Sunday, April 26, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Last Man on Earth' - Tandy & Todd's Paranoia Leads to Plotting Phil's Demise in 'The Tandyman Can'

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 1.12 "The Tandyman Can"

The cul-de-sac decides to have a re-election for the President of the United States.

Things certainly have gotten more complicated for The Last Man on Earth the larger the ensemble grows. It adds so many more possibilities for the characters in regards to comedic interactions while further making the title pointless. Things were going better for both Tandy and Todd before Gail, Erica and Phil joined the cul-de-sac. It's a huge shift in tone to end the penultimate episode of the season with those two characters sitting by the fire plotting Phil's death. It's dark and sudden while making both of those characters seem even more selfish than they were before. It's not an unearned moment. It's just a surprising direction that the show wants to head in for the final part of its first season.

This episode suggests that Tandy and Todd's friendship has actually grown into something really genuine. The only thing that brought that about though was the addition of a very traditionally beautiful and sexy male character in Phil. Tandy and Todd are nothing in comparison when they stand next to Phil. All the female characters are throwing themselves at Phil in competition to have sex with him. That simply makes Tandy and Todd paranoid that their "good" lives are being taken away from them by someone who is even more nice and handy to the females of the community.

It's the exact same thing that happened when Todd first joined the show and got in the way of Tandy sleeping with traditional blonde beauty Melissa. Tandy worked so hard to tear Todd and Melissa apart just so he could sleep with her to no avail. It only made the two of them stronger as a couple while painting him as this horrible and despicable person. And now, the same thing is happening again. Todd is getting jealous over how much time Melissa and Phil are spending together. He inadvertently is the one to end the relationship because of that boiling jealous. That is what makes the friendship between Tandy and Todd feel stronger than it was previously. Sure, now they are both being painted as horrible people who want to plot a murder just in order to get what they want. But it also helps that now there is someone who is actually on Phil's side. Much too often, Phil's narcissistic ways alienate everyone around him while the show is trying to suggest that the audience should identify with Tandy and his needs. It's never been all that successful.

However, Phil comes into the cul-de-sac ready to make all these improvements to the community's living conditions. He cleans out the garbage pool. He makes a running shower. He fixes things when they break. He has quickly become very handy and vital to the people of the community. He has established trust with the ladies - though that largely comes out of all of them wanting to sleep with him. Carol, Erica and Gail are all throwing themselves at him. An answer is given as to who wins in that sexual battle - with Carol coming out on top and him playing along just as hilariously with her verbal roleplaying in bed. And yet, the desire to sleep with Phil is just too derivative for all the show's female characters. All of them want to sleep with him because he is a genuinely nice human being who is physically in shape. It's not something too different than what Tandy was trying to do earlier this season. But when it comes to the female's point-of-view, the show says it's okay because Phil is a much better person than Tandy ever was. And yet, the episode doesn't spend enough time telling the story from Melissa's perspective. She is the only one who only wants a friendship with Phil. She doesn't want to sleep with him because she likes Todd. Explaining that side of the story is never one of the show's priorities. It simply wants the girls competing over Phil while Tandy and Todd are slowly plotting his death.

The dark twist at the end is unexpected and worrisome because of how much Tandy and Todd actually mean it. They want Phil gone because he is too perfect and ruining their chances to get happiness. And yet, Tandy and Todd are getting exactly what they deserve for thinking that in the first place. Tandy thinks he has control over the community because he is the "President of the United States." His actions are solely driven by his self-interests. The community now sees that and have no problem with electing Phil when the suggestion of a re-vote comes up. Now even more power has been taken away from Tandy. That's debilitating. He needs to win over their respect and the only way he knows how to do that is to lie. When Phil starts bad mouthing Tucson, Tandy makes sure that he and everyone else knows that he has started growing a garden - one that he spends the rest of the night creating just to prove to Phil that it exists. Tandy only did all of that work in order to be right in this feud with Phil. He didn't do it out of genuine concern for the rest of his fellow survivors. That's the biggest explanation for why he'll never get what he wants. But it's still a storytelling device that has grown increasingly problematic the more the show has used it this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Tandyman Can" was written by Matt Marshall and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • In case the parallels between the situation with Phil and the situation earlier with Todd weren't clear enough, the episode actually has Todd say "Friggin' Phil" multiple times.
  • Tandy worrying about having to exert his dominance over Phil in his own home just didn't really work all that well. The nudity was just too awkward to work that effectively as comedy. It was just going for the simple laughs.
  • Carol won over Phil by knitting him a scarf and by connecting with his love of cats. As Gail says, "Well played Carol."
  • If Phil actually had slept with all four women like Todd feared during the night, it really would have made Phil an actual threat to the stability of the community. It was a humorous thought for a second but simply couldn't have been sustainable in the future.