I’ve been enjoying The Last Man on Earth for the most part. We’re 10 episodes in and I feel like I can finally form my opinion on the show as it moves into the final episodes of the first season. The show follows Phil Miller, the titular last man on earth, initially a lonely man living in Tucson. Having given up the search for other people and on the verge of killing himself, he meets Carol, another survivor, whom he quickly marries. Since then we’ve watched them try to build a world and every few episodes new survivors have joined the party. This brings us to the tenth episode.
I’m not the biggest fan of post-apocalyptic shows or movies because it feels like every new show in the genre has become a parody of the last. Despite my bias, The Last Man on Earth seems like it has the potential to stand out amongst the rest of the pack. It might have a way to go before it develops into something cohesive, but if it does, it could very well become one of the best shows on TV.
Ten episodes in, Phil, who has long since viewed himself as the hero of this tale, has finally realized with what the rest of us already knew: he’s actually the villain. We’ve watched Phil devolve from a sympathetic lonely man to someone who, once he discovered other survivors, ended up devoting much if not all of his time trying to have sex with any woman around.
Therein lies the show’s first flaw: Phil, and the rest of the characters don’t have much dimension.
Phil is a hedonist in every sense of the word. As far as he’s concerned, the entire world exists to be his play thing, and it’s unfathomable that any woman wouldn’t want to have sex with him. Up until the end of the tenth episode, Phil viewed himself as the tragic hero, never getting what he wants. He even goes so far as lying to two women he comes across, claiming that he is the last man on earth (at this point there are 5) just because he thinks they’ll sleep with him. This depraved act results in everyone around him calling him out and ultimately shunning him. Phil realizes how disgustingly awful he has become as a person, and begins to repent for his actions. This repentance is only the second dimension given to Phil, but hopefully a sign of many more to come.
Carol, Phil’s wife…well, ex-wife now…plays the awkward, goofy woman who insists on living life as if nothing has changed. She forces Phil to park in proper parking spots when they loot stores and stops at stop signs just in case other traffic is coming (turns out she was justified wanting to do this last one). Up until this point she has existed solely to foil Phil’s ideal lifestyle. Even worse, she’s the only woman present who’s willing to have sex with Phil, despite how obvious it is that Phil has virtually no interest in her. At least not as of yet.
The rest of the cast are given even less dimension than Phil and Carol. Every other woman seems to exist for the sole purpose of Phil trying to have sex with them. The only other man serves as Phil’s foil and competition for these women. This may be the greatest flaw in the writing. Instead of giving the talented cast something to work with and expanding on each character, most of the script is set around Phil’s failed attempts to sleep with every woman around.
That’s not to say all hope is lost for the show. There’s a lot of potential for character development and exploration, as long as less focus is placed on Phil’s misguided exploits and more on the supporting cast. By expanding on the other characters and spending less time focusing on Phil’s sexcapades the writers could easily increase the show’s longevity. The show has been renewed for a second season, so the audience is definitely there and the rest of the cast has already shown glimpses of what they could bring to the table if they’re given the right material.
Even beyond just exploring the characters, there are so many other unanswered questions that would allow the writers even more opportunity to provide further depth to the show. What actually caused this apocalypse? Where did that cow come from and are there more animals? Why are they somewhere as arid as Arizona when there could be other areas with better soil and more food? It was clear at the end of the first episode that the past would be explored based on a cameo of Jason Sudeikis in a family photo. This is a nice seed for a storyline that will hopefully be explored more in-depth as the show goes on.
I think if they can expand the dimensions of the characters and explore the world they live in a little more, The Last Man on Earth could justify an ongoing series and remain watchable year after year. It’s important for the writers to keep the balance between the laughs and the details; leaning too far in one direction could work against the overall picture. If the show can expand beyond Phil and explore the wide open world the creators have created, it should be around for years to come delivering strong and unique comedy.
So far, The Last Man on Earth has proven itself to be one of the most unique comedies of the year. If the writers focus on developing not only the titular character but the supporting characters as well, it could turn out to be something really special.