The Last Man on Earth: Valhalla Review
As the Malibu crew mourns Phil’s passing, the power of loss re-frames these people in a refreshing, pained light.
This The Last Man on Earth review contains spoilers.
The Last Man on Earth: Season 2, Episode 12
“You’re not a Viking. You’re a sucking.”
After their ambitious mid-season premiere, Last Man on Earth begins to settle into a more familiar groove, with everyone returning to their baser instincts here. Right from the awkward moments that open the episode, “Valhalla” is all about Phil’s death affecting the Malibu crew in different ways, whether it’s through subtext or being very obviously pushed in your face.
It’s hard to believe that this is the second funeral and eulogy scene that we’ve gotten within ten episodes on this show, but while Gordon’s funeral was largely a gag about not knowing this guy and the absurd circumstances that led to his passing, Phil has been a very real presence in this show since its first season. This one stings. And even though Tandy might find yet another way to make this tragedy all about himself, real emotion still cuts through here. Arrows might be crashing to the ground listlessly, but these people are still shedding tears as the father of one of their unborn children begins to rot feet away from them. The visual of Todd sobbing his way through Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” as he tries to honor his friend really sums up the whole scene.
Tandy taking his own personal moment at the funeral, truly believing he’s communicating with Phil from the beyond, is such a perfect egotistical moment. I’m surprised he didn’t even try to weasel his name back in the process, saying it’s what Phil would have wanted. It’s kind of amazing how much Tandy milks Phil’s death into personal performance moments throughout the episode, with his later “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” song (where he never once plays the guitar that he’s holding) being one of many tributes to him. What’s almost even better is how everyone has just learned to accept this aspect of him, acquiescing to the constant showboating over another man’s death because they know of the genuine place that it’s coming from.
Not that I was exactly expecting it to go in this direction, but I’m glad that no one’s blaming Gail for Phil’s death, or particularly sore at her for how things turned out. She’s being the hardest on herself, if anything, while still not dwelling on it too much. Arguably, she’s one of the people doing better here considering where everyone else is at.
And speaking of how everyone else is doing, “Valhalla” acts as a pretty gripping character study of what grief can do to people, especially when they literally have no one else to turn to in this sort of situation. There’s actually a lot going on here regarding relationships, both romantic and personal, which makes sense after the rawness that they’ve all just been opened up to. Everyone is spiraling here. The episode really makes a meal out of and takes seriously the different ways people grieve and how we respond. Weirdly Erica seems to be the most centered, even though she might have lost the most. Her breakdown might be yet to come though, like when her pregnancy feels like more of a reality.
We might as well start off with Melissa since she seems to be going through the most here, between her ornament smashing rage scenes and her boot-fueled hysteria. This is the biggest and most emotive that we’ve ever seen Melissa and I’m excited to see the show finally opening her up in this way and getting to dig into her. It’s the most interesting she’s ever been to me. Jones is also straight up killing the performance here, with lines like “I’m unbedazzling the boots that Carol got me. These are the boots that I proposed to you in! I’m doing great!” instantly throwing many more layers on the typically level character. I’m glad to see Jones rising to the occasion.
Melissa also thinking that she might get back together with Todd, acting all giddy on the matter, is just crushing, and again, better than the one-note mask that she usually is. This is going to go one of two ways for her, and both have a huge emotional response at either side. Relationships in this show have managed to stay fairly docile but I’d be curious to see some romantic entanglement just explode and people not being able to deal with it. That’s how some people are, and seeing that sort of heartbreak explored in that sense could really mix up the dynamic of the show.
Todd and Gail, meanwhile, feel like they’re about to snap from the tension going on between them. Todd could barely handle his bacon secret, that this one is no doubt going to wear on him even more. I’m super interested to see where this Todd/Gail/Melissa triangle ends up going. I kind of thought he had moved past Melissa here, but adding some indecision on Todd’s part and having this be a more fluid situation is ultimately a more interesting angle. I wouldn’t even be surprised if by the end of the season we somehow got back to Todd and Melissa as an item again (although I fear for what that would do to Gail). I just hope no one gets too hurt here. It’s also a small moment, but I love that the “TV” that Todd and Melissa watch together is nondescript Motocross tapes. It once more brings to your attention what limited resources they’ve got available to them since actual television would all be out of commission.
Tandy is all over the place here, too, but coming from somewhere totally different. I mean, he straight up smashes a crib to pieces, tries to “frame” a dead man, and begins wearing his wardrobe and emulating him “Norman Bates style” as a way of dealing with his grief. His expectance to be raising Erica’s baby in the first place is over the line. I do think it’s a little harsh that Erica doesn’t even let him call himself Phil’s friend when everything’s over and done with—even if the case may be true. Just let the guy have this one! It also might not have meant much to everyone, but the reveal that Phil actually did have a middle name (Stacy!) but lied about it feels perfectly in character with his not-playing-game attitude. It’s a small touch, but one that felt earned to me.
Tandy thinking about his brother so much, on the other hand, is a little convenient, but more than makes sense considering he’s burying someone named Phil Miller. With how this show operates, I was naïvely even expecting Mike to pop up at the end of this installment. Regardless of his lack of appearance here, I for whatever reason still was thinking we’d be seeing him sooner than later. But now it’s dawning on me and I really hope they’re not holding Tandy and Mike’s reunion for the beat that the finale goes out on. That doesn’t feel like them, but we’ll see. I hope that there’s more that they’re building to than simply that inevitable moment, as powerful as it may be.
With Phil’s funeral now being out of the way, I’m eager to see where this show goes next for its last batch of episodes for the season. Part of the joy with this animal is truly not knowing what’s going to happen next, especially when everyone is still a little sensitive. In the meantime, try to live your life by the wise words that this episode pushes forward:
Valhalla. Honor. Hero. Amen.