As The Last Man On Earth heads into the homestretch of its third season, there were a lot of loose ends out there before tonight. Melissa’s journey back from mental illness, the integration of the still mute Jasper into the group, Erica and Carol’s slowly gestating pregnancies—and that’s not even counting whatever Kristen Wiig’s character is up to. As a rule the show tends to keep a lot of balls up in the air (both with faces and without), but rarely resolves them in a timely fashion, focusing instead on the day-to-day life of surviving travails of both the end of the world and sharing a building with Tandy Miller.
“The Big Day” doesn’t just address those issues, it vaults over them entirely. For the first time in its history, The Last Man On Earth undergoes a time jump and shoots the action ahead six months from “Name 20 Picnics… Now!” It’s an unexpected move for the show to take, though given the high concept we’ve started with, not one that’s too far out of the ordinary. And while there’s been a not inconsiderable passage of time, the dynamics of the group and their underlying issues clearly aren’t mended by said passage.
While that’s true, there’s still a lot that happened over the course of six months. Melissa’s finally stabilized and ready to walk down the aisle with Todd. After worries about baby bumps last week, Carol and Erica have gone from a little pregnant to super pregnant. Jasper’s talking now and has joined the universe of those frustrated with Tandy’s sense of humor, especially the need for constant “Thank yous.” The office building now looks a lot more lived in with various interior vegetable gardens, more clutter in the main area, and a foam ball pit taking up one of the conference rooms. Todd’s grown back his mustache, but Tandy’s unable to grow back his eyebrows. Also, Gail and Erica are a thing now.
Thankfully, The Last Man On Earth is aware of what it’s doing in this move. Tandy even hangs a clever lampshade on it as he conducts the ceremony: “So many powerful moments. Too many to go into detail. And we were all there anyway, so what’s the friggin’ point?” Erica Rivinoja’s script teases it out nicely in the opening moments, throwing out confusing details—Gail and Erica’s kiss, Tandy’s shock apparently at hearing Jasper speak, Carol’s beachball stomach—rather than leaping right into it via chyron. The jump ahead doesn’t feel disruptive, rather something that’s getting us to another stage of the story, skipping over various beats of recovery/acclimation/gestation that we’d already seen in prior episodes and where the comedic/character beats were largely exhausted. (Save the very interesting development of a Erica/Gail relationship, but there’s room to expand on that.)
The time jump also doesn’t mess with the show’s structure, as events are fairly standard for a typical The Last Man On Earth story. Tandy’s increasingly excited by the looming birth of his child and the possibility of delivering said child himself, so much so that he takes over both wedding vows and toasts to talk about how happy he is to be an OB-GIN. Gail however isn’t going to let that happen (“The only thing that man is qualified to deliver is rancid farts!”), and makes it clear that she’s going to take on the responsibility. Carol is torn between the obviously responsible choice and traumatizing her husband’s focus on her “gorgeous womb” and the rap he’s come up with in six months of studying labor.
Last week saw things escalate between Tandy and Todd, and now it’s time for the latest feud to form. It’s unsurprisingly a nastier one as of the group Gail has the least patience for Tandy’s antics, or the least restraint in telling him how he screws things up. First-time LMOE director Nisha Ganatra (whose credits include Transparent and Better Things) casts the confrontation in almost horror movie fashion, from the way Tandy drops off a knife so Gail can bury it deeper in his back to the way they get in each others faces, spite dripping off each of their words.
Tandy’s resolution to this matter is handled in a very Tandy way, full of great visual beats—his grand entrance ruined by an inability to open a childproof gate, a tennis ball launcher shooting infant dolls, trying to extract another doll from a Jell-o mold without damaging it and failing miserably. Yet there’s something more to it here, the desperation in his actions and the depression that manifests when Carol’s too horrified by his efforts to even look out for his feelings. This isn’t one of Tandy’s usual ego hissy fits, this is a move that’s tied up in both his genuine fears about being a father, explored to various degrees in previous episodes with Jasper and even more real now that Carol’s due date draws closer.
And there’s also the memory of what happened the last time they tried to perform surgery, one that hangs over the best beats of the episode as it reminds everyone of their potential mortality rate. Tandy’s deployment of it in his fight with Gail is personal in a way he doesn’t usually get, and it’s the one moment where she hesitates. It’s the fear that hangs over Tandy even more than his fears of fatherhood, unable to take an active role in keeping his wife safe. And it’s the one thing he’s willing to directly apologize to Gail for, a move that lets her extend an offer to be the “flight attendant” of the labor process and restore some measure of peace to the group.
Well, at least until Erica enters the room announcing that her water broke. Turns out that in jumping forward to avoid some major problems for the group. The Last Man On Earth only moved up the timetable on a few more. Let’s see if they can find a real-time way out of this one.
- Thanks to Vikram for letting me check in on the show. He’ll be back for next Sunday’s hour-long finale.
- We didn’t touch on the wedding much, but it was a very Last Man On Earth celebration, from the entire bridal party in wedding dresses to Tandy’s questionable handling of the ceremony to the release of crickets at the end of the ceremony.
- All of Todd’s beats about how special this wedding is to him are classic Todd, from the cover of their established banging song to his first dance with the bride to his recommitment of virginity (three months of abstinence as a couple, two months on his own). Plus, his nerves as he gets into his first first time. “She was incredibly alluring, but the mental side was not there.”
- The various twitches of eyes and lips that play over Kristen Schaal’s face as she contemplates her eyebrowless husband are a delight.
- Of course Carol made the cake toppers and painted the wedding portrait.
- The Post Virus Post is still going strong. Today’s headline: Tarry Stool Subsides. Looks like Carol wasn’t kidding when she said she wanted Todd to tell her all about it later.
- Tandy had Jasper paint his go-kart pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
- Things Tandy isn’t good at, according to Gail: Math, jokes, basic hygiene, ideas, knowing what others think about him.
- “We release the doves! And by doves I mean crickets, since all doves are dead.”
- “I have diarrhea.” “When it rains, it pours.”
- “Sometimes I get my Fs and my Gs mixed up, so why don’t you fo guck yourselg.” That’s the best workaround on network TV swearing restrictions since The Good Place.
- “I knew how important it was for you to make your dead parents proud.”