So far this entire season, Will Forte has set out to redeem Phil Miller, not only in the eyes of Carol and the rest of the group, but in the eyes of the audience as well. One of the most consistent and overwhelming criticisms of the first season was Phil’s obnoxious attitude and how he consistently failed to learn any lessons or change his ways. This made for a fairly one-note season, as Myles McNutt explained in last week’s review, and alienated viewers and critics in the process. I’ve been vocal for my love of The Last Man On Earth’s first season because I saw it as the story of a man struggling to be selfless after being allowed to be selfish for so long, ultimately destroying his chance at the one thing he desperately needed to survive. Now, this obviously wasn’t everyone’s bag, but it was very much mine because it distinguished the series from other sitcoms filled with blandly nice characters that engaged in wacky situations that ultimately served to underline their basic decency. At least The Last Man On Earth was different. At least it acknowledged that even the best of us could succumb to our worst impulses. And at least it never suggested that humanity would reward someone for doing so, no matter how few people are left on Earth.
But the direction The Last Man On Earth has taken this season isn’t bad at all. In fact, it has somehow changed course and retained not only Forte’s twisted sense of humor, but also its bite. “C To The T” centers on Phil’s punishment after turning a gun on the group to force them to listen to his heartfelt apologies. (Note: I am absolutely not referring to Phil as “Tandy,” mostly because this is Phil’s story and it’s clear that he abandoned the Tandy persona back in the desert, but also because Phil 2.0 is a jackass.) First, Phil 2.0 places Phil in a stockade, but when Carol rightfully cries cruel and unusual, Phil decides to convince the group that he’s worthy of their trust and respect. So he agrees to five weeks of isolation in the guesthouse hoping that his voluntary sacrifice will get him back in the group’s good graces.
Of course, this doesn’t work out as Phil plans. He’s weak and unable to keep to his bargain. He’s caught trying to eat some of the group’s cheese and then they decide to put a shock collar around him like they did with the cow. But Phil is relieved and welcomes this new addition to his punishment. He wants to be punished. He wants to be redeemed, so much that he later agrees to a vocal shock collar after the group decides they can’t stand him talking. Suddenly, Phil is tortured by his silent isolation, which isn’t helped by Melissa tempting him with beer outside of his perimeter.
Writer Emily Spivey purposefully stacks the deck in Phil’s favor throughout “C To The T.” When Phil breaks his isolation by going to eat the group’s cheese, Phil ultimately spits it out because he values his friendship with the group over the food itself. Phil’s forced attempts to make peace with the group may be irritating, but they’re also genuine But here’s the kicker: Despite the group rightfully being upset at Phil’s behavior, their actions ultimately seems monstrous in comparison to Phil’s crime. Forcing him to communicate through charades and then eventually locking him in a shed, they all act like their shit doesn’t stink as much as Phil’s, but seeing as Todd is sneaking off to some unknown location in the middle of night, we know that’s not the case.
But then Phil performs a selfless action: He sees a fire near the house cause by a Tiki Torch, outside of his perimeter, and goes to put it out, enduring the pain from the two collars around his neck. The group releases him from his punishment when they find out that Phil was the one who saved their lives, but they’re still not eager to accept him with open arms. But that’s been The Last Man On Earth’s MO for its entire run. No matter what Phil’s intentions may be, his actions for most of the series, at least to everyone but Carol, has been objectionable at best and criminal at worst. The group has no burden to forgive Phil right away, nor do they ever have to. Redemption is a long, difficult process and it requires many sacrifices, not just one. But Phil continues to move in the right direction, slowly but surely. If the first season of The Last Man On Earth was the story of a man destroying his chance at a community, maybe the second season is about the hard work it takes to get it back.
- Major thanks to Myles McNutt filling in for me last week. Isn’t he a good writer? I think he’s a good writer.
- What do you think Todd is doing in that secret house of his? I guess we’ll find out next week!
- That first charades scene was absolutely hysterical. I love how everyone assumes Phil is trying to communicate movie or TV titles, but he’s really trying to explain his actions.
- That beer trick Melissa pulled seemed extra cruel, but then again, Phil did try to trick her into having sex with him multiple times.
- The sight gag of Phil stuck in the stockade was hilarious.
- Another great sight gag: Carol with the cheese. Kristen Schaal is killing it this season.
- One more time, with feeling: “X-factor!”