TV Review: The Last Man on Earth (2×11): “Valhalla”

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Returning to Malibu following last week’s excursion to Miami to follow Mike’s return to Earth, “Valhalla” finds the group mourning the death of Phil 2.

As I touched upon last week, the thing that sets The Last Man on Earth apart from all other situation comedies is its post-apocalyptic setting. In addition to having a whole empty continent to play with and plenty of excuses for explosions and setting-specific comedy, there’s also occasional weighty, bleak reminders of how different life is for these characters. Phil 2’s appendicitis would have been easily and quickly remedied before the virus, but because of the lack of doctors, his fate was sealed the moment he collapsed.

Phil 1/Tandy (Will Forte) has decided that Phil 2/Other Phil (Boris Kodjoe) deserves a viking funeral for…reasons, insisting on pushing the boat carrying his dead nemesis’s coffin out to sea by himself. He also tries to light it on fire with a bow and arrow, which doesn’t work exactly as he thinks it will.

Tandy is still in flux between the needy, self-serving asshole that he became in the middle of season one and the legitimately better person he became in early season two. He’s not taking Phil 2’s death well, but it seems like he can’t help but make the funeral all about him and his complicated relationship with Phil 2.

Shortly after his failed fire arrow spectacle, he confides in his wife Carol (Kristen Schaal) that Todd (Mel Rodriguez) and Gail (Mary Steenburgen) are intimate, and she spends the rest of the episode trying not to spill the beans to Melissa (January Jones). Melissa hasn’t been taking Todd’s rejection of her marriage proposal – immediately before Phil 2’s collapse – well. It seems that she’s been taking it out on Carol’s possessions – smashing her kitschy Christmas ornaments with a baseball bat and de-bedazzling a pair of sequined boots. It seems part of this could stem from Melissa’s envy over Tandy and Carol’s close relationship, but the show never particularly spells that out for us like it normally does.

Meanwhile, Gail is upset from effectively killing Phil 2 on the operating table, and she’s continued her relationship with Todd largely fueled by grief. Melissa desperately asks Todd to watch TV with her (we get a great gag of a taped, years-old BMX bike race done completely through hazmat suits) and now it seems like there’s an inadvertent love triangle going on. It will be interesting to see how long that goes on for – after all, you really can’t keep secrets when there’s only six characters.

Meanwhile, Tandy has become kind of creepily-but-sweetly obsessed with Phil 2, wearing his clothes and cologne and offering to help raise Erica’s (Cleopatra Coleman) child. Erica admits to Tandy that Phil 2’s last words were to specifically bar him from having anything to do with the child and he doesn’t take this well. He’s also found Phil 2’s old license that reveals his real middle name to be “Stacy,” – a revelation that meant they could have both gone by their middle names.

Tandy’s Phil 2 love-fest is quickly over as he has the bad idea to plant pornography, drugs and bad slam poetry in Phil 2’s room to convince Erica of…something…even though she’s been in that room just a few hours earlier. As Tandy is angrily burning Phil’s stuff, he comes across Phil’s washed up coffin on the beach. Erica has spotted it as well as the two eventually make amends and bury Phil properly.

This episode was a solid return to the Malibu/Tucson group; aside from the first two scenes, it largely unraveled through scenes featuring one or two characters. Phil 2’s death will change a lot of the dynamic of the group, and it will be interesting to see those changes in the coming episodes, especially logistically. It’s only a matter of time before Mike Miller finds the group too – the show wouldn’t have cast Jason Sudeikis and then just not have him interact with on-par comedy talent like Will Forte and Kristen Schaal.

I’m very interested to see where the show goes with those changes in dynamics that are caused by Phil 2’s death and how the characters will play off each other now. Certainly, the Gail/Todd/Melissa triangle is going to develop interestingly as is the impending birth of Erica’s baby. In a recent walkthrough of season 2a for Den of Geek, producer Andy Bobrow pointed out that childbirth was very dangerous for mothers for most of human history, and it will be interesting to see if the show wants to go that route for when Erica gives birth.

“Valhalla” is an effectively transitory episode that reintroduces the group and reveals the fate of Phil 2, but it’s one that I feel begins a larger arc as the season continues. 

Rating: 8/10

Ryan Gibbs is the music editor for The Young Folks. He is based in Newport, Rhode Island.