Inside Last Man on Earth Season 3’s Shocking Finale

Did the writers consider any alternate endings? Will Kristin Wiig return? Find out in our Last Man writers' room walkthrough!

Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is a recurring feature that is a platform for creators, actors, and industry insiders to bring the readers behind the scenes of the production process. In our latest installment, we removed the curtain on the writers’ room for the third season of Fox’s Last Man on Earth.

This part of the walkthrough looks at episodes 17 and 18 from Last Man on Earth’s third season. Previous installments of this walkthrough can be found here.

The Last Man on Earth Season 3 Episode 17 – “When the Going Gets Tough”

“The long-term consequences of surviving an apocalypse start to have a major impact on the group, whose daily life is upended.”

Written by Tim McAuliffe; Directed by Payman Benz

Ad – content continues below

DEN OF GEEK: Did you guys consider any wildly different strategies on how to go about with all of this pregnancy stuff, especially after already dealing with surgery back with Phil 2?

ANDY BOBROW: Yeah, the discussion was like, “Are we really going to do a birth episode?” I mean, birth episodes seem familiar and kind of hacky. We’ve all seen what a typical sitcom birth episode is like, with a woman screaming funny insults at her husband and the husband passing out at the sight of blood. So the question was, should we just skip this? Just skip to babies being alive? Or skip like 7 years into the future and have kids instead of babies? I mean, we weren’t thinking so much about the Phil episode, it was more just about not wanting to be a sitcom doing a crappy familiar disingenuous birth episode.

There was also a real question about the believability of this. I mean, with no doctors and no midwife or anyone with birthing experience, there’s a solid chance this could end in death. And of course, we knew we would never do that, but it raised the question, how are we going to do this story, and have the baby and mother both live, and still give it some believability? Hopefully we did it. I like to think the sight of Gail taping all those pages up there helped us put people in the reality of it. Also, and I’m very proud of this, we did not have Erica say funny insults during her contractions. 

And speaking of Phil 2, talk a little bit about Tandy’s idea of “bringing him back” into the mix?

ANDY BOBROW: Ah jeez, I can’t remember how that idea came up. I mean, it’s a pretty Tandy thing to do. We had talked about trying to bring back Boris Kodjoe, like in a dream sequence. So the thought of Phil 2 in the show was top of mind. Will’s imitation of Phil 2 is one of those things that no one knows if they can laugh at.

Tandy’s certainly been a bit of an overbearing presence this season. Why did it feel like a good idea to remove him from the whole birthing situation?

Ad – content continues below

ANDY BOBROW: That’s a good question, and the answer is probably just what you said. I guess part of it was our gut feeling that we’d get tired of seeing him be like that for the whole episode. But the other part was more about the way the story had been set up. He lost that battle with Gail in the previous episode, so his role in the room was established. That said, I suppose we could have told a story of him standing there being a nuisance, but ultimately saving the day. We could have gone there. I guess the thing was, someone needed to see that fire. And someone needed to say “Oh Farts.”

The Last Man on Earth Season 3 Episode 18 – “Nature’s Horchata”

“The long-term consequences of surviving an apocalypse start to have a major impact on the group, whose daily life is upended.”

Written by Kira Kalush; Directed by David Noel

DEN OF GEEK: I sort of like the idea that this finale is all about safety. Did you know that you’d be ending up at this nuclear fallout angle when the season began? There are light references to it throughout the year.

KIRA KALUSH: We were always pretty set on doing a nuclear fallout this season. For a while we thought it could be our mid-season finale. We even toyed around with it being the reason the group leaves Malibu, but ultimately, here it landed, and I think it was the right move.

ANDY BOBROW: When we went in to discuss the season with the network, we pitched this ending, kind of as a “this is something we’re thinking about, not married to it yet.” It certainly scared them financially, since we basically guaranteed we will have to build all new sets next year. So we were mindful of that, what it would cost. And we kept thinking, well, maybe some better idea will come along. As the year progressed, we really couldn’t think of anything stronger. We realize we’re writing ourselves into a corner, but it just seemed so Last Man, I think we had to go for it. Is that perhaps the direction that the show is moving in?  Where the gang is just trying to avoid nuclear fallout. It’s nice that this material also brings everything back full circle in terms of Pat.

Ad – content continues below

KIRA KALUSH: You can never really say where the show is going until we’re there, but I don’t think the group will be on the run for too long. It’s likely that this is just a way for them to move locations and get out of their element. But who knows? R.I.P. Pat Brown. He was a fantastic misunderstood conspiracy theorist with anger problems, but it was his time to go.

ANDY BOBROW: The thought of doing a whole season on the run is very enticing, but might be cost prohibitive. Just in terms of the production of the show, our model is we build a set and shoot three days on set and two days on location per episode. Location shooting is more expensive, but if there’s a way to do more of it and stay on budget, I’m all for it.

Any lingering regrets from this season? Or things that you would have done differently now that you have the hindsight of finishing the season?

ANDY BOBROW: I wouldn’t say regrets, but there are lessons from every season. I think the lesson from season one was Tandy needed to soften a little and love Carol truly. And season two was darn near perfect, but at the end of it, the challenge was can we give more characters their deeper stories and emotional moments? Like can we deepen them the way that Mike deepened Tandy? And I think in season three, we did a little better sharing the ball, but we ended up giving Melissa and Gail stories that kind of took them out of the show.

So I’d say the lesson for me was that giving someone a trauma is not the same as giving them a story. I wouldn’t say I regret it, but the lesson for me was, like, when we decided to give Melissa a mental health issue, what we were really doing was giving Todd a story. Because Melissa necessarily kind of dropped out, and all the emotion of it was on Todd’s side of the equation. So I’m filing that away in my story brain. When you give a character an illness like that, the story is not theirs. 

Now that you’ve gone through with something like a time jump, do you wish that you had used one earlier? Would you have preferred to have still held off on it entirely? Or are you content with when you brought one into the program?

Ad – content continues below

KIRA KALUSH: Typically, our show doesn’t skip anything. Each season, played out in real time, is something like two weeks in duration. And that’s worked for us. I don’t think we ever needed a time jump previously because we always had the next idea ready to go. Truthfully the jump wasn’t something we had been planning on, but we wanted to move on to newer stories that we were excited about. We missed old Melissa, we wanted to get to some baby stories, etc. The jump allowed us to show the group getting their act together and finally making this new world work, only to discover that they have to immediately abandon it.

Were there any big plans, arcs, or story beats from this season that ultimately got shelved or you found yourself wildly diverging from what you might have originally had in mind?

ANDY BOBROW: I wouldn’t say we threw out anything good. I mean, we talked about areas and then discarded them if they weren’t coming together. There are a few I can remember. One of them was we had talked about doing a bit of a mystery around Lewis, like there’s something about Lewis’s backstory that’s not adding up. And Tandy and Todd investigate and the find that he changed his identity after the virus. He’s not Lewis, and he doesn’t have a PhD. And I think the story was that the real Lewis was our Lewis’s boyfriend, or a guy he idolized, and when the virus hit, our Lewis stole this guy’s identity. And Tandy and Todd present all the evidence to the group proudly, like, “this guy’s a fraud,” and everyone is like, “who cares? Everyone’s dead, if he wants to be Lewis, let him be Lewis.” But at that point in the story process, I think we kind of realized, a story that ends with “who cares” is maybe not worth telling. 

Most of the other stuff we didn’t use was just jokes or bits, not whole stories. At one point in the elevator, we wanted Gail to hallucinate talking to Gordon. Like a real fantasy sequence where the Gordon dummy talks in Will Ferrell’s voice. Another little story beat was this dumb frikkin’ idea we still laugh about: Tandy and Todd are out driving and they see someone on the road. And they’re all excited. Holy shit, another person. But as they get closer, the see it’s a white guy with dreadlocks, and they just keep driving. They don’t discuss it. Just silently acknowledge it was the right choice. I love that one.

You’ve been around with the show from the start. What are your feelings on this season versus the other seasons, especially when this year seems to have had a particularly vocal response from the audience?

ANDY BOBROW: Aw jeez, I accidentally answered some of this in the earlier question, but I’ll keep going. I think it was a really good season and I’m glad we got into the supporting characters more. I know each season has its high points. For me, the energy of the show is best when everyone is working together and it’s an emergency. The Phil surgery episode was truly great television. And I think we’ve come close to that kind of energy with things like the two Pat episodes at the beginning of this season, and certainly the birth and the meltdown. When everyone has a job to do, and the walls are closing in, I think those stories are us at our best. 

Ad – content continues below

I actually hadn’t heard much complaining, but maybe I’m in a coastal bubble. I know we went dark with several things this year, and in particular the darkness kind of stacked up at the mid-season finale. With Gail dying in an elevator and Melissa locked in a cell, there was a tonnage of darkness there. I guess you could call that a rough spot. And I’m proud of us for embracing it, but yeah, at the same time, I’m not sure I’d be so eager to do that much rough stuff in such a short span again. All-in-all though, I feel like we did our thing this season and it’s still the most unique and unpredictable thing out there.

The season seems to end with the only things that are clear being that the gang is on a boat and that Kristen Wiig’s Pamela is along for the ride. Did you ever think of her appearance almost just functioning as like a short film about the end of the world, or was the plan always to circle back to her?

KIRA KALUSH: I actually have a good answer to this one. There was a pitch that always made me laugh, but it’s a giant “fuck you” to the audience. The Wiig episode is so good and so exciting and we knew our fans would be psyched, waiting to see when and how she joins the group. So the pitch was this: In the time jump at Melissa and Todd’s wedding, Tandy is rambling on about everything they’ve been through together as a group. He points to memorials of Phil, Gordon, Lewis, and finally, Pamela — revealing that Pamela met up with the group, lived with them and died, all within those six months. I don’t think we ever would have done it, but it still cracks me up.

ANDY BOBROW: Right right. I mentioned this in the time jump questions, because at one point, rather than Pamela it was going to be Steve Buscemi. Either Steve Buscemi as himself, or just a character Tandy mentions, who is represented by a driver’s license or passport on a tombstone, and you can see it’s Steve Buscemi.

But getting back to Pamela, Will’s initial discussion with Kristen was we’ll take you for as few or as many episodes as you want. So our thought was if we could only have her for one episode, it would be a thing where she interacts with them more, i.e. she shows up at the beginning and leaves them at the end. Since she was game for more than one, we decided this was the way to go. Do a standalone with her, and then have her show up at the end. There were pitches that would have used more of her in the finale, but her availability was limited. She only had a day. As for season four, well once again, we’ll take as much Kristen as we can get.


Ad – content continues below