholding his faith in his new friend. He gazes deeply into the desert horizon — indeed, this is a spot for reflection. And Phil does some thinking of his own, concluding aloud, “I could be nicer.”
His first move is to zip back into his hazmat suit and deep-clean his pool. “You must be pooped!” Carol points out. As a long-term solution, Phil invests in a Porta Potty.
The second half-hour explores Phil’s jealousy toward Todd. The ladies of Tucson easily recognize how much more thoughtful, creative, and competent Todd is than his predecessor, and Phil continues to lash out. Compounding that stress, Carol’s pushing harder to move in with her husband.
“None of them would be here right now if it wasn’t for me,” Phil complains about his semi-nemesis to his bar balls. Phil’s still the most genuine around these friends. He hopes he can pull off some sort of grand gesture to regain the women’s favor, and just in time, a cow materializes. A nonthreatening animal yielding an ample supply of food products — what are the chances! Here, it’d be helpful to know more of the particulars about the still-unnamed plague — how do our settlers know if its milk is safe to drink? We can ignore the condition of the meat for a moment, because while Phil’s ready to carve the beast up into burgers, the rest of the gang insists that starting with dairy is a better long-term strategy. Besides, luck would have it that Todd just so happened to spend childhood summers on a dairy farm, where he learned how to make everything from cheese to yogurt.
Phil’s upset that Todd’s expertise has wrested away the gratitude he thinks he deserves for finding the cow in the first place, and argues that he, Phil, should be the keeper of the cow despite not having any knowledge of the animal. After all, finders keepers. Carol points out that Phil would rather live with a cow than his wife. Todd cleverly focuses on the White Russian potential, and Phil cries lactose intolerance, ever the sore loser. Instead of enjoying milk and cereal, he’d rather act like a martyr.
In defiance of the ladies’ love for the Toddler, Phil lets the cow loose in a futile attempt to make Todd look bad. Melissa smells something sour in the story and makes everyone hunt for the heifer together. Todd finds it first because of course he does, but he tells Phil to take credit in order to save face. Phil’s confused, but Todd insists, ”You’ve done so much for me.” Thanks to the “Alive in Tucson” billboards, he has the woman of his dreams, two great friends, and a cow to fuel milkshakes. Phil is easily convinced to take credit for this one.
Then Carol, criminally underrepresented throughout the evening, comes up with an infallible plan to move in with Phil: The cow somehow mysteriously gets loose again and finds its way to her upstairs bedroom, where it’ll have to take up permanent residence, as cows are unable to descend stairs. Phil’s cornered at last!
Episode seven is as good a time as any for a series like Last Man to finally invest in its world-building. Tonight’s chapter uses sex as a jumping-off point, but quickly moves past it; and watching Phil work through his emotions allows Forte to really shine. Hopefully next week will feature a little more Carol, and we’ll have everything we need.