This week’s The Last Man On Earth addressed something obvious but crucial about the Malibu Crew: None of them are living for tomorrow. It’s been a few years since the deadly virus eradicated most of the population and rendered the world a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but most of the gang doesn’t seem to care. They’re hanging out, drinking, and playing gold bar Jenga, casually ignoring their dwindling food and gas supply, and more crucially, that their house has just run out of power. They don’t care because they know who will fix all of their urgent, practical problems: Phil 2.0.
“A Real Live Wire” mainly tackles Phil 2.0’s growing resentment with the rest of the group. For one of the least developed characters on the series (his original function was to be the anti-Phil), Phil 2.0 has a realistic, yet ultimately limiting role in the ensemble: He keeps the group afloat by fixing the house, helping them with their problems, and ultimately pushing them towards stability. Though his chiseled physique, confident demeanor, and diverse skill set initially made him a prized member of the group, now he’s become their handyman, especially after alienating the women in the group by breaking up with Erica to pursue a taken Carol. Phil 2.0 may be a self-righteous asshole at times, particularly towards Phil (although not for entirely unjustified reasons), but he still keeps everything running, a skill that the group doesn’t really appreciate much anymore.
After Phil 2.0 reasonably suggests that they should move away from Malibu to a more habitable place, the group decides they want to live for today instead of for tomorrow. As a result, Phil 2.0 goes on strike and stops helping the group. Phil and Todd, now good friends after the bacon incident, decide to pick up the slack by setting up some solar panels to get power back into the house, but when things inevitably go south and a loose frayed wire starts running wild, Phil is forced to swallow his pride and ask Phil 2.0 for help.
Meanwhile, Carol tries to convince the rest of the women in the group to procreate after learning that none of them want to have kids. Despite most of the group’s lax nature towards their situation, Carol, like Phil 2.0, has mostly been a stable force, trying to maintain normalcy amidst trying times, which inevitably means repopulating the Earth. But Melissa makes the obvious point to Carol: Why brings kids into this mess? There’s no food or energy, and no matter how many creepy/hilarious paintings Carol makes of Melissa and Todd’s future child, it doesn’t change the fact that the world they live in isn’t conducive to raising a family.
This point is later emphasized when the group’s volatility comes to a head yet again with Phil 2.0 punching Phil in a fit of frustration. When the group demands that he be punished for his assault, Phil 2.0 smugly decline claiming that he’s the only one who works and that Phil had it coming for a long time. For Carol, this is just yet another con on her pros-and-cons list for having a child, but as sweet Carol silently decides on her own, the experience of having a child is the only “pro” she needs, no matter how messed up her environment.
When Phil 2.0 inevitably fixes the live wire (there was an on/off switch on the panel), he announces after that he’s leaving Malibu for good, but before he does he professes his affection for Carol claiming she chose the wrong guy. In this scene, episode writer Erica Rivinjoa tries to make a reasonable case against Phil while still illustrating Phil 2.0’s myopia. After all, Phil attempted to kill two members of the group, tried and fail to cheat on Carol, and constantly shits in the ocean. In the old world, there is no way that Carol would ever be with a person like Phil, but in the new world, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Phil’s capacity for change and his newfound selfless nature endears him to Carol and makes up for his inherently doltish behavior, something that Phil 2.0 is unable to see. It’s then that Erica announces that she’s pregnant with Phil 2.0’s baby and throws the entire conversation, and the remained of the season, into sharp relief.
“A Real Live Wire” is the first episode of this season to really look to the future by examining the present. It takes a hard look at the group’s static nature and their refusal to take their situation seriously, preferring to clown around instead of getting to work. It’s a nice reversal of Phil’s situation in the first season when he was the unstable force that tried to slow progress with his selfish behavior. Now that Phil has tried to adopt a halfway-altruistic attitude, the rest of the group has fallen into their own worst habits with unaddressed tension slowly bubbling to the surface. Despite Carol’s good intentions, maybe the Malibu Crew isn’t meant to be together, even if they are the last people on Earth.
- Whenever The Last Man On Earth gives Will Forte a chance to simply perform on his own, it’s always a delight. This week it’s Phil trying to eat a “liquid waffle” after the power has gone out. His verdict? “Sucks.”
- Gold bar Jenga looks like a blast.
- On the Melissa/Todd front: Melissa is still pissed at Todd for the bacon incident, and Todd’s bummed that Melissa isn’t interested in having kids.
- Props to Boris Kodjoe who somehow makes Phil 2.0 the most sensible and most insufferable member of the Malibu Crew.
- “I’m not trying to gain points. That’s gross. I’m trying to earn points. There’s a difference.”
- “If you keep this up, I’m pretty sure you’ll be fisting the whole community.”
- “We got a day for a bacon! This is assault!”