TV Review: The Last Man on Earth (2×13): “Skidmark”



The unlikely but inevitable reunion of the Miller brothers has been something that The Last Man on Earth has been building to all season. Although it could have been saved for the season finale, the allure of Jason Sudeikis joining this cast was probably too hard to for the writers to ignore. Or maybe filming Sudeikis driving through Oklahoma or wherever was too expensive to do.

Anyway, we’re back to the end of last episode, where Mike and Tandy see each other for the first time in years. Mike has come all the way from space, long thinking he is alone, and through sheer circumstance discovers that his brother is alive with other survivors. Tandy reverts to old Tandy immediately upon seeing him and tackles him to the ground. It seems that Tandy is still grudgeful against Mike for stealing a (long dead) girlfriend away from him.

Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte are funny together from the first frame they share with one another and it’s a sheer joy to see them bounce off one another. The physical comedy bit at the beginning of this episode is really great as we see two characters that have grown to be above pettiness fight each other on the beach

Eventually, Mike and Tandy become emotional over the sheer coincidence of the two of them surviving the virus and finding each other. This is where a blubbering Tandy introduces Mike to the group. It’s awkward.

Turns out Mike had followed the signs and made it to Tucson. He tells the group that if Tandy had survived, he would have headed to the swankier part of town where an Arena Football player he was obsessed with lived. There, he just so happened to find Melissa’s note and traveled to Malibu. Over dinner, Mike thoroughly embarrases Tandy, revealing his embarrassing nickname Skidmark and in general acting like the life of the party that Tandy never was.

Tandy, isn’t below being cruel to his brother in return, and forces Mike to sleep on a couch on the deck instead of inside, the first of many instances of Tandy defining various things and people as behind a dibs system (Todd, apparently, has “dibbed” the indoors couch). Throughout the episode, the old, asshole Tandy rears his head on more than one occasion from the return of his brother, and it’s a bad look for him and the show for him to revert to a state of jealoust and envy.

Here, however, the dynamics have changed from the unlikeable Tandy of season one and it will be interesting to where the writers take this new streak of behaviour

Tandy does get multiple, sweet redemptive scenes in the episode, and it always revolves around his relationship with Carol. The two finally address Tandy’s sterility in a very touching way, Like every moment they’ve been alone together this season, the scene is offbeat, but earnest and genuine. Carol, after all, reminds Tandy that she’s with him because she loves him, not because she wants a baby.

Mike is an immediate hit with the group. He has taken his isolation completely differently from Tandy’s and is relieved to be around a bunch of people again, and fits right in with his charming personality. Unlike Tandy, who everyone – his own wife included – had to slowly get used to, Mike fits right in with people he barely knows and has been flung together with by sheer circumstance and proximity to his brother.

Meanwhile, Tandy and Mike bicker like little kids over minor details throughout the episode, but are genuinely happy to see each other again. This is really key to the strength of this episode. If Tandy just reflexively hated and dismissed Mike, it would have been really unrealistic and even a bit of a retread of several past episode but with Jason Sudeikis in place of Boris Kodjoe. Instead, there’s a handful of very sweet gestures and remarks between Tandy and Mike throughout the episode, including Tandy’s reaction to Mike’s bonfire idea.

At the Bonfire, Mike continues to impress the group, least of all when they coax them to play something on a nearby guitar. Mike opts to play David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in one of the very best scenes this show has ever produced. The scene is incredibly touching, from Sudiekis’ performance to reaction shots of the other actors. Considering what that song means to Mike, who wa stuck alone on the International Space Station for years, and in return the other survivors, who are all alone without loved ones, except for Tandy and Mike who have been reunited through extraordinary circumstances. Even Tandy and Carol, the most healthy, genuine relationship on the entire show, is one between two mismatched oddballs who would have never met each other if it wasn’t for the virus.

The performance is a stirring and wonderful that means a lot more thematically to the episode than any other David Bowie tribute that could have been prospectively shoehorned into the plot of any other given show; It’s entirely likely that script was written before Bowie died.

Mike breaks down in the middle of the song and everyone consoles him except for Tandy, which is sort of a dick move on his part, but it isn’t even the shittiest thing he does in the episode.

The show isn’t entirely devoted to Mike. Todd finally resolves his love triangle between Gail and Melissa. At first Gail takes the fallout from Todd’s admission a lot better than Melissa does. As Gail transports a comically large keg of wine to the bonfire, she and Melissa make up and consider their options. Later, they confront Todd and agree to share him. The beats on this B-plot go fairly fast and are spread out a little too far apart, as if the resolution to this plot was an afterthought. It would have been better if this got its own episode, or at least similar screen time to the Mike plot.

Meanwhile, Tandy proposes a bigger event to welcome Mike to Malibu. The crew arrives late and drunk to the amphitheater and a sober, dorky Tandy puts on awkward display with too much smoke and a lot of bad keytar. He does a goofy, probably improved take on “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that displays Will Forte’s gift to be very funny when left to his own devices. Mike’s goofy dancing getting more of a reaction than his display receives leads Tandy to explode on his brother. He reveals several deeply embarrassing and cruel facts about Mike: namely that he had plagiarized his college thesis and had to switch schools and he missed the death of their grandmother to take a kayak trip with friends. A humiliated Mike goes home and the rest of the crew is angry at Tandy for reverting to the petty season one Tandy.

Eventually, Carol admonishes Tandy for his behavior and gets him to agree to apologize to his brother first thing in the morning. We smash cut to the morning and a very conspicuously placed camera that eventually reveals that Mike got even with Tandy in a very specific way: by shaving half of his beard and head (which explains Forte showing up with a similar look at this year’s Golden Globes)

“Skidmark” is a decent episode, but I feel it could have been paced a little better and the Todd plot could have been given a little more love.

I’m a little cautious about how the show will treat Mike over the coming weeks. He comes off as much of an asshole in this episode as Tandy does, but only seems to get away with it through his charisma and people skills.  I hope they do something with him soon so that he doesn’t become another antagonist to Tandy  like Phil 2. After all we spent so much of this season with Mike, rooting for him and his inevitable reunion with his brother. It would be unfortunate for his character to go off the rails so quickly after joining the main cast.

Ultimately, it serves to set up whatever the final few episodes of the season will throw at these characters. Jason Sudeikis is still listed as a recurring guest star, and I hope he transitions into a regular so I don’t have to worry about this show killing off another character.

Rating: 7.5/10


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