Few sitcoms are as heavily serialized as The Last Man on Earth. Every new episode is the product of the last, there is no status quo to which the characters must return by the end credits of every episode, or to which they will magically return between episodes. This is a large part of what makes The Last Man on Earth so effective, and affecting. They play for keeps and, despite the silliness of the comedy, the consequences of the characters decisions and actions are permanent and sometimes disastrous. Phil 2 is dead.
It’s been a long three months since The Last Man on Earth went on its winter break with astronaut Mike Miller screaming in terror as he plummeted to Earth, and the Tucson crew looking on in terror as Gail failed to perform an appendectomy on Phil 2. The first two episodes back pick up right where we left our characters, with Mike, and Worm Phil, surviving splashdown and the Tucson crew performing funeral rights for Phil 2. The first of these episodes “Pitch Black” focuses entirely on Mike’s misadventures as he struggles to reach the mainland upon his return to Earth. Having to wait another episode to see what’s going on with the characters we know and love after the long break is a bit of a frustration, but it’s also nice to get know Mike, and imagine how he will integrate with the rest of the cast.
While Mike is clearly the smarter, more capable, higher achieving Miller brother, he does share a charming number of Phil’s mannerisms (a penchant for the expletive “oh farts”) and the appearances of the imagined young Phil (Jacob Tremblay), goading Mike to carry on and survive hint at the childhood dynamic between the brothers that may have driven Mike to greater heights than his older brother. The real challenge Mike faces in his episode, after escaping the cruise ship his descent module has destroyed via water tricycle, is freeing himself of conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “last man on Earth” Pat (Mark Boone Junior). Pat shows us what might have become of any of the other characters if they had not come together in Tucson, or if they were more prone to paranoia. If The Last Man on Earth is about any one thing, it’s the importance of community, and how a person fits into community after being without one for an extended period. Pat has gone too long without a community and, due to his own fears, is unlikely to find one soon. Mike’s journey will be one to find a community, which will, it seems, take him to Tucson and then on to Malibu.
Episode 2 of back half of the season, “Valhalla” takes us back to Malibu where the passing of Phil 2 is commemorated via attempted Viking funeral. As has become customary for Phil in season 2, he tries oh-so-hard with underwhelming results. Having not gotten the chance to say goodbye to Mike, presumed dead of course, Phil rounds Phil 2 up to brotherhood for the chance to do things right, nobly stepping up to the plate and offering his services to Erica as father to her baby. Alas, Phil 2 saw Phil as a dangerous screw-up (a fair assessment) and instructed Erica with his final words not to allow Phil to raise the baby. As we have followed Phil for the entirety of the series we have forgiven Phil for his transgressions and want the rest of the crew to do the same. Unfortunately, due to Phil’s previous penchant for lies and attempted murder, the others, with the exception of Carol and Todd, are not likely to wholeheartedly accept him any time soon. So Phil will try and try and try again, with the same tenacious, overbearing affability that he has displayed for the last half season. If there is one positive to the death of Phil 2, it is that Phil may be able to rid himself of the “Tandy” moniker, to match his ridding himself of the Tandy persona.
Frank Anderson is the head movie writer at The Renaissance Fan.