It’s a sentiment that the first two episodes back only scratch the surface; the premiere, “Is There Anybody Out There?,” is really a showcase for what hasn’t changed about The Last Man on Earth. Former The Office EP Dan Sterling has taken over for Forte as showrunner, but any shifts in direction this may have caused behind the scenes are unnoticeable on screen. Through the first hour of the new season, chaos and character relationships continue to be The Last Man on Earth’s areas of expertise.
The show’s frequent surprises in casting and location were a real treat last year, so talking around any specifics of season 2 seems only fair. Generally speaking, things are much the same as we left them after season 1. Phil, AKA Tandy, has still been banished from Tucson by the other Phil, and Carol has chosen to stay with him. “Is There Anybody Out There?” promptly gets back into the swing of things by playing out as a remixed version of the pilot. The result is a strong refresher on TLMoE’s liberating use of a people and responsibility-free environment for absurd prop and physical comedy. (Some of the best gags are so ridiculous that they work even when viewed on screeners featuring unfinished FX shots).
What the second episode, “The Boo,” suggests is that season 2 could be just as much about Carol becoming a new person thanks to Phil as vice versa. It’s a given that the premiere would involve Phil screwing things up somehow, but now Carol’s response to the situation matters just as much as Phil’s attempts to make things right. Schaal and Forte are terrific in combination together, but The Last Man on Earth is often at its funniest when stranding characters in an empty landscape with no one else to bounce off of. “The Boo” manages some of the most delightful sequences of the series so by first giving the stars a solo spotlight, and then ingeniously putting them back together.
The first two episodes back are such an effective display of what The Last Man on Earth has to offer that it’s surprising Fox isn’t airing them back-to-back the way they did for many episodes of season 1. Given the despairing state of this year’s pilots, stringing out a solid sophomore as long as possible makes sense, especially one prone to ending with intriguing cliffhangers. At its best during season 1, The Last Man on Earth was among the most unpredictable shows on television. What’s left to be seen is whether Phil and his show will repeat their old mistakes, or become the best version of themselves we all hope they will.
The Last Man on Earth returns with the same winning ingredients, and maybe a little added depth to its margarita pool of post-apocalypse farce.