The midseason finale of The Last Man on Earth, still the craziest show on network television, proved that it draws its strength from its premise, which is to say that it works in two directions: it acknowledges the comedic absurdity of life at the end of all life; from there — and once the viewer has absorbed this absurdity — it switches directions by highlighting the vulnerability of life without the structures (and strictures) of civilization. And so we left a vulnerable Tandy and Co. in mid-December with the death of New Phil by appendicitis. No matter how she struggled, Gayle couldn’t save him.
But we also left Astronaut Mike Miller (Jason Sudeikis), Tandy’s brother, hurling himself toward the Earth (alongside his pet worm, Phil) in an escape pod. After narrowly surviving a suicide attempt, this was all that was left to him — to try not to burn up in the atmosphere, to hope he might land safely on a barren planet. There was some accidental symbolism, it seemed, in the notion that a New Phil (again, a worm) could replace the old New Phil.
After more than two months, The Last Man on Earth returns by forfeiting none of its brazenness or weirdness — Tandy and Co. are not in the episode at all. Instead we return to Astronaut Mike, human meteor, parachuting toward a large cruise ship; when he lands it capsizes. As it crashes, he manages to find a high-grade water bike. With no sign that he’s headed landward, he cycles across the ocean.
And then, at the height of exhaustion, he hears the voice of child — The Room’s Jacob Tremblay — who goads him into survival by way of a spray of insults, a run of harmless barbs that sound eerily familiar. “You just came from outer space, you freaking fart face. Now wake up.” Yes, we learn with moments that this ocean-bound hallucinatory child is the young version of Astronaut Mike’s brother, Tandy.
With renewed vigor, Astronaut Mike spots another boat. He boards, finds food, changes his underwear. Just as he’s about to embark toward land, he hears a voice. “I wouldn’t’ get too comfortable just yet,” says a voice that sounds like Michael Shannon but isn’t. From the shadows emerges a crazy-haired man holding a harpoon gun. “Were you exposed to the virus!” the man yells. After some explanation, he allows Astronaut Mike to stay on the boat that he has christened “Deez Knots.”
This man, Pat Brown, tellingly introduces himself as “the last man on Earth.” He gives Astronaut Mike expensive scotch. He tells him that he rarely, if ever, goes to land because of his fear of contracting the virus. He describes entire cities as “pitch black” at night. It’s about as deep as The Last Man on Earth has yet gone with regard to the virus. And yet Pat seems a bit crazy. “There is a very good chance he’s going to eat and kill me,” Astronaut Mike says to himself as he tries to sleep.
When he wakes up in the morning, crazy Pat is hovering next to his face. After some coercing, Mike convinces him to head to land. “If we are going to do this,” Crazy Pat demands, “we’re going to do it my way.”
When they arrive on shore in hazmat suits, Astronaut Mike cries. Crazy Pat accuses him of “making love to the ground.” He tells him not to get comfortable because the virus will cause him to ooze from every orifice. “Blood and stool,” he says, “in every hole. Nostrils. Eyes. Ears. Butthole.”
Crazy Pat shows Mike the lines and lines of virus-ridden bodies; again, this is the deepest the show has gone with regard to the story of the virus. Yet even as Crazy Pat earns his dry, pathos-laden asides, it still seems like he might be entirely crazy. “The sight of a bikini still does it for me,” he admits, “skin or no.”
After the two play tennis in their hazmat suits, they head back to the boat in an ice cream truck. And then Astronaut Mike spots one of the hallmarks of the show — an “Alive in Tucson” billboard no doubt left by Tandy. Crazy Pat summarily cracks him over the head with a wrench. Mike has another hallucination of a child Tandy threatening to pee on him.
If the attempted murder of Astronaut Mike wasn’t enough to assure us of Crazy Pat’s craziness, his subsequent rantings about the government as the cause of the virus ice the cake. Luckily, after a bout of wrestling, Crazy Pat finds a tear in Mike’s hazmat suit, so he leaves him for dead among the rows of bodies. His epitaph: “RIP Spaceman, Cause of Death, The Government.” Mike awakes yet again, confiscates an ambulance, and drives toward Tucson. Whether he completes the most unlikely family reunion in human history remains to be seen. But if anyone can help him, the Tandy man can — even if he takes the form of a petulant child.