This week’s episode of The Last Man on Earth features the group at their lowest ebb, collectively at their wit’s end following a bungled road trip. It’s also the best episode of the season so far, and arguable one of the best in the entire series.
Last week, the group finally decided to abandon Malibu after Pat’s departure. They opt to take their cavalcade of novelty pop culture cars to San Francisco, but when they arrive at the City by the Bay, we discover that entire place has burnt to the ground: consequences of a lonely Tandy lighting off the entire contents of a fireworks factory two years prior.
The group drive aimlessly while they look for a Plan B, but are ultimately unable to come up with one. What’s worse, their cars keep breaking down and Tandy has become progressively more obnoxious as the trip wears on – either in a severely botched attempt to lighten the mood or just because he can’t help himself. Eventually he gets on everyone’s – including Carol – nerves to the point where everyone dreads even travelling in the same bus as him. At their lowest possible point, the group is reduced to walking on foot, eventually stumbling on a patio store in the middle of nowhere. Unable to choose between destinations both realistic (Vancouver, Portland) and not (Tampa, Dollywood), Gail decides to leave for Napa.
Gail’s remarks in this episode are some of the most pointed in the show’s history – the group isn’t a family, but simply a group of people who met at the end of the world. Moreso than any time during season one, this speech and Gail’s near-departure is the lowest possible point of the group in the entire series. It is a point where the group barely likes one another (even Carol was getting sick of Tandy’s obnoxious optimism), and is the closest to falling apart. It’s a good shock of sobering humanity to what is often a very offbeat show. The show has gotten contemplative and dramatic before, but this was the first time since Tandy and Carol returned that the group’s existence as a unit felt threatened
Naturally, the show didn’t go the route of splitting the group up. Melissa just so happens to spot something in the distance while the rest of the group are unsuccesfully attempting to convince Gail to stay. Melissa has gone off-the-deep-end since she emotionlessly killed one of Pat’s crewmembers in the premiere, so it’s understandable that they would initially ignore her.
The mansion (or hotel, or whatever it is) that they discover in the distance might seem like a bit of deus ex machina, but if we’re going to call The Last Man on Earth on this, we might as well for nearly the entire premise. As such, I’ll let them slide for the group finding a magic, solar-powered building in the middle of nowhere at the perfect time (considering their location north of San Francisco, it would be a hoot if it turned out to be George Lucas’ place or something like that).
“Five Hoda Kotbs” is a great episode of Last Man On Earth, not just because it brings the show’s post-apocalyptic premise to the forefront, but also how it brings the characters down to their most primal in their lowest possible point. It’s the kind of downbeat episode that works wonders for a high concept comedy series every once and while