“Looks like it’s just you and me, bud.”
I had tremendous apprehension before starting this episode.
Last Man On Earth’s first season was so uniformly unique and different than anything that’s been attempted on a sitcom in ages. I was naturally worried that this second season wouldn’t match up or that, even worse, the show settled into a normal groove. Normal is the last thing that I want from a series that had a jury of sports balls acting as the protagonist’s sounding board or change the main character’s name to Tandy (while simultaneously equipping him with the worst perm in the history of television). However, Last Man’s “Is There Anybody Out There?” quickly establishes that these concerns were (thankfully) unwarranted. The cold open is more or less the perfect re-introduction to this world and has continued to keep the recklessness turned up to eleven. And it is nice to have these chaotic idiots back in our lives.
This is pretty much the show I always wanted. The premiere treats us to a settled-in Phil and Carol bickering like an old married couple. They’re debating over whether they should go back and retrieve the bomb that they dropped (because obviously their transportation du jour is an aircraft carrier), but they might as well be discussing if they’re going to order takeout that night. This is like The Honeymooners meets Mad Max, and seeing Carol operate with as much wonton disregard as Phil is a lot more enjoyable than seeing him operate solo. There are tremendous pangs to the series’ pilot, as we’re treated to a wealth of fan service, with a tequila kiddie pool built for two being just one of the many highlights to get excited about here.
The show also doesn’t waste any time picking up on the plotline of Phil’s brother (Jason Sudeikis) being alive and in outer space. It’s deeply satisfying to see that he has the same idiosyncratic behavior that Phil does. To see that his inevitable reunion with Earth is going to happen sooner than later is great news, and a fresh element that will no doubt turn this into The Odd Couple meets Mad Max, and who doesn’t want that?
I had the pleasure of talking to Last Man’s co-executive producer and writer Andy Bobrow last year after the season concluded, and he seemed optimistic about pushing the show into even more ambitious territory this season. Granted, this premiere didn’t choose to focus on two battered down cockroaches, but it does instill confidence that this show is far from out of ideas and that they’re still very much interested in pushing the envelope of what’s allowed in a network comedy. For instance, we see Phil and Carol having relocated to the White House. There���s a fair bit of mileage from the location change (including it informing Carol’s bedroom talk). It’s not long before the two of them pick up and move again, this time to Carol’s home, where some delightful, albeit sparse, information is given on not only her family, but the virus itself that killed them all. It becomes clear that Carol’s hesitance to find a new home is because she misses her old one in Tucson.
This is an argument that makes sense, considering the end of last season felt like it could have been a reboot of sorts with Phil (formerly Tandy, formerly formerly Phil) and Carol abandoning the other survivors and the life that they had built for themselves there. This almost feels like a conversation the show it having with itself, conflicted if it wants to return to what it once was, or go in a different direction entirely. Their eventual return to Tucson almost does feel like it might go differently though, as much as Phil is against it.
We learn that six months have passed since the end of last season, and the version of Phil that we’re seeing now feels to have had a lot of course correction done to him. Just in case you were still having reservations on where the character went last year. The lothario Phil seems to have died, and even though his beard is back. It does feel like he could now fit in with his former crew. However, our opportunity to find this out is cut short by some slow-setting gems and some terrible misunderstandings that end up separating Carol and Phil and wrecking this beautifully off-kilter marriage.
Juxtaposing the life-filled first two acts of the episode with the isolated, lonelier following two, works much in the episode’s credit. Just like Phil, we greatly feel the loss of Carol because of what we’ve previously seen. There’s an effectively chilling conclusion to everything that bookends all of this nicely and raises a number of questions of its own, too. Trying to reunite Phil and Carol (and Space Sudeikis, who feels like our third lead now) in a barren world is a strong enough premise to push this season forward. But much like how the series’ freshman season went, I’m sure we’ll be bombarded with surprises and people (or bovine) soon enough.
Oh, and there’s also a fucking phenomenal sight gag with MIA’s “Paper Planes” that made me burst into laughter and rewind several times over.