TV Review: The Last Man on Earth (2×12): “Fish in the Dish”


Two weeks ago, there was no new episode of The Last Man on Earth because FOX aired Tyler Perry’s delightfully baffling The Passion Live in place of its regular Sunday night lineup. I missed LMOE, but I was willing to wait a week if it meant watching a very strange and needlessly elaborate modern day retelling of the last days of Jesus in which Seal, in character as Pontius Pilate, sang “We Don’t Need Another Hero” — complete with the Thunderdome references — while a plexiglass cross was carried through the streets of New Orleans and into the performance space. I mean, stuff that oddball only comes around once in awhile.

Then last week, FOX delayed its entire Sunday night lineup for the second week in a row because of Easter; They showed Grease Live. Postposing Last Man on Earth for two weeks seems like the kind of thing that could doom this show ratings-wise, but hopefully its able to recover whatever traction it lost.

Anyway, this week’s The Last Man on Earth is a good piece of character building. I like it when LMOE uses its big, empty open world setting, but I’m just as content to it doing smaller plots based around its talented, small cast.

Carol and Tandy have been trying to get pregnant for some time now, both as an awkwardly forced together “last couple on Earth” with a focus on repopulation and later out of genuine love for each other. Yet, they’ve had no luck compared to Erica and the late Other Phil. This week, Carol gets Tandy a male fertility test in order to figure out the cause of their problem. Because of her aversion to the concept of pornography, Carol also gives him sweet but unsettling alternatives to help him do his business. Carol is a talented artist, but her drawings of people are a little uncanny and frightening — best displayed by the sweet-but-weird mural she has painted of famous, strong women she painted for Tandy here. I like that Tandy is willing to actually go along with the odd stuff Carol does for him now. It’s solid character development from the unlikable Tandy from the middle of season one who was such a petulant asshole about Carol’s quirks. Tandy’s test comes back sterile, but he believe that it’s because they’re expired and suggests that they get Todd to provide them with another control.

Todd and Tandy’s interaction here is the one time the A and B plots meet before the final scene. Todd’s B plot deals with his love triangle with Gail and Melissa. He’s slowly going nuts and is handling the situation badly. Todd can’t choose between the two of them, especially once Gail tells him that she’s gotten over Gordon’s death. It only gets worse for him when Erica reveals that Other Phil wanted Todd to take care of their baby. He agrees and then impulsively kisses Erica. Horrified, Todd runs onto the beach and takes his anger and confusion out by jet-skiing in circles.

Meanwhile, Tandy is devastated that he’s sterile and doesn’t want to break it to Carol that Todd’s test came back positive. It seems that Tandy did a number on his bait and tackle before the virus through drug use and slapstick groin injuries and is indeed sterile. So, Tandy simply tells Carol that Todd’s positive test is his. Soon, Carol is obsessed with her own fertility and is sticking push pins in her face for lack of acupuncture needles.

On the beach, Tandy begins to admit to Carol that he lied to her, but is interrupted by Todd who admits everything to Gail, Melissa and Erica but screws up his heartfelt apology by suggesting they all get together in a “Big Love situation.” The old Tandy would have used Todd’s interruption as an opportunity to slink away or reveal something more benign instead, but to his great credit, still comes clean to Carol and sweetly begs her not to leave him … but then Carol sights someone walking along the beach. It’s Mike. Tandy recognizes him and runs to embrace him … only to punch him straight in the groin,

Will Forte is a huge fan of The Kinks and their music often shows up his projects, including several times in The Last Man on Earth. This time, the final scene was set to “Dreams” from the Percy soundtrack. That’s a bit of an esoteric choice, and it’s a perfect one for the scene where Mike finally meets up with the cast (Sample lyrics: “I could be a king or a football star/Drive around in a big sports car/An astronaut or a millionaire/I could do anything or go anywhere.”)

“Fish in the Dish” is a weirdly sweet but tense episode that focuses more on the relationships between the characters with significant nods to the show’s setting. Which is mostly a good thing. Using the empty world setting here and there instead of making it the main focus of this show would probably get a little old. Instead, it’s used to bounce off smaller stories like Tandy and Carol’s fertility in a world with few people left and Todd’s love triangle.

Likewise, as much as I love Tandy and Carol as characters and all the scenes where Schaal and Forte are able to bounce off each other remain this show’s best moments, I’m glad that the writers are giving large plots to the other remaining characters. Todd’s plot was goofy and well thought out and it will be interesting what other Tandy-less plots will come up through the rest of the season.

More importantly, I’m very excited about Jason Sudeikis finally joining up with the main cast. I would have preferred him joining them at the season finale following a couple episodes of B-plots featuring his journey from Miami to Tucson and then inevitably how he found his way to Malibu. I’m still holding out that this is the plot for the next episode.

Rating: 8.5/10

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