The third episode of the second season of The Last Man on Earth begins with Gordon’s funeral. Who is Gordon, you ask? He is the petit bourgeois man, played by Will Ferrell, startled into cardiac arrest by Carol at the end of the last episode — we barely heard him talk. He was also, as it happens, Gail’s lover, a fact that is made all the weirder when we learn that he was a cranky, drunk misogynist. At the funeral, New Phil recites a poem, Carol wonders aloud whether the man she killed will go to Heaven or Hell, and Todd weepily croons his goodbyes. Cue title sequence.
Given that Phil is lingering on the periphery for much of the episode, often in his “grass monster” camouflage suit-of-choice, sometimes just using a pitching machine to play baseball inside his RV, it makes sense that the bulk of it is devoted to Carol’s reintroduction into the colony. Her behavior, I’m happy to report, is consummately Tandy-esque. After checking back with Phil — who claims not to care that the members of the colony haven’t asked about him — Carol lies about his death, using a series of drawings to that depict a gruesome death scene at the Grand Canyon to drive the point home. No one seems to care, really, much to Phil’s repressed chagrin. Still, New Phil is outspokenly happy about Carol’s return to the colony. “Hi Carol,” he says while lurking on her in a bathroom. “The last time I saw you, we were making love.”
New Phil, in Carol’s absence, has started dating Erica, who quickly asserts her rights over him. Carol doesn’t seem to care overmuch. She is mostly preoccupied with preparations for Phil’s glorious resuscitation. She just has to convince the other colonists — who all, by the way, still call him Tandy — that he was actually a good guy.
“Human garbage,” Todd says of Tandy when Carol asks the colonists to reminisce.
“Let’s settle a bet,” Melissa says to Carol. “Did Tandy kidnap you?”
“And that’s why it gives me great pleasure to say to you… Here’s Tandy!”
Meanwhile, New Phil, hoping to get back with Carol, breaks up with Erica. Carol, too, has stirred up animosity with Gail, who is still seething at her for killing Gordon. In some ways, it’s almost as if Phil/Tandy has rubbed off on Carol, or maybe it’s that she is guilty by association — either way, she seems less at ease with the other colonists, less able to assimilate into their ridiculous, hokey, persistently annoying lifestyle. Nonetheless, Carol — intrepid as ever — plans to unveil the episode’s big surprise: Tandy is alive and well.
Carol’s announcement does not go over well with the colonists, who promptly leave upon confirming Tandy is among the living. For a few moments, it appears that the third episode of the season has brought the entire show to an impasse. In many ways, the form of the show hearkens back to its first season, only now it’s Carol who is arousing the ire of the other colonists. The second season’s prevailing questions— Will Phil relent to his sociopathic side, will he become Tandy? — hardly matter if Phil/Tandy is an island, a monad, a society of one.
By appealing to the colonist’s better angels, Carol convinces them to give Phil a second chance. Unfortunately, in the interim, Phil has worked himself into a repressed rage by conjuring up the Tandy within.
The situation, as Phil sees it, is simple: his exile from the community at the end of the first season taught him a lot. He has truly changed, and he wants more than anything to apologize to the other colonists. “How do I get them to listen?” he asks himself, while sitting in the tuxedo he planned to wear at his unveiling. Well, if Phil can’t get them to listen, maybe the Tandyman can.
The reemergence of Tandy — the Hyde to Phil’s Jekyll — is one of the best scenes in the series, and it is played maniacally, even beautifully by Will Forte. When Tandy points his gun at the various colonists, imploring them not to move, to listen, to talk in turn — to be as emotional and volatile and human as he is — you glimpse the show’s psychological core: these people have seen “oodles and oodles of death,” as Carol explains early in the episode, and they are worse for the wear.
No report of Tandy’s brother, the astronaut played by Jason Sudekis, who is presently trapped in a space station orbiting the earth…