“Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘I wouldn’t have sex with you if you were the last person on Earth’?”
Phil Miller is not a good person.
The Last Man on Earth has pulled a lot of rugs out from underneath of us, and continued to change the idea of what the “truth” is in all of this, but something we can be sure of at this point is that Phil Miller is not a good person. He’s selfish, petty, duplicitous, but he’s also our main character. And seeing that idea become more prominent and present itself through the series is really a powerful idea.
This pair of episodes open on perhaps what’s their most enigmatic, catching introduction that the show has done yet. The John Carpenter-esque scores that accompanies this (PS: The music in the show is being done by the great Mark Mothersbaugh in case you didn’t realize) is also kind of amazing, especially with how counterintuitive it is to the character when we do get around to meeting him.
If last week was exploring the awkwardness between Phil negotiating around Melissa while being married to Carol, then these episodes are about Phil and Carol co-existing with Melissa when the idea of reciprocation is on everyone’s minds. Everyone’s in heat essentially, and what better way to exploit that than Phil figuring out a way to have sex with Melissa in the process? I love that we see Phil going to his group of ball friends to run by his scheme to turn Carol’s words into a way to sleep with Melissa (and then doing the same thing with her). I mean who else would he possibly go to here?
Forte continues to knock it out of the park with this show. We get to see some bawling Forte here, which is always great, and to see him keep pouring himself into the character is so satisfying episode after episode. The entire scene where he tries to reveal his “plan” to Carol is just amazing work from him and the tone that he maintains.
The way that Phil’s plan completely spirals out of control is pretty great, and he plays oblivious so, so well. His plan to get back on Carol and Melissa’s good graces is a makeshift carnival, with its centerpiece being a dunk tank featuring Phil. This of course beautifully intersects with the haunting opening of the episode, and suddenly Phil’s continual pleads that he’s “the last man on Earth” begin to completely lose their meaning in a way that kind of shatters the image of who he is. It feels perfectly in tune with the show that Phil’s ridiculous electric guitar riffs, which are choreographed to fireworks, are what tip off our mystery man and ruin his chances of anything happening between him and Melissa.
Phil keeps trying to go big in this show, even in smaller moments like his escalating pieces of destruction, but if Phil could just tone it down a little bit and be honest with everyone about who he really is, he might finally start to get somewhere. This revelation has never been stronger after the arrival of Todd at the end of this first episode.
While the impact of Todd’s (Mel Rodriguez, a personal favorite of Mitch Hurwitz’s) arrival is certainly felt and it mixes up the show once again, throwing in another character at the last minute can only work so many times. That’s why it’s nice to see the show handling Todd not in terms of the shock that he exists, but rather the sort of character that he represents.
His arrival is also yet again another instance of a character being this close to missing Phil in Tucson and completely being out of their lives. Melissa joined under similar conditions, and it really makes you think, perhaps there are in fact a good deal of people still out there, all of them having just missed Phil, or him just missing them when he scoured the Earth beforehand. So much here is predicated on coincidence and timing, and it’s starting to become a major theme to this show.
Seeing Phil threatened by Todd’s presence and his effortless bonding with Melissa is entertaining, but it feels pretty similar to his shameless harping to bond with Melissa when she first arrived. A little more of an original angle might have been appreciated. Even the way in which Phil’s needling of Todd backfires on him and ends up showing Todd’s depth to everyone feels a little predictable at this point. Again, this also plays very well (and Todd’s story from his past, complete with the score change is great) and I’m being deeply critical here, but it’s just because of the high standard this show has set already. If anything, it should never be feeling repetitive.
Todd is also just such a nice, kind character, almost to the point of becoming a caricature on the matter. His kidney story is devastating, but even seeing him act around Melissa on their date, there’s a real sincerity that Rodriguez brings to the character and it works as a great counterpoint to Phil’s manic, ego-driven attitude. Even Carol’s whole “Bilbasian Nudge” plan works when none of Phil’s are able to because hers has selfless intentions and is trying to help others. Perhaps the key to all of this is to try and figure out the best way to survive through it all, helping those around you and not just determining how you, yourself can be happiest.
What’s maybe the most interesting thing going on in The Last Man on Earth is that Phil, the character we were introduced to and who we thought was the last person alive, is perhaps the worst person alive. Everyone else we’ve met has shown emotions and layers, but more than anything else honesty and vulnerability. Phil is always trying to work people and manipulate his way into a situation, and it’s deeply interesting to see our protagonist kind of burning the few remaining bridges he has left, as the people around him are much better than he is. Maybe they could even exile him. His currency is dropping more and more, and seeing if there are ever going to be ramifications to his behavior should be interesting.
Phil touches on this lightly by saying his faults have to do with the shift that occurred from him going to talking to inanimate objects to actual people again, and that does make sense to a degree, but it also doesn’t change how venomously he’s acted on occasion. The final scene of the episode does a lot to show us who Phil really is, but even after all of that, we’re left with the idea that Phil is going to regurgitate this piece of honesty to Carol, tainting it, and perpetuating his cycle.
Carol might need to be turning her Bilbasian Nudges on him sooner than later…