The Last Man on Earth
Welcome back to the end of the world, Last Man stans! Will Forte, Phil Lord, and Chris Miller’s cynical sitcom has returned for a new season on the same old deserted planet. The first season of The Last Man on Earth provided sight gags and snickers aplenty but failed to truly mine its characters’ emotions or ground its mysterious post-virus landscape in reality. Still, Last Man’s uneven freshman outing wrapped on a hopeful note, with our leads Phil (Will Forte) and Carol (Kristen Schaal) deserting their Tuscon frenemies and attempting to truly get to know each other beyond the limited scope of their sham marriage. Yet the show’s season-two premiere felt all too familiar — instead of revisiting what we love about these characters, we simply retreaded familiar territory. Let’s recap.
Phil and Carol drove off on the horizon at the end of season one, and season two opens with our couple in an auto upgrade, with Phil piloting a military fighter jet. Carol deplanes and busts open a convenience store with her trusty gun in search of tequila — to fill the margarita kiddie pool featured in every Last Man ad, of course, because the show takes every possible opportunity to remind us of its strongest visual joke.
We start off with a basic rehash of the empty-planet fun and games we saw at the start of last season, margarita tub included, except this time, we’re in the White House. President Phil plays hockey through the halls. Carol tries on First Lady fashions through the ages (her Jackie O. and Michelle Obama impersonations are delightful). After another awkward entendre-shouting sex session — we’ll never think about “Phil-ibustering” the same way again — Carol flips through her sketchbook of memories, gazing longingly at a sketch of her Tucson friends, and it’s clear she’s still searching for a home: “Graceland, Dollywood, Oprah’s, LeBron’s, and none of them have felt right,” Carol admits to her husband.
In a rare demonstration of kindness from Phil, he blindfolds his wife and surprise-drives her to her old apartment in Delaware. It remains untouched, and while Carol tells us and Phil a bit about her former roommates and the dizzying array of crafts she made to pay tribute to the virus victims she cared about, we’re reminded how little we know about these characters, and the world they inhabit. It’s one thing for Last Man to try to focus on the aftermath of a catastrophe without getting bogged down in the details of a plague, but it’s another to still not have much meaningful insight into the characters’ backstories.
Happy as Carol is to revisit her past, she insists that she and Phil build a life for themselves someplace new. And she’s still drawn to Tucson: With so few survivors, why shouldn’t the remains of civilization stick together, after all? Phil reminds Carol of last season’s skirmish that almost got him killed, and lays down an ultimatum: Carol can go to Tucson alone, or literally anywhere else with him.
So they set out on the road again, with Carol attempting to sleep off her anger in the back of the RV while Phil mutters to himself grumpily in the driver’s seat. On a fuel stop, Carol’s lured out of her nap and into a gas-station mini-mart, unable to resist cheap rhinestones’ gravitational pull. She slips out of the RV unnoticed to bedazzle an Oklahoma T-shirt and gets so bogged down in the instructions for gem-setting and “one banana, two banana” counting that she’s left in Phil’s dust. Carol fires off a few rounds in a futile attempt to catch his attention, but unfortunately for her, Phil’s blasting music in the main cabin, and what follows is perhaps the best “Paper Planes”–soundtracked sequence since Pineapple Express. It’s not until nightfall that Phil even notices she’s long gone.
After two straight days of canvassing every Speedy Pump station in Oklahoma, Phil admits defeat. Meanwhile, we’ve been cutting every now and then to Phil’s brother, Mike (Jason Sudeikis), who’s still lost in space. A couple of cute cuts show us that the pair share the same mannerisms. Space Bro, too, has found friends to keep him company, but unlike Phil’s ball gang, Mike’s pals are slightly more alive … at least for a little bit: His pet worms are dying out, and Mike adds one more name to his meticulous list of the departed on his space-station wall tonight.
As Mike releases Nancy’s mealy carcass into the atmosphere, Phil toys with the idea of letting his beloved go. After five days of waiting, he realizes Carol’s likely returned to Tucson, and going back into enemy territory would be worth the trouble to get her back. But by the time Phil makes it back to the cul-de-sac, he’s too late. The settlement has long been deserted, Phil’s old McMansion burned down and looted.
“We’re trying to find new ways to give you twists and turns this year that might not involve the introduction of characters,” Forte told The Hollywood Reporter last week. So it seems this season’s mission will revolve around reuniting Carol and Phil, and figuring out what happened in Tucson. If we’re going to be spending one-on-one time with Phil on such a small scale, we’re going to need a little bit more growth to work with here — or we’d better go find Carol, ASAP.