[This is a review of The Last Man on Earth season 2 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
When Will Forte's ambitious new comedy, The Last Man on Earth, first premiered on FOX last spring, it was clear that the series had a wealth of potential. Here was a show with a creative concept that allowed for a seemingly unlimited amount of comedic ideas. The show's world was big, it was (mostly) empty and its characters could literally go anywhere and do anything. And while the series hasn't always taken advantage of its vast potential, its season 2 finale, '30 Years of Science Down the Tubes,' certainly proved its post-apocalyptic setting and concept are still the show's biggest assets.
Not only do the setting and concept often inherently inform the comedy, but they give the series the ability to pivot and change direction when needed. When things become a little tired or stale, it can introduce a new character to the group, like Phil's (Forte) adversarial prank-loving brother Mike (Jason Sudeikis) this season. In the same way, it can always find a way to kill a character off, even if it's by way of appendicitis, like in Phil 2's (Boris Kodjoe) case. And in the season finale, the series smartly introduced a potential new threat to our group of fairly comfortable survivors, as a way to shift the narrative heading into season 3 while shaking up the status quo in Malibu.
So, when sailor Pat (Mark Boone Junior) remerged near the beach with a militia of hazmat-suited men, the sight was a welcome one, if only for the audience and not so much Phil, Carol (Kristen Schaal), Todd (Mel Rodriguez) and the rest of the gang. For a show that often mires its comedy in petty conflicts between housemates, a larger and deadlier threat certainly makes things a little more exciting -- not because we think The Last Man will turn into an action drama, but because there's no telling where the show will draw its comedy from in this beach assault/invasion situation. This is a sitcom that often revels in audacious and juvenile humor, but, at times, can find levity in the darker aspects of its world. So, we can only guess how The Last Man will handle the season 3 premiere and where that premiere will find laughs when the show returns.
As far as the finale was concerned, laughs were a little more scattered and scarce than your typical Last Man episode. With the focus set squarely on the Miller brothers and the rather somber goodbye from Mike to Phil (though, the episode did manage to squeeze in a callback to an earlier fart joke), the rest of the ensemble was left with little to do. Besides a couple of prime lines from a perpetually drunk Gail (Mary Steenburgen) about her desire to eat the group's prized calf (any veal fans in this hizzy?), the episode seemed to lack some of the fun that we expect from the show every week.
Of course, the biggest reason for some of the comedy taking a back seat this week was Mike's apparent death, which was handled with rare sincerity for The Last Man. Considering even Boris Kodjoe's Phil received the honor of a viking funeral earlier this season, Mike's unceremonious (presumed) offscreen departure seemed like a missed opportunity initially.
However, even though Mike didn't go out with a bang necessarily, there were some nice character pieces at play here, particularly from Phil, who -- despite all of his childish and petty behavior throughout the series -- finally seems to show some growth and maturity as a soon-to-be-father. By parting with his old sports ball buddies, he seems ready to let go off his old self and is prepared to embrace his new responsibilities as part of the team.
So, with the unveiling of a new layer to Phil, the introduction of a new enemy to the group, and Mike's death comes more evidence that The Last Man on Earth is always willing to switch directions, change the group dynamic and keep its viewers guessing. While this finale wasn't a standout in terms of jokes or hilarious moments, it certainly reinforced the series' ability to take surprising turns while reminding viewers that when it fully utilizes its unique concept, there's no sitcom on television quite like it.
What did you think of The Last Man on Earth season 2 finale? Let us know in the comments.