This The Last Man on Earth review contains spoilers.
The Last Man on Earth: Season 2, Episode 7
“The bottom line: Phil is Meg Ryan and I’ve got to be his Andy Garcia.”
“Baby Steps” tows an interesting line where it’s certainly not The Last Man on Earth’s strongest entry, but it opens up the discussion on some of the more mature fundamentals that compose the series in a serious, methodical way that’s often been absent in the show otherwise. While the effort that writer Matt Marshall and solid veteran director John Solomon take is appreciated, what ultimately holds back the episode is that not much happens.
Look, we’ve been around this world for twenty episodes now. That’s not a ton of time, but it’s enough to cover enough squares of this world that you can tell when time is being wasted and when an area is being retreaded. Everything this episode gets into works, but it’s not enough on ita own. There’s even a moment where the plot at hand is shifted to Tandy and Phil getting stuck with retrieving tortilla chips for Gail. Needless to say, things could be a little better organized.
“Baby Steps” unsurprisingly spends most of its time answering the cliffhanger from last week in regard to a baby entering this world (which I’m not at all against, I just don’t think it needs to become such a focus). I also welcome this story in terms of it giving the delightful — but also often underused — Cleopatra Coleman something meatier to do on the show other than act dejected and shout about X-Factor. It’s also perhaps the most serious episode of the season so far between brooding Phil pining to get access to his yet-to-be-born child, and Todd screaming out his frustrations at Melissa over where their relationship is at.
Whether all of this anger is intentional or not, the episode channels it in an intelligent way. Just like it was easy for the group to turn on Tandy while we knew he had feelings underneath it all, the same thing is being done with Phil. It’s been so easy to hate him these past few episodes yet this week we momentarily get put in his shoes and see the tortured guy who’s trying beneath the machismo exterior. The final act is genuinely grim for his character, and while Tandy’s tragedy had such a ridiculous, absurd edge to it due to the energy that Forte brings, Boris Kodjoe’s Phil is a much more stoic, wounded animal with no reprieve.
All of this culminates in the end of the episode, which is the beautiful mix of bittersweet and touching that Last Man on Earth does so well. The scene entails Tandy rescuing Phil, so to speak, but the piece largely operates as a winning conversation with himself where Tandy not only gets to work through his baggage with Phil, but also comes clean about his feelings towards his own ill deeds. This might have been the least impactful episode of the season for me, but a show that is still capable of hitting these extremes and providing a series with such depth is still one that’s doing a lot of things right. It’s only the high standard that Last Man on Earth has built for itself that holds this table-setting episode back.
As we move into the second half of the season, I want to see the show taking more wild swings (may I remind everyone that a Space Sudeikis is in orbit!) than safe punts, and I hope this baby conversation doesn’t consume the rest of the year as much as it has these past episodes. This is an easy point for a show to begin treading water and Last Man is just so above that that I hope it makes the right decisions to keep it fresh over this hump.
If not, then maybe the adventures of Yorbalinda and Jezequeel will bear fruit.