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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t watched the finale for The Last Man on Earth.
Nearly every show on TV technically has unpredictable moments, by nature of humanity’s unenviable prediction skills. The Last Man on Earth, though, is one of the rare shows that never lets up on the barrage of surprising beats, and the Season 2 closer did things that no one could have guessed back when this show began last year with just a man, a beard and his ball friends. “30 Years of Science Down the Tubes” offered up both the most emotional sequence in the still-young series so far, as well as a cliffhanger that was fun, dangerous and relevant in a television landscape currently obsessed with audiences guessing what happens next, though seldom in laudable ways.
Part of The Last Man on Earth’s uniqueness is its ability to take the show to whatever location is deemed fitting for the story, and the way the episode ended, it looks like the group’s Malibu locale could get replaced when Season 3 rolls around. While Tandy and viewers were dealing with Mike’s situation, the show brought a fantastic answer to the mystery drone that Gail totally saw (so it’s okay for her to drink up) and Melissa blasted to pieces. It turns out the surveillance was done by Mark Boone Junior’s seafaring Pat Brown, who’d taken Mike in after his water landing in the midseason premiere’s interesting quasi-bottle episode. He had more people with him this time, and those people had some pretty big guns.
Admittedly, the “threat of the overbearing outsider” is something I was hoping Last Man would avoid – particularly as Fear the Walking Dead just did it with mixed results – so that whatever drama existed would stay mostly tethered to its dysfunctional and ever-adapting core survivors. But the drone stuff was handled lightly, and there was no better way to present it than having the suspicious virus-avoiding Pat as the potential antagonist, since he was clearly conceived as far more than just a one-note weirdo with a boat. And I say potential there, since it’s entirely possible that these strangers don’t actually intend to do anything harmful, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for Last Man on Earth to present them as really important scientists with The Answer or The Cure or whatever, only to have Melissa and Tandy murder them all without trying to first understand the situation. Another reason this show is so darkly fantastic. Though it probably was just Pat trying to keep tabs on Mike and stumbling on more than he bargained for.
So now the question is obviously how these two groups will face each other down the line. If there’s a blood bath of any kind, no one is going to hang around Malibu anymore, especially if some of that blood comes from one of Tandy’s group. It doesn’t seem likely that this narrative obstacle will take very long to pan out when Season 3 returns, so hopefully it’s resolved in the most bafflingly uncomfortable way possible. It’s hard to expect anything else.
And speaking of uncomfortable, how about that Tandy and Mike stuff? Last Man on Earth also deserves props here for not playing up the “is Mike really going to die or is he really okay and we’ll see him again one day?” card, instead focusing this possibly final interaction on hints of these characters’ pasts together, which partially explains why Mike’s attitude toward his brother has never quite been friendly or loving since he was introduced. But Mike did get his melancholy comeuppance in the episode’s saddest and most poignant scene, as the siblings stood over their parents’ graves alongside Mike’s body-free plot. Our brains aren’t meant to picture a distressed and mourning Tandy burying his loved ones or making the decision that his out-in-space brother also needed to be recognized in such a way. Gah.
Even those who weren’t fond of Tandy and Mike’s time together on Last Man on Earth have to give it up to the comedy for going all-in on this rare look back to how things were before first meeting pre-Tandy and his booze pool. It’s refreshing that Will Forte and his creative team don’t use the past as a crutch, making each look at the past a truly valuable experience. The way it went, I don’t really care if Mike returns or not, and I’ll be content either way.
But the past is for turds. It was no mere coincidence that Tandy was driving a DeLorean to and from Tucson in the episode. He went to the past to take care of a few things and now he’s going headlights-first into the future, which will be immediately concerned with men in protective suits wielding firepower and coming to the house for something that is definitely not Carol’s latest raisinball dessert.
The Last Man on Earth will return to Fox in the fall. While you’re waiting patiently to see how many girlfriends Todd is going to have when that happens, check out our premiere schedule of everything coming to TV in the next few months.
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