‘The Last Man on Earth’ Season 2 Episode 1 Recap: “Is Anybody Out There?”


When we last saw the persistent liar, divorcee, and all-around failure known as Phil Tandy Miller, he was newly exiled from the community of plague survivors he founded in Tucson, Arizona. Despondent, prostrate on a desert road, he had made quick work of two days worth of supplies — provided by his rival, “new Phil” — in a matter of minutes. Lacking even rudimentary survival skills, Tandy was certain to die, until his ex-wife and renewed love interest Carol showed up at the zero hour, choosing to abandon the colony in favor of a life on the road. “Where should we go?” she asked. In episode one of the new season of The Last Man on Earth, we find out.

We meet Carol and the newly bearded Phil as they roll around a city in stealth fighter, shopping for tequila. Phil, neglectfully playful as ever, accidentally drops a bomb from a latch in the plane. If, like me, you were a fan of the radical stillness of the series’ first episode, you will be pleased by the new season’s opener. Much of it is given over to the post-apocalyptic Zen that marks a world without people or codes — although Carol is as adherent to old ways of living as ever, even if she is now more willing to bathe in a margarita kiddie pool.

They move into the White House, where Phil (who is by virtue of one electoral count still the president of the United States) holds a press conference with his variegated assortment of ball friends. His answer regarding his feelings about the extant colony in Tucson are fairly easy to summarize. “My position on Tucson remains the same,” he tells Bryce the Soccer Ball. “Tucson can suck it, and you can suck it for asking.”

After alluding to and finally performing a sex act in the Lincoln Bedroom, drama rears its head. Apparently the couple have spent the interim moving from mansion to mansion — from Graceland to Dollywood, from Oprah’s to Lebron’s. Still, Carol can’t get comfortable, even when Phil (who promises that he is no longer “Tandy”), takes her to her old family home. It turns out, to my own horror and dismay, that she wants to return to Tucson, to again live among the living.

Now is as good a time as any to bring up one of the final shots of last season’s finale, one that showed Phil’s brother, an astronaut played by Jason Sudeikis, still stranded in outer space. It’s unclear how all of this will play out, but it’s safe to say that, somehow, Phil’s brother — given his increased screen time — is destined to return. In the meantime he masturbates on the International Space Station and talks to worms.

Phil is, of course, reluctant to return to Tucson, having been told by New Phil in no uncertain terms that he should never return. In the middle of their prolonged disagreement, Phil stops to gas up their RV while Carol sleeps in the back. When Carol wakes up and enters the gas station, where she summarily (and characteristically) begins gluing gems onto a T-shirt, Phil accidentally leaves her. After driving for several hours, he finally realizes that he has left Carol God-knows-where. He heads to Tucson, hoping she’ll be there, only to find that the colony has been abandoned.

The Last Man on Earth is still intact. It still introduces its plot elements deliberately. It’s still at its funniest when Will Forte is allowed to play out his fantasy of reckless abandon, of a life without the strictures of sociality. In the first season, it never dawned on the growing menagerie of assholes who came to live in Tucson that Phil’s tendency toward sociopathy was a sane reaction to an insane situation. Their obsession with harmless harmony, with easygoing conformity, was like a plainsong that put Phil’s cacophonous lifestyle into relief. Now Phil, somewhat reformed by the likewise insane but loving Carol, is alone again, and it’s these moments of profound, gratifying loneliness that make The Last Man on Earth one of the best and most radical shows on network television.