Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is knocking down barriers between entertainment industry talent and the audience. This recurring feature 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 fourth season of FOX’S, The Last Man on Earth
This part of the walkthrough looks at episodes 16 through 18 from The Last Man on Earth’s fourth season. Previous entries can be found here
The Last Man on Earth always manages to cover a lot of ground with each of its seasons, but this year feels like it’s particularly busy and unpredictable. Last Man on Earth’s fourth season started with gunfire and messy corpses and it ends the year with utter terror and mystery on its mind. This final block of episodes covers a surprising amount of ground and takes the series back to a very human place for its conclusion.
Tandy gets to explore his abandonment issues and confront his fears over his brother’s mortality now that he’s back in the picture. Meanwhile, Mike has his own trauma to work through as he tries to integrate back into this group. A final burst of baby fever also pushes most of these characters in and out of conflict with each other and sets up what their dynamic might be in a possible fifth season.
Outside of the human relationships, the series once again pivots back to the comfortable territory of life or death dire situations and if there are any more survivors out there. These final installments make some big strides in that area, as well as open up a whole new can of radioactive worms that irrevocably change the scope of the series.
There’s also a nasty case of corpses and explosives that occurs at the ol’ Zihuatanejo mansion that gives the group serious pause. It’s a nice final obstacle to drive the events of this season and it again reminds everyone of their mortality. We dig into these developments, how these episodes came together, and what the future of the show may hold as we touch base with the writers of each entry and the series’ co-showrunners, Erik Durbin and Tim McAuliffe.
Last Man on Earth Season 4, Episode 16 – “The Blob”
“A thermal heat detector reveals a potential sign of life outside of the Zihuatanejo village, but Tandy doesn’t want the group to split up to go investigate. Meanwhile, Todd and Erica have trouble seeing eye-to-eye.”
Written by Erik Durbin & Sarah K. Moss; Directed by Jason Woliner
DEN OF GEEK: At this point in the season do you guys try to start setting things up for the finale or hint at some big piece that you’ll arrive at in the last episode? Like in this case, the “heat blob.”
ERIK DURBIN & SARAH K. MOSS: There definitely tend to be themes and storylines that carry through the last few episodes of a season.
How did this gross cuisine come about? Do you think that limited resources will ever become a larger problem for these guys again, or is the show past those days?
I think the gross food formula is Carol + creative flair + lack of culinary talent + environment. In this case the result was fake-amole. The group still hasn’t committed to farming or a sustainable way of life, so dwindling supplies are still a problem for them. In general, they seem to prefer sweeping problems under the rug. We’ll see how much stuff can fit under there!
Did it make sense to tell stories where Tandy worries about Mike’s mortality and his own abandonment issues after what’s happened with them in the past?
Absolutely! Tandy and Mike’s relationship is special and extremely complex. It’s hard to be together and it’s hard to be apart. Watching Tandy worry about Mike is a way to see how much Tandy truly cares about him.
Were you guys excited to be able to tell more sibling rivalry stories and have Mike and Tandy revert back to their childhood states now that you’ve got Sudeikis back in the picture?
Was Tandy ever not in a childlike state? Forte and Sudeikis have such a fun chemistry together and we were all really excited to see that again. We also wanted to see how fatherhood might tweak things a little bit for Tandy, and how that could affect Mike.
You guys are always able to create such unique, unusual visuals on this show. How did the whole human bowling with mannequins come about? Were there any bonding activities here between Tandy and Mike that couldn’t be worked out instead?
We usually have a long list of ideas for dumb activities and then settle on one (we won’t say what the other ideas are in case we end up using one of them). Bowling and mannequins have been a part of the show from the beginning, so the invention of mannequin bowling was written in the stars. The actual balls are called Zorbs. They come in one or two-person models. They burn an incredible amount of calories. And after each take, Will would run up a bunch of stairs to get to the writer’s room and work on the next episode, then run back down the stairs again for more Zorbing. It’s maybe the closest he’s come to spontaneously combusting. It’s at least in the top 10.
Tandy’s mannequin that he uses to watch over his children while he’s gone made curious about what these children will actually be like when they’ve grown up a little. Have you discussed or would you be interested in doing a drastic flash forward episode in a hypothetical season five that explores such territory?
That mannequin has been Will Forte’s body double since the beginning of the show. It was nice to finally put him front and center and let him show what he can do. The arm falling off was all him. Happened in the moment. Not scripted. Absolute genius. As far as a time jump goes, we’ve done a few small ones over the years so anything’s possible in a hypothetical season five. It would probably be fun to see our group after a few years have passed, or a few decades. Or a few centuries! Or a few millennia! What comes after millennia?! Maybe that’s what we discover in season five!
Last Man on Earth Season 4, Episode 17 – “Barbara Ann”
“The gang ventures out in search of what they think could be a new sign of life, but are surprised at what they actually find. Meanwhile, Todd makes a few morbid discoveries of his own back at the mansion.”
Written by Tim McAuliffe & David Noel; Directed by David Noel
DEN OF GEEK: The brief moment where Tandy and Mike touch on their parents is really sweet. If there was more time in the season would you have liked to have expanded on all of this and maybe even had them on the road for two episodes? What about intercutting their road trip with flashbacks from their childhood?
TIM McAULIFFE: That’s a tough one. The thing I like most about Mike and Tandy’s relationship is that, to me, it’s very relatable. Back before the virus, they took each other for granted, they made fun of each other, they let their differences separate them. But now that they’ve been given a second (or third) chance, they’ve been actively attempting to repair what they didn’t feel they needed to in the old world. And I think that’s kind of cool. And if they can do it by trying to get each other to drink pee, then all the better!
There are goats in this episode! We got some hints of how grim their food situation was in the previous installment. Did that play into this discovery, or did it just feel like the right time to bring more animals into the mix?
Based on what you saw at the end of the episode, the goats were seen simply as a misdirect for Mike’s heat signature. But, in time, we realized they were more than that… They were a great opportunity for penis and poo jokes! Not to mention musical comedy!
Those mummy tableaux that Todd puts together are delightfully morbid. Was that always Todd’s solution here, or did that change at all?
I think it was. The thing I love most about Todd is that he’s always thinking of others (which is rare in this world) and he’ll go to great lengths to make sure he doesn’t offend people. Plus, it was getting to the end of the season and we hadn’t yet been able to incorporate any Weekend at Bernie’s-based comedy.
It makes sense for the gang to distance themselves from all of the cartel’s weapons and loot, but did you ever consider them putting them to use or someone developing a massive coke problem?
Ha ha! Sounds like Gail might have already had one! No, I don’t think we ever thought of giving anyone a coke problem. And Melissa already kind of has a guns and explosives problem!
That reveal at the end is vintage Last Man. In “Designated Survivors” Mike’s made-up backstory involves a hatch. Is that just a coincidence? Are you intentionally trying to play into that?
Good catch. No, We didn’t plan that but now that you’re bringing it up, it sounds kind of cool.
Why is it important that Mike doesn’t discover the hatch and what the significance of the blob is here?
The thing that I like most about the story is that it’s really just a road trip piece between two brothers who have issues that need to be worked out.
Last Man on Earth Season 4, Episode 18 – “Cancun, Baby!”
“After discovering hidden dangers in their mansion, the group decides to part ways with their home in Zihuatanejo and embark on a new destination. However, Tandy has second thoughts about what they may be leaving behind.”
Written by Rich Blomquist & John Solomon; Directed by Nisha Ganatra
DEN OF GEEK: It seems like it’s become a running trend that each season finale sees the gang picking up and relocating to somewhere new, so it was nice to see Tandy and the show directly address this. Do you get concerned about falling into a pattern with the gang continually moving to new places?
JOHN SOLOMON: I think that’s always a concern. This year a lot of the discussion centered around whether or not we should meet the bunker people toward the end of the season. Will has always said that including more people would fundamentally change the show, so it took a lot of time for most of us to get comfortable with the idea. Once we did, the location change just seemed like the best way to introduce the bunker people, so we went with it. And we always like it when the show is out on the road…
Do you guys get nostalgic about any of the previous locations from the show? Do you ever wish that you didn’t leave one location so quickly or find yourselves with more ideas for like their Silicon Valley digs?
JOHN SOLOMON: I love all the locations we’ve had on the show and the biggest regret for me isn’t story-wise — it’s production-wise. Our production design team is so amazing at creating our sets that when we leave them, it’s like leaving behind a beautiful piece of art. But then they get to make something new and amazing the next season, so it all works out.
At the same time, all of the emotions that Tandy feels regarding the house and the dog that he finds seem to point towards Tandy finally growing up. Why did it seem like a good idea to center this finale around the idea of the group all maturing and fighting their old bad habits?
RICH BLOMQUIST: With so many of our characters becoming parents, it seemed like a natural catalyst for change. They can’t afford to be as selfish or short-sighted. Little lives are depending on them. Wine benders and margarita pools aren’t going to cut it. They have to start thinking long-term.
There’s a small piece of dialogue that addresses Jasper being left behind, but that he has the option to return if he ever wants. Jasper’s presence decreased more as the season went on. Was it ultimately just too difficult to coordinate around child actor hours and this seemed like a solid out for the character, or did you want to return to him later when there’s more for him to do?
JOHN SOLOMON: We always liked the idea of Jasper becoming fed-up with the group because they’re so irresponsible, so that was the initial reason we had him leave. If Jasper does come back, we have some very fun ideas for how it would happen. But I guess the first question is whether the series will come back. Once that gets answered we can answer the Jasper question.
The bunker people are such a striking visual and one of the crazier things that the show has done. Do you know who these guys are and do they know something about the virus that we don’t, or are those gas masks just a sign of paranoia?
RICH BLOMQUIST: We’d love to reveal more about the bunker people, but we need a fifth season. Write your congressman!
Do you know where all of this bunker people material is going to go, or are you still figuring it out? Was there ever a time when the finale focused more on them rather than just using them as a tag?
JOHN SOLOMON: There was some discussion in the writers’ room about giving more time to the bunker people in the finale, but ultimately we thought it was fun to spend the episode just knowing they are there somewhere, but not meeting them until the very end. If we happen to get another season, some of the ideas we talked about for this episode might move into the premiere.
Does this development with the bunker people hint at the final end game for the series? Have you guys started to think about how you want all of this to conclude or how many years are left?
RICH BLOMQUIST: We’ve thought about it. All the writers pitched ideas for Season 5, including the end. But nothing is written in stone.
Now that this season is over, what’s your take on this year? Any regrets? Any areas that you’re particularly proud of? Did you enter this season with any different goals?
RICH BLOMQUIST: I really liked writing an episode that Kristen (my wife) directed. The stuff on the yacht at the beginning of the season was difficult to produce, but came out great. Having Fred Armisen on the show was a treat.
Have you all had any discussions on what the direction for a hypothetical fifth season would look like and where you’d like the show to go?
RICH BLOMQUIST: I think we might see Tandy and the group settling down and …
Do you think that you’d like to do more or less baby material next season after it got such a strong focus this year?
RICH BLOMQUIST: Obviously, Bezequille, Mike, and Dawn aren’t going anywhere, but working with baby actors is pretty challenging. You can only shoot with them for 20 minutes. We’ve heard Trump might do away with child-labor laws altogether, which would be a huge help for us.
Talk a little on Mike’s exit and if the plan is to try and keep him around for next season too, if possible. Can you say if you’re trying to package a fifth season around his inclusion? There would arguably be diminishing returns for the character if he continually leaves and returns.
RICH BLOMQUIST: A big part of whether Mike will come back depends on Jason Sudeikis’s schedule. He does come and go quite a bit. Think of him as a wacky sitcom neighbor who lives really far away.
Do you see that dog becoming part of the family next season? Could Clancy II become a permanent addition to the show?
JOHN SOLOMON: That dog is no Clancy. If somehow he were to become half-robot, we would maybe consider it.
That concludes our episode-by-episode walkthrough on Last Man on Earth’s fourth season. The entire breakdown of this season can be found here.If the show returns for a season five, know that we’ll be back to this business next year!