When I first starting reviewing The Last Man on Earth, I did not count on it making me cry so much.
This week’s episode was a tearjerker, with the characters attempting to come to terms with the death all around them. Lewis was mourning Mark, his presumed dead partner; Tandy was still dealing with the grief of leaving a sick Mike; and Gail was attempting to avoid adopting Carol (at Carol’s insistence), because she had already lost a child.
Gail revealing that she had child who died (though not by the virus) isn’t surprising. I saw the revelation coming from the moment she refused to sign Carol’s adoption papers. However, it is still heartbreaking, and explains a lot about the way Gail acts.
It’s smart writing that Carol is the one to make Gail care again. Carol has always been the one eager to make the group feel like a family, and she legitimately loves everyone in the crew. It’s hard to make anyone, even Gail, resist loving Carol. Mary Steenburgen and Kirstin Schaal knock it out of the park in this episode, as they fall into the roles of mother and daughter, while arguing about whether to become mother and daughter. Steenburgen in particular is great, from her actions with Carol clearly indicating she’s been through sullen mother-child fights before to her heartbroken grief when she talks about her child.
It’s no wonder Gail’s hesitant about adopting Carol. In about nine months, Carol will give birth with no doctor around, and no one to know what to do if the birth becomes complicated. Gail could end up losing another child, and it’s something she definitely doesn’t want to go through again. It’s legitimately touching that she loves Carol so much that she’s willing to risk being hurt again. Carol pushes her to love again, and gives her some hope for the future (that doesn’t include drinking the world’s remaining wine supply).
Tandy and Lewis end up finding some hope as well. After hearing that Lewis’ partner Mike was overseas when the virus hit, and was last heard from attempting to charter a boat, Tandy believes that he might be alive. In true Tandy style, he Tasers Lewis and takes him to the couple’s home in Seattle. Tandy believes that Lewis needs to leave a note for Mark in case he ever comes back, letting him know where the group is staying. The pain and love in Kenneth Choi’s eyes as he gazes around the home he shared with Mark is heartbreaking.
However, Lewis ends up appreciating Tandy taking him back to Seattle. Tandy reminisces about how he posted “Alive in Tucson” signs everywhere, believing that no one would see them. But those signs eventually led Carol to him, and let him start a new life. Tandy knows the value of keeping up hope in a hopeless situation.
This leads to the final crushing scenes of the episode, where Tandy and Lewis drive back to Tucson, intent on confirming if Mike has died from the virus. (The house is tellingly quiet and shows no signs of use.) But standing back in his family’s house, Tandy instead leaves a note on Mike’s bedroom door, choosing to still hold out a little hope about whether his brother is alive.
In the end, it’s not entirely about believing that people will come back or believing that people will never, ever hurt you. It’s about using that little bit of uncertainty to get you through the hard times. People need a little hope when times get tough, and the characters choose to keep that hope, rather than extinguish it. It is a little irrational? Sure. But the group is currently living in an abandoned world, having to deal with the ramifications of death and their past every day. They deserve a little hope.
Notes and Observations
- Melissa and Todd only get one scene this week, where Melissa tries to convince Todd they should have a baby and Todd tries to convince Melissa she needs help. It doesn’t go well for either of them.
- Gail makes wine-sicles and I love her for it.
- Gail mentions that the babies will never have fresh foods. Well, they would if you guys would just try to find a habitable spot and plant some…
- Welcome back Gary the volleyball! Hey, maybe you’ll be a toy for Tandy and Carol’s child. Actually, that’s kind of depressing.
- I loved Tandy walking past the wall of Mike’s accomplishments, followed by Tandy’s one award for eating a ten pound burrito. Not only is a reminder of how far Tandy’s come since before the virus, but it’s a reminder that a lot of intelligent, resourceful people didn’t survive the virus. The group isn’t anyone first choice to save humanity, but they’re trying to step up to the plate and keep the human race going.