“There’s another person on Earth!”
“Oh I know. I know, I know, I know…”
Last Man on Earth has successfully managed to raise the stakes and end on an impressive cliffhanger each week—a difficult task in itself, let alone in a comedy—and this week gets to reap from those benefits. January Jones’ Melissa Shart (yeah…) is fantastic new dynamic to the series, just like Schaal’s Carol initially was to the lone Phil Miller. This setup is instantly more engaging and seeing all of them navigate around each other as Carol innocuously tries to be friendly as Phil transparently shows off is great.
Jones’ Melissa works well in the context of Phil and Carol, but there’s not much to her character yet. The brief glimpse we get to see of who she really is when she talks about roaming from coffee chop to coffee shop going through endless routine is nice, but Jones’ potential has yet to be seen here. Then again, she might have been specifically chosen for her icy demeanor as she goes through most of this episode resenting Phil.
Forte does some beautiful work as he shifts on a dime as soon as he sees Melissa. He begins sizing her up and immediately dismissing Carol, minimizing her in conversations or blocking her off in limousines. Carol who’s just, y’know, his wife. It’s even better when Phil finds out that Melissa was around in his neck of the end of the world before Carol even was. Seeing him laugh at everything Melissa says as he falls head over heels for her is a delight. This episode probably contains Forte’s best work so far, which is more than saying something in this show, and it’s great to see him get even more comfortable in this role. Seeing him turned up to eleven here and so exaggerated never gets old. I won’t give away the big way in which he ups the stakes in trying to get Melissa’s attention, but I will say that it made me laugh out loud as he sauntered in, along with the music cue to accompany him. The fact that it kind of backfires is the icing on the raisin ball cake. Phil’s getting increasingly unhinged from the circumstances around him and I’d love to see this series push him to his breaking point and he snaps. With the manic nature Forte displays in Miller here, I wouldn’t even be past finding out that all of this was just a hallucination in his mind in the end.
While all of this is very funny, it’s perhaps the least groundbreaking episode of the show yet. Phil trying to get Melissa’s attention is a pretty typical, predictable route to go down, and with Carol being oblivious to all of Phil’s very overt gestures, it’s even less fresh. Honestly, I didn’t really care though. Watching these guys bounce off each other is great, and it’s probably the most Phil has spoken yet, as he fumbles through conversation (“Moby Dick? Try Moby Double Dick”) trying to say the combination of right words to make Melissa want to have sex with him.
This show has already gotten pretty good with having a larger message or metaphor at play behind its episode, and sure enough this one is pushing the idea of Carol’s broken door being a symbol of their marriage. It’s continually brought up that when something’s broken, you shouldn’t just give up on it but rather try to fix it. It’s a nice enough idea, but Phil really doesn’t adhere to it at all. He’s even ready to end his marriage with Carol so he can sleep with Melissa until she basically guilts him into fixing her door/their marriage. If that wasn’t enough, she even points out the already heavy handed metaphor here.
Now, this could be getting a little overly critical of the series (but it should already be held up to a high standard four episodes in), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all intentional and actually a defense mechanism of Carol. We’ve already seen her hiding behind grammar and language before, so to see her funneling her frustration into huge metaphors rather than shouting matches with her husband actually makes sense. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
This installment of Last Man on Earth doesn’t end with the sort of earth-shattering gamechanger that the previous episodes did, but instead takes an emotional exit. It makes sense in an episode that’s all about establishing the new energy between these people and it almost feels like the show is telling you, okay, this is the show we’re settling on now. But of course, that will only mean that it’s just a matter of time before everything is blown up and reset all over again. Maybe Melissa’s a witch. Phil runs over a Leprechaun.
I can’t wait.