Anyone who is not watching Fox’s The Last Man on Earth needs to go back and binge it before it returns this Spring. The Fall Finale, entitled “Silent Night,” aired yesterday, and it’s the show at the top of its game.
Without spoiling anything, the finale deals with the problems set up in the previous episode. Phil 2, played by Boris Kodjoe, is suffering from severe abdominal pain in a world with no doctors (that are yet known). Meanwhile, astronaut Mike Miller, played brilliantly by Jason Sudeikis, deals with being stranded in space, not knowing if there’s anyone left on Earth to rescue him.
That doesn’t sound like a goofy comedy, which the show is pitched as. That sounds like a post-apocalyptic drama. The show has managed to grow into an excellently balanced program, which can make you laugh while sitting on the edge of your seat with anxiety. It’s achieved what so many comedies fail to reach: it makes you genuinely care about the characters and their ability to survive in this new world.
Show creator Will Forte is the titular Last Man on Earth (even though that’s not the case), and the show’s protagonist Phil “Tandy” Miller. How small a part he plays in this episode is perhaps the best example of its strength. Tandy has a little subplot with Todd, played by Mel Rodriguez, that serves as comic relief, but ultimately could be thrown out with no effect on the main story. He excels as always, but in all honestly Forte could be absent from this episode and it wouldn’t miss a beat.
And that’s the point. “Silent Night” relies on its ancillary characters to hold it up, and they lift it to new heights. January Jones breaks hearts as her character Melissa deals with rejection; Mary Steenburgen gives a nail-biting performance as Gail, suddenly thrown into the role of surgeon; Jason Sudeikis continues to thrive as Mike Miller (brother to Forte’s Tandy), stuck in isolation for an unknown amount of time, and able to flip on a dime from hilarious to incredibly depressing. The list goes on, and proves that these are not the same shallow characters introduced last season.
The show’s greatest strength has always been its writing, and that’s still the case. Tim McAuliffe pens this latest chapter, and does an excellent job, as is evident by all this praise. Thanks to the writing, the show has gained depth, and grown into something much greater than a comedy, without losing those roots. It’s happened so gradually, and so subtly, that it does not shock the viewer. It feels natural and real, and it’s easy to forget what a strange premise it’s all based on.
There’s nothing negative worth mentioning about The Last Man on Earth. It deserves all of the award nominations it’s received, and continues to be one of the best comedies on TV right now. It’s hard to believe that more people aren’t talking about this show in the mainstream, so make sure to spread the word.