I’ve written a little bit on this blog about my love of Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” in the past, but after last night’s excellent new episode I’ve decided it’s necessary to delve a little more into why this show is so great. Because it is great. And frankly, it’s doing something that may seem impossible for a comedy to effectively pull off, and it does it insanely well.
The premise of the show (for the uninformed) is that a mysterious virus has killed off most if not all of the population except for one man, Phil Miller (played brilliantly by series creator Will Forte). Miller quickly discovers that he is not in fact alone and over the course of the series meets up with a number of other last man and women who collectively choose to navigate life alone, together, despite their many differences.
If you just read that and thought, “Hey that does not sound like a comedy at all. In fact, that sounds kind of terrifying and sad” you’d be right! This premise should not work as a comedy and yet it does. With so many other shows and films dealing with dark and ominous post-apocalyptic worlds, it feels both crazy and somewhat necessary to provide a more comedic take on the end of modern civilization as we know it.
And yes, “The Last Man on Earth” is incredibly funny. Anything created by Will Forte is destined to be hilarious. But it also doesn’t shy away from the more serious, much darker elements of the story that have to be in play for it to work. Characters die, sometimes in darkly comedic ways but other times in sad, heartbreaking ways. While our ragtag group of survivors have made it so far, the possibility of the virus further effecting their lives always looms large, especially now that two of the characters are pregnant with babies that may or may not be as presumably immune as their parents. Not to mention that their world is so eerily similar to ours that the prospect of a virus taking hold on real life doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
This brings me to last night’s episode, where we learned more about when the virus initially broke through the eyes of Pamela Brinton, a wealthy woman played by Kristen Wiig who survived the virus by retreating to an underground bunker. At first Brinton sees the virus as simply a “really bad flu season.” It’s not until she starts to see the effects of the virus in her own life, from a brilliant series of news segments reporting on the virus- related death of the 46th president (and the 47th, 48th, 49th and 50th) to her own husband contracting the virus and ordering her to leave to protect herself, that she realizes that this is something deadly serious.
Again, this could easily be the plot of a horror movie or a dramatic series coming to USA in the fall, but Wiig’s performance as the horrified yet hilarious Brinton (with her little dog wonderfully named Jeremy in tow) brings a certain lightness. And after we learn that Brinton has a certain connection to earlier events in the series, it seems like she might not be alone for much longer.
Much like its main characters, “The Last Man on Earth” seems like it shouldn’t exist. Its mix of darkness and light doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does. The show has been quietly brilliant for years now and with last night’s new episode, it seems like they have no plans to stop. I like to think that if more eyes were on this show and the incredible balance it manages, it could possibly give Emmys juggernaut “Veep” an actual run for its money. But who knows, maybe the virus has gotten to me too.
Do you watch “The Last Man on Earth”? What did you think of last night’s episode? Have your own underground bunker prepped for the end? Share your tips in the comments. And, before you go see “Get Out” (because you REALLY need to see “Get Out”; I did and it was incredible), remember…