BWW Recap: 'Is There Anybody Out There?' Asks THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, Returning Rejuvenated
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH returns to TV tonight feeling rejuvenated, and proving that what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (THE LEGO MOVIE) and Will Forte (SNL) managed with season 1 was not a fluke. The show returns as confident as ever, proving in its first half-hour that season 2 will be bigger, funnier, and just like THE LAST MAN ON EARTH we fell in love with.
Season 2 picks up six months after season 1 ends. At the end of season 1, Phil and Carol, played by Kristen Schaal (30 ROCK), are forced to leave Tucson because of Phil's lies. The biggest cliffhanger and question going into the new season was-what's next? THE LAST MAN ON EARTH proved in season 1 to be a big show with big ideas. Having a pilot with one main character in an empty United States is bold. The show took great pleasure in wish fulfillment. Lord and Miller obviously decided sticking in Tucson was a bad idea for the future of the show, and decided to go broader with their new season, and it pays off ten fold.
The opening shot of season 2 is a stealth jet rolling slowly down the streets of Washington D.C. It's parked outside a grocery store. Carol gets out of the top, shoots the front door of the grocery, and walks inside, taking tequila. Phil and Carol return to their new home, the White House. The show tackles these huge set pieces-stealth jets roaming city streets; Phil and Carol lounging in the margarita pool in the oval office-with a huge payoff. The characters remain have the same sensibilities and humor, and they're doing generally the same stuff we saw in season 1, but on a larger scale. Sure, watching Phil and Carol play tennis in a Tucson mansion is fun, but seeing it in the White House? That's iconic. It elevates the show by bringing it to locations that are a part of our collective subconscious.
Perhaps the biggest change to me in this opener is Carol's behavior. Whereas in season 1 she talks down to Phil for his bathroom pool and manages to hold herself above Phil's grossness (in both attitude and cleanliness), in season 2 she drops down to his level. She joins in all the ridiculous antics Phil did on his own last season. However, I think this is directly because they are the only two people. We find out through Carol's notebook of drawings that she and Phil got remarried between seasons. More importantly, we find out that Carol misses Tucson and all of their friends. Carol's notebook is a genius device to introduce here. It works on three levels: it is a plot device that encourages Phil to go to Tucson; it is a thematic element, tying into the feelings of loneliness and holding onto the past through history; and it is a character descriptor, fitting perfectly into everything we know about Carol. Not only this, but her notebook of drawings is a three-dimensional narrative element that does not require words to enact its potency. The show is so strong and confident that it can get across its meaning through images only.
Similar to how Carol's character changes, there's also a slight shift in Phil's behavior from season 1 to season 2. In season 1 Phil was very much a lone wolf. He never made any human connections, and when he did they were only superficial. Here in the premiere, we see for the first time Phil having genuine feelings for somebody else. He actually misses Carol and feels terrible when he accidentally leaves her at a gas station. His regret is palpable, seen in Phil's actions and Forte's facial expressions. Forte really nails Phil in this episode, showing him as the same guy we knew in season 1, only with a new element. The changes to both Carol's and Phil's characters only add to the show's greatness, making both much more dynamic and three-dimensional, and their relationship to each other more complicated.
Outside of our two leads, we do get hints of the other characters. The minor plot to the episode surrounds Phil's brother, played by Jason Sudeikis (SNL), up in space. We see a little bit of what the last man in space does with his days, which mostly includes caring for worms (R.I.P. Nancy). By the end we see an escape hatch in the space station. There is a way for Phil's brother to return to Earth. The only question now is: how long until Lord and Miller want to reunite the brothers? Having this narrative piece in the premiere only makes the audience assume that will happen at some point this season.
As far as the Tucson residents go, they are nowhere to be found. Phil returns to Tucson alone after unintentionally abandoning Carol at a gas station in Oklahoma. He finds the cul-de-sac empty, and his former home burnt. Adding this to the premiere also sets kernels in the minds of the audience; kernels that will certainly pop as the season goes on.
The Last Quotes on Earth
"Phil, we should go back and get the bomb."
"That's Bernice's room. And that's her skeleton." "Oh, God, Carol." "Oh. No, she studied anatomy."
"Ben Franklin, you just made me discover electricity in my shorts!"
Not a quote, but the entire sequence where Phil abandons Carol and she shoots into the sky, but Phil can't hear because he's listening to M.I.A.'s "Airplanes" in the RV is hilarious and was the biggest laugh of the night for me.
Leave your comments or thoughts on tonight's episode below or tweet me @gunnar_larson! Be sure to head here next week as I recap the second episode of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH.
Photo Credits: Anthony Hardwick | FOX