This The Last Man on Earth review contains spoilers.
The Last Man on Earth: Season 2, Episode 17
“It’s just a cold…”
Let’s get something out of the way right from the start: How dare Tandy share bacon with someone else other than his Original Bacon Brother! All bets are off once Tandy messes with Todd and the man’s Breakfast meat, and he knows it. Time to get ready for the fallout.
Picking up from the last episode’s sizeable cliffhanger, we see that Gail’s drinking is finally catching up with her in the form of her looking like the “woman who cried crazy.” Yes, her drone tales (or her interpretations of such) are rooted in reality but, due to her recent behavior, nobody believes what she’s dishing out. This conveniently works well enough for the show—I maybe would have liked another example or two of Gail being off point on something outlandish as a more gradual build up to this, but oh well. This largely results in Gail deciding to go dry for a little bit, a decision that’s likely long overdue, especially considering that her body is literally rejecting water at this point. There’s also more than enough going on elsewhere that everyone has better things to do than wonder if there are flying waffle makers plotting an attack. This fascinating question mark is clearly being left for next week’s finale.
The title of “Smart and Stupid” is referring to a very specific incident within the episode, but the binary contained in its title can carry over to most of the major characters here. For instance we get the return of irrational Todd this week courtesy of the aforementioned bacon incident, with the crisp delicacy being a trigger for the guy. I still feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface of what Todd is all about. We’ve gotten a handful of glimpses of there being a damaged guy inside and I’m curious if these final episodes will push him even further. With the shaved head that he’s now sporting he’s got a whole Travis Bickle in the third act of Taxi Driver thing going for him, which I am all about, too. I never thought that, “I DON’T WANT ANY FRICKING CRACKLINGS, BROHIM!” could be such an intimidating statement in the right context. Hell hath no fury like a stomach scorned.
I’m also happy to see the show digging back into Tandy and Todd’s complicated relationship more in these final episodes. Lines like, “Was your bacon brother busy?” speak volumes when they should just be silly asides and it’s all a testament to the chemistry between Mel Rodriguez and Will Forte. With things between Tandy and Carol being rocksteady for a while now, it’s only appropriate that Tandy and Todd are the main relationship that this season chooses to go out on. The two of them have been through so much together between fighting for the same woman, exhuming a corpse together, and their recent makeovers. Last Man throwing family back into the equation only reminds us that everyone else that’s around us in our lives is because we choose for them to be there. Tandy and Todd share something special in a whole other way than how he and his brother do.
The episode makes another very smart move in the decision to pair up Mike and Erica. Since Mike’s arrival he’s certainly been a wild card and it’s been interesting to watch how he’s been used against other members of the cast. Playing around like this can sometimes have a bit of a learning curve to it but the material between Mike and Erica immediately clicks. There is such a modest sweetness to their scenes together. They’re so much fun together and these moments act as a stark reminder that Erica has largely been an untapped well on this show, and boy does Mike pull some heavy buckets of backstory from out of her. All of this stuff is just a delight as we learn that Erica is a convicted bank robber who moonlighted at the department of state under the alias Amanda Williams. Erica might literally be the most interesting person alive…and she also happens to be Australian.
Since this season’s inclusion of Mike into the Malibu Crew I’ve been apprehensive as to what the show is going to do with his character and how permanent his stay is going to be here. After the tenderness that happens between him and Erica I especially don’t want to see him die now, but then that Chekhov’s Bloody Cough appears and it certainly seems like that’s the route that’s being gone down. Hasn’t Erica been through enough at this point though? The ex-con is more than deserving of a break!
Whether you’re into this whole “Mike is infected” plot development or not, you have to hand it to the show that it at least makes sense and it’s a logical direction to pursue. Mike’s lack of immunity to the virus because he was up in space absolutely has bearing and it’s nice to see something like this being dealt with realistically, as it should be, with further machinations like the impending babies lack of immunization having strong validity here.
Watching Mike suddenly feel his mortality is powerful stuff, as are the further domino effects of what’s happening, like the death of their cow. However, I’m not entirely convinced that “sick” Mike is the reason for the cow’s demise. This is a show where we’re repeatedly shown that nothing is as it seems. I wouldn’t even be surprised if that drone is somehow connected to aliens in some way with this being some routine extraterrestrial cattle slaughter. Even if it is just some sort of government tool, it could still be responsible, containing the goal of trying to cut off the Malibu crew’s resources. Hell, I’m not even past the angle of a pushed-to-his-limit Todd having killed the animal as a means of placing more blame on Mike. Answers are coming.
This back-end of Last Man on Earth’s second season has been exceptionally strong, but Emily Spivey’s script for this episode is just full of so much great dialogue between the boom fest while milking the cow or the delineation of which Willis child Tandy would be. Spivey has really nailed it this year, turning into the season’s MVP script-wise. This episode is also full of more of those bizarre visuals that the series loves so much, like a game of Jenga or charades in full hazmat suits, Mike and Erica’s bubble date, or the visual of Tandy and Mike sharing a reprise of “Falling Slowly” together before bed. The art department is just killing it with all of this stuff.
There’s a lot of poignancy in the episode’s closing moments and it’s beyond touching to see Tandy sticking with Mike so thoroughly to the bitter end here. He makes reference to the crazy coincidental nature of everything that’s happened between them, and as ludicrous as it all seems, you want to believe that the guy has a point. There’s must be more of a plan here than an all-too-brief brotherly reunion that ends in yet another funeral for these people. A harsh ending—albeit one that makes sense—concludes the installment and provides a suitable blueprint for next week’s finale. We’ll see where all of this leads us, not only in the next episode, but even further beyond that point, too. It’s all too easy to picture another stripped down, isolating version of this show that sees Tandy on the lam looking for his brother.
Or the whole thing will be set on the mother ship of the alien overlords.