We’ll screw the moon. Who needs the moon?
People have been quick to reduce Last Man on Earth into a simple sitcom about the sexual tension amongst a small (yet continually growing) community. Granted, it’s embraced this angle more as the show has continued, boiling down almost all of it cast to their basest sexual desires. But while sexuality has entered Tucson, much like any of the errant survivors who have wandered into Tandy’s atmosphere, it has hardly been the defining force of the series.
No, ever since the pilot the show has been concerned about morality, what it means to be “good”, and what it means to be yourself, when the rest of the world has been pulled out from under you. Can we reinvent ourselves? Do we need laws? What is a ” functioning society”? These are the larger questions that have never left the show, albeit maybe using sexuality and tension to enhance their message and re-frame themselves. But The Last Man on Earth has always been about karma and morality, and obvious the finale of the season has the lofty goal of pulling all of this together and proving its context.
This is frankly a more refreshing, reassuring angle for the series to take because what sitcom isn’t about sexual tension? Any show can tackle that, but for a show that truly felt different and new when it first started, it’s a disappointing conclusion. Why make that your focus when there is so much more going on here that can only happen in this show?
The series has seriously felt like Tandy is going through a trial or test to become a better person. Every single one of his selfish actions has had drastic repercussions for the rest of the world/Tucson. Which is why putting morality front and center again is the best thing the show could do.
One of the ways that this sense of morality is best shown in the series is through Melissa. Her constant hatred towards Tandy and her total lack of ability to tolerate any of his bullshitting has also come under attack, and it’s far more than her being thinly written or stereotyped. In fact, I’d argue that Melissa might be one of the most complex characters on the show. We just haven’t gotten the best opportunity to see it.
Melissa’s animosity stems from the fact that she saw Tandy at his worst. He was ready to throw Carol, his wife, under the bus for Melissa, and she’s never recovered from that. She’s not a character that has a different reason to hate him every week, she’s never stopped hating him from the start and simply has no use for him; she just has no alternative to escape.
Melissa has arguably seen Tandy at his most honest, and it’s informed her entire opinion of him. I’d say that she arguably understands who he is the best out of everyone, and maybe they could have been a perfect couple in some other apocalypse where he hadn’t destroyed his character so thoroughly. So while some viewers seem to take exception to Melissa being a constant wet blanket here, I actively look forward and expect her to raise her voice in objection when Phil starts some crazy schemes. She’s seen the seams in his human costume and has no interest in pretending she can’t see the zipper.
Someone who does seem to be human though is Todd, and it appears that he may not be as bloodthirsty and unhinged as I originally thought he was—or he’s at least calmed down some from his break-up with Melissa. With Todd and Tandy in murder mode it’s nice to see Todd stumble upon the realization that Tandy was trying to kill him so many weeks ago. It’s nice to see this final act of awfulness on Tandy’s part get addressed before moving forward.
It’s pretty perfect to see the final stage of Phil’s purgatory for the season fall on the fact that Carol (and seemingly everyone) here is interested in having casual sex—“which is Phil’s whole thing”—and had they just got to this in the first place rather than putting on airs like society has taught us to do, none of these elaborate hoops of lies would have to be jumped through. Everyone would just gleefully be having casual sex and none of this nonsense lying would have happened. Because that’s what happens when we take the rules and concepts of the past and bring them back to life here. If we can just move on and accept our lot, rather than sticking to what might be an antiquated way of living, maybe everyone would be all the happier.
Whether this way of living is embraced by everyone in Tucson or not, Tandy takes it upon himself to pledge his allegiance to Carol—for realsies this time—upon realizing that he truly does love her. Carol is quick to reduce this to the fact that Tandy just wants what he can’t have—which I think is an oversimplification, I think he just endlessly wants—but it’s far too little too late.
All of Phil’s pure selfishness ends up blowing up in his face once again, with it seeming like he’s going to be exiled from the cul de sac with all of his bridges effectively burned. It’s a conclusion that certainly makes sense for Tandy (who now might as well go by Phil Miller again) and one the show has been leading to ever since his behavior has ballooned on him. But in typical Last Man fashion, just as it seems like we’re heading to a perfect Kumbaya-esque conclusion, Phil Miller pulls the rug out from under us and sentences Tandy to Hell for real this time.
Until an angel pulls him out.
And that’s where the episode takes its major turn and is likely to divide some people. As stated above, now that Phil is finally free of all of his baggage, stopped being a villain, and evolved into a better person, he’s also able to shed Tucson and the people inside of it. You think they were thin, one-dimensional representations of characters? That’s fine. That might be the last you see of them. Their purpose has been served. They’ve caused Phil to become better, and now he’s earned the right to move on from this way station and can do so with Carol.
It’s an exciting ending that holds limitless potential for next season (as well as maybe harking back to the more minimalistic aspect the show originally had), but then there’s also that epilogue in space with Phil Miller’s brother. That opens up even more doors for next year (and as much as I hate to say it, even feels Lost-ian) and makes the show feel a lot bigger just as it begins to make it feel smaller again.
I can’t wait. Bring on Space Sudeikis.