This The Last Man on Earth review contains spoilers.
The Last Man on Earth: Season 2, Episode 15
“I’ll stop when he stops, and he won’t never stop, Carol.”
First thing’s first, it’s going to be an absolute travesty if Last Man on Earth’s hair and make-up artist doesn’t receive an Emmy nomination for their work here. Tandy’s truly an unsettling sight to behold this week with the episode framing him in profile and showing off all of his horror in inspired ways. The fact that he might look this way for several episodes is another reminder of just how bonkers this show can be. Buster lost a hand on Arrested Development? So what? Tandy is perfectly bisected with the worst haircut of all time. Even if this episode was just Tandy sleeping on a couch for twenty-two minutes, the twisted visual that he’s become would make it instantly engaging.
Tandy’s new look is of course courtesy of his brother, Mike, with Last Man on Earth continuing to put their new addition to good use. In this case that means an all-out prank war breaking out between him and Tandy. As a classic ode to pranking, “The Fourth Finger” does not disappoint. Prank episodes are one of my favorite staples to pull from (falling only second to grifting episodes), so this was a lot of fun for me. Better yet, the entry uses this pranking as a strong showcase for this sibling feuding, which happens to double as a good window into likely what Tandy and Mike’s dynamic was like as children.
Perhaps you saw some of the footage of Will Forte and Mel Rodriguez out in the wild with half of their faces shaved, and you understandably might have thought that this show had something to do with their change in fashion. As the conclusion of last week’s episode would confirm, this is in fact the case, with this episode not squandering a second of it (Erica’s comment that he looks like two different serial killers is the best of many solid pile-ons). This cruel and unusual punishment that Will Forte has put himself through is a true spectacle of television that we’re lucky to be getting. Can you think of a time that an actor put themselves through more (and for a sitcom, no less)?
What’s incredible here is that the episode establishes a baseline for Tandy looking gross early on, yet things continue to get worse for him as the episode progresses. Tandy goes through the metamorphosis of some sort of cursed beast as he shifts from half-shaven, to “Smurfed”, to heavily coated in make-up, to poison oak finally entering the equation. In the first half of the season I spoke about how the episode “A Real Live Wire” felt like such a live-action version of a cartoon, but “The Fourth Finger” runs even further with that energy. You’re really getting something bewildering here.
Part of the fun of a prank episode is of course getting to see the pranks, but there’s also a lot of glee to be had with the paranoia that these situations generate. Tandy is on the brink of losing it out of fear of Mike getting him and it adds a welcome extra layer to all of this chaos. A touching part of the tail end of this episode is watching this fear so gradually shift into love. Erik Durbin’s script is wise to use their fight as a means to actually dig into the emotional underpinnings of these two. Getting glimpses of what their expectations were as they were growing up together manages to be really poignant while working organically with what’s happening. It’s nice to see such a light episode morph into something with some emotional impact by the end. As the weight of their past invades into their present it pushes them to effectively grow up out of this childish situation and it’s great.
Much has been documented about how Last Man is an immensely personal show for its creator and star, Will Forte, with the line getting blurred even further this week. Patti Forte gets a listing in the episode’s credits and I’d wager that she’s the one voicing Tandy and Mike’s mother. It’s a small, simple touch, but one that again reiterates how close this show is to Forte’s heart.
Outside of the no holds barred world of the prank war, Todd’s recent romantic situation between Melissa and Gail continues to complicate. It feels like he’s only just launched into this arrangement and he’s already messing it up so thoroughly. Not that I thought that Todd would be a master at juggling women right away, he seems to be falling into some pretty easy pitfalls here. Oversharing information or straight-up telling Melissa that he prefers her to Gail (whether it’s true or not) are some big bumps that are going to need to be smoothed out. Todd course corrects quickly enough though and grows up in a similar fashion as Tandy and Mike do this week, not only in terms of asserting some dominance, but also in respect to the solidarity that he shows Tandy. This is yet another silly gesture that has much deeper resonance than it should and it’s just nice to see Tandy and Todd back to being best buds after everything that’s happened.
“The Fourth Finger” might feel a little reductive to some in the sense that it is largely just a prank episode, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less fun. The episode chooses to go out on some interesting territory involving Carol and Todd (even if it is a direction that I sort of saw coming) that should add yet another twisted dynamic to these increasingly incestuous relationships. Or maybe Carol’s hinting at something else entirely. But as it looks like this initial Mike arc is wrapping up, maybe this baby complication will be what rides out the final three episodes of the season. This is certainly one of those shows where really anything could happen.