NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “The Last Man on Earth” are present in this review
The immediate aftermath of last week’s season premiere was felt in a pretty inspired way in this week’s episode of The Last Man on Earth, “The Wild Guess Express.” After Todd runs down Pat, Phil is the only one brave enough to check out the scene, coming across what appears to be Pat’s lifeless body. After stashing the corpse away in the garbage pile beside the house, despite billing it as a proper burial, Phil decides to lie to the group about Pat being killed, particularly Todd, who is taking the fact that he killed someone very hard.
The fundamental device behind the episode’s story was a great one, and made for an effective contrast between Todd, who is driven to tears at the very thought that he took someone’s life, even a bad/psychotic person, and Melissa, who is almost eerily casual about killing other people. Melissa even addresses her full-blown murder of Jon Hamm’s one-off character in the season premiere by… Not addressing it. She shrugs about it when Gail inquires, and that’s the end of that. It really seems like the show is foreshadowing Melissa becoming the next major danger to the group, which is an interesting new direction, considering that Melissa’s character felt like one particular personality that was often short-changed in the storytelling last season, second only to Erica.
For most of the episode though, Todd’s anguish is brought to the fore, and this inspires Phil to tell a white lie that Pat is still alive, which helps to dispel some of Todd’s worries. In typical Phil fashion though, Phil takes it too far, creating a hilariously overdone scenario where Pat has survived being hit by the van, and has now defaced the group’s house by declaring that he wants revenge on everyone. Some of the things Phil does are actually pretty hilarious here, since it’s revealed later in the episode that he did things like defecate in the oven, simply to sell this idea to Todd that he’s not a killer, and the psychotic Pat is still alive and vengeful. In a twisted way, Phil is an especially devoted friend, I suppose, even if I don’t envy the person who has to clean that oven.
In some respects, the joke can be a bit strained, since it’s impossible to believe that Phil is stupid enough to believe that the group would fall for some of his fake evidence, but it doesn’t often fail to elicit chuckles, even when it strains credibility. One of the episode’s funniest moments is actually the furthest that Phil takes his farce, by staging a climactic showdown with ‘Pat’ on the nearby beach, with Carol triumphantly narrating the whole thing for the group. Carol’s commentary is absolutely hysterical here, as is Phil so obviously staging a scenario that no reasonable person in their right mind would believe. Lewis even calls Phil out on the obvious lying immediately after the display, though Todd is nonetheless appreciative of Phil’s efforts when he’s forced to come clean, leading to a group hug that Lewis doesn’t participate in. It was a nicely sweet moment that reinforces this idea of these survivors being a dysfunctional family that will see each other through the twisted necessities of the apocalypse, even if it involves taking the lives of other people.
That’s why the final result of the episode, where Pat’s ‘body’ is missing from the garbage, and the boat has now been taken away, is a bit of an unnecessary curveball. The preceding scenes would have had a lot more weight and memorable impact, had the show carried on as if Pat were dead for at least a few episodes, or just legitimately made him dead. When we so obviously get an indicator that Pat is alive at the end, it undercuts the emotional struggle of Todd, and the subsequent coming together of the group in support of Todd. Now, Todd’s anguish no longer means anything, and that kind of undermines an otherwise very inspired story for this episode.
As with Phil’s ludicrous efforts to put Todd’s mind at ease though, the good thoughts and inspiration are there, even if the final execution does leave a bit to be desired. Overall, “The Wild Guess Express” didn’t quite match the season premiere, but it was still a funny and uplifting episode of The Last Man on Earth that was sadly tripped up by the immediate deflating of its core conflict at the end. Perhaps Pat coming back to the group will lead to greater story possibilities later, but like I said, it might have been ideal if the show had not immediately revealed that Pat survived by the end of this episode. It seems like the idea of fighting to survive, even in a comedic light, is going to come into major focus in Season Three of The Last Man on Earth, so hopefully, the show finds another effective way to revisit this conflict, now that Todd has been cleared as a supposed killer.
- Contrast of murder politics between Todd and Melissa
- Phil's sweet, albeit transparent efforts to pick up Todd
- The group coming together to comfort each other in the end
- Pat being alive ruins Todd's core conflict
- Some of Phil's cheer-up efforts are a bit too transparent