After several lackluster episodes, The Last Man On Earth is starting to find a new rhythm by making everyone turn on Phil. It’s not that I’m not rooting for him, though he definitely makes it hard. It’s that having the other characters more clued into his schemes takes the wind out of them in a more satisfying way. The show can move on from basic misunderstandings to something approaching development now that no one will tolerate Phil’s special brand of bullshit anymore.
Sure, Gail and Erica still want to sleep with him, but that’s more out of boredom and novelty than anything else. None of them are under the illusion that Phil is anything but a last resort, which is certainly not lost on Phil himself. Desperation has defined him ever since we met him—which makes sense, seeing as he’s one of the very few survivors of a deadly virus, a fact I kind of keep forgetting the longer The Last Man On Earth settles into a suburban groove.
Phil’s desperation is what brings him to the billboard on the edge of town so he can ward off potential threats to his sleeping around with a new message: “MOVED TO TAMPA.” In other words, whoever might see this message could end up as far away from him and the very game Gail and Erica as possible. It’s pretty much the same move he tried to pull when he first met them and said he was the only person in Tucson except on a much larger scale, so it’s only fitting that the karmic payoff is so much worse than the cold shoulder he got the first time. The second Phil finishes his new graffiti (graffito?), the ladder falls to the ground, leaving him stranded by the billboard in the blazing Tucson sun. Since Will Forte is at his best when he has the space to get truly weird, his solo scenes have often been the series’ strongest, and that holds doubly true in “Moved To Tampa.” His shrieks at the ladder falling and his pants whipping away in the wind are piercing, depressing, and hilarious.
Phil lying to everyone can only take the series so far. It’s so much more fun to watch him struggle under scrutiny and realize that he’s literally the least popular person on Earth—especially now that the cast includes the impossibly beautiful Boris Kodjoe.
Kodjoe is the first true surprise casting for The Last Man On Earth, or at least he was for me. While I had heard about January Jones, Kristen Schaal, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman, and Mary Steenburgen joining the cast in some way or another beforehand, Kodjoe truly does come out of nowhere—though again, it’s becoming more expected than not that someone new is going to join the cast with every passing week. Kodjoe’s appearance follows the familiar pattern every new virus survivor has set off upon setting foot in Tucson, namely humiliating Phil in his own special way. Where Carol was demanding, Todd was the actual nice guy Phil kept pretending to be, and Melissa, Erica, and Gail dangled the possibility of sex just out of his reach, Kodjoe’s character is the Buzz Lightyear to Phil’s Woody. (Really wish I could drop the mic on this review after dropping a Toy Story reference, but I’m a professional, so onwards and upwards!) Phil, once unanimously elected as the President of the United States, is now a twitching mess of a sunburn.
It would be pathetic even if he wasn’t up against Kodjoe’s incredible good looks, which make the humiliation especially painful. Adding insult to injury is the fact that, incredibly, Tucson’s new Adonis is also named Phil Miller. Kodjoe’s calm confidence is the perfect counterbalance to Forte’s frantic mania, making their characters’ competition to keep their names one of the best moments of the episode—especially since it ends with everyone deciding to call our original Phil his middle name of “Tandy.” Somehow, it just works. And so does much of this episode, after a string of disappointments.
Granted, I still really wish either Erica or Gail had a personality beyond “wants to fuck.” At this point, we know that they’re a little wilder than Melissa, Todd, and Carol, who seem perfectly happy to settle in a cul de sac for the foreseeable future. Gail likes wine; Erica likes to hike. That’s about it. I’m not someone who thinks introducing more people into The Last Man On Earth universe is a problem in and of itself, but introducing more people just for the sake of having more people is questionable at best. If we’re going to have more virus survivors, we should care about them beyond the suspenseful question of whether they’ll satisfy their libido. There’s almost something funny about the fact that the first thing everyone thinks of when they find other people is getting laid—the apocalypse always brings out the basest in people—but the joke wears thinner every time someone hits it. (Or, more accurately, fails to.) But if there’s anyone who can find a way to put a weirdo spin on this familiar premise, it’s Kristen Schaal’s Carol, prancing over to seduce a new Phil Miller in her fancy new sundress.
- Todd and Melissa’s tentative romance is still sweet, but I don’t have a whole lot to say on it besides for that. There are heart-shaped pancakes! It’s sweet! (And yes, choosing a picture of January Jones for this episode’s image is absolutely an attempt to troll Mad Men readers.)
- Will Forte continues to look perfectly ridiculous in a perm. It was definitely an A+ decision to keep that around.
- “We were just going to go for a hike.” “Oh. We were going to have sex.”