Our recurring series The Fourth Wall 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 dive into the first three episodes from The Last Man on Earth’s fourth season.
This part of the walkthrough looks at episodes four through six from The Last Man on Earth’s fourth season. Previous entries can be found here.
Last Man on Earth Season 4 Episode 4 – “Wisconsin”
“Carol panics when Todd and Melissa leave for their honeymoon and Erica and Gail decide to live on their own for a while. She and Tandy devise the ultimate plan to convince everyone it’s safer to stick together.”
Written by Matt Marshall; Directed by Jennifer Arnold
DEN OF GEEK: The show has done a lot of episodes about the gang breaking up and separating at this point, but this one really feels like they’re finally together for good. What’s your take on that?
MATT MARSHALL: Now that there are kids in the mix and everyone is paired up in loving relationships, it really cements the idea that these people truly are family now. Guest stars come and go and those are always fun episodes, but at the core, the show is about these strangers forming a de facto family and realizing how much they depend on each other even when they can’t stand each other.
Carol’s attempts to spruce up a horrible hospital into something inviting are really perfect. Was it nice to open up the discussion to what sort of building these people would be living in again after their move?
It seemed like a no-brainer that Carol would want to be close to a hospital since she’s so close to giving birth. And it was fun to pitch on how she would personalize a sad, messy hospital in her Carol kind of way.
Talk a little on the whole trash magnet scene. It’s been a minute since the show has indulged in some wonton destruction on a huge scale.
Will pitched that idea early on, and we were always looking forward to doing a wish fulfillment scene in a junkyard. But it happened to be record temperatures on the day we shot that. I think it got up to 105 or something like that. So it was a very tough day for the crew and for Will being in a suit of armor, but they all did such an awesome job.
All of Melissa and Todd’s roleplay is wonderful, but Spike Sanchez is a particular highlight. Did these gags change at all throughout things or was Spike always present?
Spike Sanchez scene was in there early on and January just nailed it at the table read. I don’t think that scene changed at all, she just crushed it.
Todd’s heart attack scare is definitely the most dramatic moment of the season so far. Was playing with Todd’s health something that you guys had been considering for a while, or was it more so because something was needed to unite the group?
We’ve been thinking about another health scare issue to affect the group for a while. It seemed like a natural place to remind the group to put aside their petty bickering and realize how fragile things can be in this new world.
This episode goes out on a Kinks song, which I know are particularly precious to Will. Is their use here emblematic of the episode marking a real turning point for these guys?
Going back to the end of last season, and the start of this season, we’ve had a lot of episodes with guest stars and our group racing away from a nuclear meltdown and getting lost and overall facing an unknown future. So this episode felt like our group is finally having a chance to breath and settle in to a new location and let the audience recognize that they’re in Zihuatanejo to stay. That’s the long rambling way of basically saying that we haven’t used a Kinks song in awhile, and we were due.
Last Man on Earth Season 5 Episode 5 – “La Abuela”
“While Carol forces Tandy to put down his new toys so they can baby-proof the giant estate, Melissa worries about Todd’s physical health and Gail and Erica can’t figure out why Dawn won’t stop crying.”
Written by Kira Kalush; Directed by David Noel
DEN OF GEEK: How did the idea of a cartel leader’s mansion as the gang’s new home come to be?
Kira Kalush: We had the thought of the cartel leader floating around for a while but we weren’t quite sure where it would fit in. We knew we were moving into our Season 4 home this episode and that was about all we had going into it. We’ve now seen this group move into a new home multiple times and we wanted to be careful not to tell a similar story. Matt Marshall had the great idea to use the cold open as a flashback showing what the house used to be and then see our gang move in followed by Carol’s perfect reaction: “This place has great energy!” Will liked the idea so much, he wanted to continue it through the rest of the episode.
Did you have the “explosive” piñata idea first and then worked backwards with the storytelling structure, or did you decide to tell a story in this fashion first and then figure out the specifics after?
There were about a million iterations of this outline. It wasn’t easy to figure out. I think the piñata was in the mix pretty early on. We were toying with a story following Todd’s heart attack where the group wanted to throw him a surprise party but they were scared of startling him too much so they planned to do a “reasonable and relaxed” surprise party. That story ended up not working out for various reasons but the piñata was involved there, and I guess it never left!
You guys always find ways for your set decorators and art directors to have such fun with the show. Was the whole extravagant baby-proofing process a difficult thing to bring to life?
This was a bit of a balancing act because Carol, as we know and love her, never does anything halfway. So in any other episode we would have probably had the whole house decked out with pool noodles and stuffed animals and more bubble wrap, but this was also the first time we were seeing this beautiful new set. We didn’t want it to get overshadowed in any way. The packing peanut stairwell was a good compromise (even though that was done by Tandy) because it was still over the top, a total eye sore, and it’s like, we all know what stairs look like, you know? No one was missing out.
The first real baby storyline takes place in this one with Dawn’s continual crying. Were you guys hesitant to start doing baby stories? Excited?
I think we were definitely a little nervous. Working with babies is hard! You only get them for 20 minutes a day and if you need them to cry, you feel like an asshole because you’re wishing sadness upon a baby, but at the same time, you really need this shot. Thankfully, baby Dawn was perfectly moody.
Dawn turning into an adrenaline junkie because she’s become so acclimated to danger is a nice Last Man spin on things, too.
The other thing with baby stories is that they can often feel tired and familiar. But we tried to remember, this isn’t a regular baby, this is an apocalypse baby! And beyond that, it’s Erica’s baby. We know Erica has a crazy past, so it only makes sense that Dawn is a bit of a wild child herself. Like mother, like daughter.
This episode goes out on a really powerful note. I wouldn’t have even been surprised if Jasper had died. Talk a little on this hidden explosive that’s now under everyone’s noses and how this became the “danger” that you guys decided on.
We never seriously thought about killing Jasper here, but we’re glad you think we’re so awful that we would. The group has had a lot of danger in their faces at the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4. Between Pat and Pamela and the nuclear meltdown, they’ve dealt with a lot. We got excited thinking about how the virus took people so quickly that maybe the past left some unfinished business, and that could be a new danger that they wouldn’t even be aware of. We’re excited to have this new scary element involved in their day to day life. When will it go off? Or will it go off at all? Maybe it’s not even a bomb? (JK, it’s definitely a bomb.)
Last Man on Earth Season 4 Episode 6 – “Double Cheeseburger”
“Carol’s pregnancy takes an unexpected turn, and while Tandy feels ready to face the challenge head on, Gail is concerned and wants to intervene. Meanwhile, Melissa discourages Todd’s baby fever.”
Written by Emma Rathbone; Directed by Lucia Aniello
DEN OF GEEK: Talk a little on Carol giving birth and the decision to take it in the opposite direction as Erica’s birth.
EMMA RATHBONE: We wanted to do something that didn’t feel too similar to Erica’s birth, and also something that was specific to Carol. It made us laugh to think sleep births ran in the Pilbasian family, and then having the second one come late gave us a chance to explore another side of Carol—the strength and wisdom that allowed her to remain calm in the face of Tandy and Gail’s mounting anxiety.
Were twins always the plan with Carol or was that a choice that was more recently figured out?
We had been hovering around the idea of twins for a while, and then there seemed to be a lot more story opportunities with them for the future and especially for the birth.
I’m so, so happy that Bezequeel has come full circle and is actually the name of a character now. Was there as any hesitation to pull the trigger on that idea?
Not really. We couldn’t settle on any other names that had the same quality of being both majestic and confusing.
Tandy and Carol naming their other child Mike is also a really sweet nod. Was it nice to get to reflect back on him and his significance to Tandy?
Yes. The characters have all been through so much together at this point, and it felt like remembering Mike added a sense of richness and layering. Carol and Tandy, specifically, have come so far…one of my favorite things about the show is the unexpected happiness that two people who were so different have found with each other, and naming one of the babies Mike seemed to add to that.
The birthing argument that Carol and Gail get into makes for a particularly interesting situation. Discuss Gail getting caught up in this tense position and that Carol is the one that’s ultimately right in the end.
It’s so fun to write for Gail, and this was an opportunity to give her some really active, lively scenes. It shows you different aspects of her character, the fact that she’s now Carol’s mom, Tandy’s mother-in-law, and the appointed doctor. I love any scene in which the group, especially Gail, has to muddle through some medical conundrum. There are real stakes there, and it’s fun to think of Gail as having taken on this field of research—something she probably never would have expected in her previous life.
It’s only a few moments at the end, but it looks like Tandy has really grown when he’s with his children. Are we about to see some new depth to the character?
Tandy has a really tender side, and it’s nice to be able to show that, and to think of him as a father with all of the responsibility and improvisation that requires.
Our walkthrough of Last Man On Earth’s fourth season will continue every three weeks. Our walkthroughs of the show’s previous seasons can be found here.