The beard is back and so is the margarita pool. Season two of Fox’s original series, Last Man on Earth, summons the return of the same light-hearted, charming humor that made the first season so successful. And not only that, it also finds a way to expand its horizons well beyond the scope of just Earth.
After being exiled by their fellow apocalypse survivors in Tucson, Arizona, we find Phil “Tandy” Miller (Will Forte) along with Carol Andrew Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal) traversing the vacant lands of the United States. Hoping to find a new place to house their distinct tastes and vibrant personalities, Phil and Carol are ready to take on what’s left of the world. Stealth bombers along Pennsylvania Avenue and Kansas’s World’s Largest Plate are just some of the spectacles jam-packed into the first, half-hour premiere.
This season brings back many of the references and continues the gags that made the first season distinct from the rest of network comedy. Longtime viewers will be pleased at the return of Gary, Anton, Kevin, and friends, who help Phil express what words cannot. The pilot’s jovial destruction also makes a return, highlighting this time on the more proper Carol, who has finally embraced Phil’s laid-back style. And who could forget personal favorites like Phil’s subtle entry by window via gunshot and his (and our) beloved margarita pool. These kind of callbacks are welcome, and they linger for just the right amount of time. References to what made the first season a success surely shows that Forte and the rest of the crew are listening.
Schaal and Forte have stronger chemistry than ever. Uncomfortable, though usually funny, clashes defined the first season, but now the show is transitioning toward more playful back-and-forth banter. Forte and Schaal bring just the right amount of eccentricism to the screen to retain their charm and keep us laughing. While the first season relied on Forte for the bulk of the narrative drive and focus, season two seems to diffuse the load among these two leads. The new narrative directions left open in the premiere should lead to some interesting encounters to come.
Taking more strident moves away from a more grounded reality, season two seems to be having more fun with the sandbox world the writers have created. From the bombs dropped in parking lots to ghillie suits in the streets, Last Man on Earth has a clear identity—a show about some weirdos goofing off after the end of the world—and that makes for a more enjoyable comedy.
While the setting and premise of the “last man on earth” has always been an engaging concept, the desolate world proves to be so open that the creators (Forte, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller) cannot help but embrace the child-like fantasies of a world devoid of people. Many of the criticisms of the first season came in the relatively short-lived stint of Phil Miller as truly alone. The introduction of people seemed to cheapen the series concept. However, episode one, “Is Anybody Out There?” proves that, in this world, nobody is free from being alone. As the story unfolds, these things may manifest themselves in some great comedic scenarios.
Last Man on Earth brings back all the things viewers loved about the first season and promises big things as the narrative leash stretches very literally into space. Despite all the gags and jokes, Last Man on Earth is never without heart and offers surprisingly deep ideas on friendship, marriage, sanity, and mankind. This makes for one of the best television comedies to date, contrasting the bland, laugh-tract-ridden landscape of comedy, which is almost as dry and dreary as Tuscon, Ariz.
But Phil and Carol give us hope as they traverse America in an RV, amassing precious goods from around the country. Phil is a man of fine wine and Easy Cheese and Carol a woman of tomatoes and craft making. They are people of culture and class. They are some of the last people on earth.
Now, “Who wants a whiskey?”
Featured Image by Fox