NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Last Man on Earth” are present in this review
The Last Man on Earth was all about dealing with loss this week. Sure, it’s ground that this show has walked quite a distance on before, but, “The Open-Ended Nature of Unwitnessed Deaths” found another great way to explore the fallout from losing the people that several of our protagonists held dear, with the addition of Lewis to the group now creating another effective backstory that served as further foundation for a particularly great episode this week.
Things begin by effectively carrying over from last week, with Phil desperate to repair whatever tenuous friendship he had in place with Lewis, after he mistakenly accused Lewis for Carol’s building sabotage in the previous episode. Lewis is extra dismissive of Phil though, as today is the anniversary with his partner, whom he believes to have long since died from the virus. Lewis was separated from his partner when the virus first hit, and didn’t actually see him die however, motivating Phil to force Lewis on a trip to explore that small hope that Lewis’ partner could find his way back to the rest of the survivors.
Taking Phil and Lewis out of the building was expertly done, as Phil’s unyielding optimism nicely clashed with Lewis’ depressing realism. This was not only a great source of effective humour, but one that also lent itself well to storytelling, as Lewis is forced to confront his anguish head-on, at Phil’s insistence. Kenneth Choi and Will Forte both gave especially excellent performances this week too, with both finely balancing a keen sense of drama with a sharp sense of comedy, which is a big part of the reason why this week’s storyline worked so well.
Lewis returning to the home he had with his partner in Seattle made for a lot of great heartbreaking moments, particularly when he mistakes Phil for his partner, nicely playing off of a joke where Phil idiotically thinks he resembles Lewis’ boyfriend from a photo. This leads to Lewis angrily throwing Phil out at first, but later inviting him in, as he cracks open some champagne that he was saving for this anniversary day. Things seem grim for Lewis to be sure, though we also get a sobering reminder of what Phil himself has lost, as he recounts that he nearly killed himself at the end of this show’s pilot episode, before Carol saw his, “Alive in Tucson” signs, and inadvertently saved his life. This helps to convince Lewis to leave a note for his partner, while also motivating Phil to resolve one last unanswered question…
Yes, the two return to Phil’s childhood home in Tucson, after Phil finds himself unable to resolve the fact that he never actually saw his brother die after the conclusion of Season Two. This was easily the high point of the episode, as Phil takes a slow walk through his house, and eventually finds himself unable to open the door to Mike’s room. Instead, he makes like Lewis and leaves a note, leaving a small sliver of hope that maybe, just like Lewis’ partner, Mike might one day find his way back to Phil too. It was a superb note to end the episode on, leaving an effective sense of ambiguity that didn’t manage to disturb Phil confronting his own demons.
Carol and Gail also had a similarly-minded subplot this week, as Carol starts thinking about wanting her baby to have a grandmother when it arrives. Carol humourously tries to get Gail to sign fake adoption papers to make Gail her mother, which would then properly make Phil and Carol’s child her granddaughter, though Gail constantly brushes off Carol until Carol loses her patience. Once Gail tries to apologize and Carol presses further however, we learn another very sobering fact about Gail; She had a son once, who apparently died himself. Worse still is that Gail didn’t lose her son to the virus, suggesting that some other painful part of Gail’s backstory has yet to be explored. Could this be a key reason why Gail drinks so much? I’m thinking it’s likely.
The only slight weak point in an otherwise great episode this week came from the lone scene that Todd and Melissa ended up with. Melissa still seems to have firmly lost it, forcing Todd into a weird role-playing scenario taken from The Shawshank Redemption, as she tries to convince Todd to impregnate her. This scene is pretty funny, and provides a great dose of humour before the heavier stuff sets in, but it’s annoying that this is the only moment we get with Todd and Melissa this week, especially after Gail broke up with Todd in the previous episode. It seems like that relationship is already being swept under the rug, as Todd goes full out on Melissa, whose decreasing sanity is lending itself well to laughs, though it feels like any real fallout to Melissa’s behaviour is going to be saved until later in the season.
The Last Man on Earth was in superb form this week, bringing some effective drama back into the mix, after focusing primarily on comedy throughout the past several episodes. That’s not to say that this episode didn’t have funny moments in it, because it certainly did, but the way that the comedy lent itself to the drama is what really made the writing feel even sharper than usual this week. Phil and Lewis finding a way to grow just a bit closer was satisfying, as was Gail eventually agreeing to be the spiritual grandmother to Carol’s baby in the end. The Melissa issue isn’t quite keeping pace yet, but as I said, it could be that the show is saving its big climax to Melissa’s insanity for a more pivotal episode down the line, and I suppose that’s fair enough.
- Phil and Lewis' emotional road trip
- Gail revealing a dark secret to Carol
- Phil appropriately resolving his demons with Mike
- Todd and Melissa only have one disconnected scene