The Last Man on Earth
At its onset, The Last Man on Earth was a novelty, capturing our attention with a fresh concept and a distinct point of view. Yet a couple of episodes in, its chuckle-worthy quips and cheeky sight-gags grew stale, weighted down with redundant, intelligence-insulting plot lines. Thank goodness the show found its footing again at the end of its short first season. “Screw the Moon,” season one’s finale, hones in on the best of Last Man’s core couple, reminding us why we’ve been following their antics in the first place. Let’s recap.
Our finale opens on an ominous note, with Tandy and Todd plotting New Phil’s murder. His crime? Being too helpful and too handsome. Divorcé Tandy and newly single Todd are somehow convinced they’ll win their women back if Phil is removed from the equation. How might they extract Phil from the community he’s working so tirelessly to build? Todd wonders. “It’s easy,” Tandy says. “Just go over there, ask him if he wants to go for a ride, and we take him out to the desert and leave him there.” Todd recognizes this scheme from “She Drives Me Crazy,” when Tandy tried to pull the same trick on him. Todd is pushed over the edge, crushed at the realization that his best bro would have deserted him so cruelly. “I never would have gone through with it!” Tandy insists. But it’s too late — Todd’s finally stopped believing him.
Before he can worry about regaining Todd’s trust and disposing of Phil, Tandy corners Carol with an empty condom wrapper and some important questions: Why Phil? What about procreation? And marriage? When she admits she’s just looking for casual sex, Tandy loses his temper, just like every man who’s ever gotten wise to a woman’s sexual proclivities.
After a fruitless fight, Tandy returns home to find his roommate packing his bags. See, Phil overheard Todd yelling that he “hates his guts,” so Will Forte and Boris Kodjoe share a tense face-off, with the former finding a way to sneer up at his far taller and more powerful rival. Man, Tandy sure has balls.
Speaking of balls, Tandy then pays his friends a visit in hopes of unpacking his complicated feelings toward his neighbors. Talk turns to Carol, as it often does at the bar: “Who is this impostor freewheeling around, abandoning all her stupid rules, acting all fun to be around and looking positively radiant?” He soon realizes what he’s lost, and it’s about damn time: “I friggin’ beefed it, big time,” he moans. “God, I want her back.”
But Carol wasn’t born yesterday; she sees through Tandy’s pitiful songwriting attempts and flower arrangements, devoting all her energy to her new man instead. “You always want what you can’t have — and Tandy, you can’t have me,” she says.
And she seems positively smitten when, at Tucson’s town hall meeting, Phil spills that he’s been working on solar power and managed to muster up enough energy to illuminate a lone streetlamp. Until “the wind” (read: Tandy) unceremoniously knocks the beacon over, leading to a full-on Phil fight. In the ensuing scuffle, Todd tells the gang that Tandy was going to kill Phil, just as he’d planned for Todd himself. So disappears any shred of good faith Tucson had in Tandy.
In a futile attempt to protect himself from the angry townsfolk, Tandy barricades himself into his bedroom. Of course he neglected to bring any food in there with him, and Forte feasts on toilet paper and toothpaste with the zeal reserved for a cheat day. After three days, Carol pays her ex a visit; while she pleads for a truce, he insists he’s better off alone — a claim we so clearly see rings false. “I may have my faults, but I am a good person,” he insists, leading us to wonder: Does Phil Tandy Miller really have more good in him than bad?
Shockingly, the answer to that question is a resounding yes — especially when compared to his namesake. Tandy emerges from his self-imposed prison in time to catch his friends singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” a song whose lyrics speak to the sadness surrounding his imminent forced departure. And no sooner than he’s spied the singsong circle does Alpha Phil encourage him to take a good look — “it’s the last time you’ll be seeing any of this,” he cautions before knocking Tandy out cold. He comes to in the back of Phil’s flatbed truck, his arms tied to his sides. “Don’t even think of coming back to Tucson,” Phil says before depositing his rival in the dirt with a paltry two days’ worth of food supplies.
What’s that feeling — could that be sympathy creeping its way back into our hearts? Turns out all we needed was a big bad to humanize Phil Miller 1.0 once again. Of course, poor Phil consumes the food stash in one 20-minute gulp. But just as he slumps onto the ground, he’s awoken by his best volleyball, Gary — and Carol, who’s driving by to drop off some more supplies.
But Carol’s curiosity gets the better of her, and she wants to know: Did Phil really write her a song? Sure enough, he did (okay, technically Mary Steenburgen did), and it’s surprisingly sweet. “What good’s the moon if Care Bear’s not here with me?” Phil croaks, dehydrated on the desert floor. And Carol hears that beautiful quality that was missing from their relationship up until this point: sincerity.
“So where should we go?” she replies at the end of Phil’s tune. He manages to sit up again: “You’re staying with me?” “You need me,” Carol smiles. Besides, she points out, “I don’t want to be with a man who can leave someone in the desert to die. I wanna be with the man who doesn’t have the heart to go through with it.” It’s downright touching. At last we settle into Last Man’s message: to pick the lesser of two evils.
Just in case Phil and Carol abandoning Tucson and hitting the reset button on their relationship isn’t enough for us to process, the camera pulls back to reveal an interstellar explorer: Jason Sudeikis (whom eagle-eyed fans might remember glimpsing in Phil’s family photo way back in the pilot), wearing a space suit with a “Miller” patch and trying desperately to contact Earth. Here’s the brother we’ve heard so little about! And we haven’t even mentioned Todd and Melissa’s affectionate reconciliation. Looks like season two has its work cut out for it — and now that Last Man’s letting its characters explore their vulnerabilities a little more, we’re looking forward to it.