Sunday, September 27, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Last Man on Earth' - Phil and Carol Argue as They Try to Find a New Home in 'Is There Anybody Out There?'

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 2.01 "Is There Anybody Out There?"

Phil and Carol leave Tucson behind and strike out on their own in a road trip across the United States.

The Last Man on Earth was one of the most distinctive and original new comedies of last season. As its season went along, some of the twists started to become formulaic and the characterization wasn't as strong. But it was still a fresh and unique perspective to have. This show knows what it is aspiring to be and it has created a narrative and story that compliment that. The premiere and finale of the first season were such wildly different things. And yet, both worked well as a character study of Phil Miller, a man who survived the apocalypse but who doesn't know how to interact with people once more start showing up. No one truly knows what that kind of isolation can do to someone. There was a stretch in the middle part of the season that turned Phil into a completely unpleasant character. But the finale did enough to make sure he faced the consequences of his actions while presenting this as an ongoing evolution for him.

"Is There Anybody Out There?" has several strong parallels to the series premiere. Each season kicks off with a ridiculously hilarious sequence where some transportation vehicle is somewhere it shouldn't be. Last season it was Phil's RV traveling the country looking for other survivors of the virus. Here, it is a stealth bomber driving around Washington, D.C. It's bigger and even more ridiculous but just as satisfying. Following that outrageous opening sequence is a montage of Phil and Carol enjoying the perks of living in the White House while also just having fun and destroying things. The amount of fun the characters have is infectious. It's joyful to watch the two of them getting along and just having a good time with each other. They seem to fully embrace each other - for better and worse. They both have character traits that just bug each other but they have come to accept that this marriage is something great for both of them.

Phil and Carol are no longer alone. They are no longer searching the country for human connection. They have found each other. They bicker but they do love each other. Phil has come to embrace Carol as the best woman he could have possibly hoped for. She challenges him to be a better person. She stood by his side when everyone else was willing to throw him out of town and back into the desolate world. She's happy with Phil. But wandering the country does get tiresome after awhile. It's a lot of fun exploring and doing outrageous activities in Graceland, Dollywood, Niagara Falls and the White House. But they are also actively searching for a home. Carol is much pickier than Phil ever could have imagined. He is fine living at any of these famous destinations. Their trip across the country together also included stops at Oprah and Lebron's houses. None of them feel right to Carol though.

It's a sweet gesture on Phil's part to take her back to her hometown in Delaware. That was a place where she felt at home for a period of time. He's hoping that's enough for her to finally pick a place to stop and settle down. They've spent six months on the road. He's tired of just driving around searching for a home. She has grown to miss the Tucson crew though. She is happy with Phil but it's hard for her to imagine a home without other people to enjoy life with. She knows Phil can't ever return out of fear of what the other Phil might do to him. But she misses the good company that came from knowing Melissa and Todd. She even misses Gail, Erica and the cow. Phil has a right to be angry at her for wanting to return to Tucson. She chose him over them.

The debate over where to call home leads to a huge fight between Phil and Carol. It got to the point where they would rather not speak or see each other than to sit in silence next to each other in the RV. That then creates a situation where they've possibly lost each other for good. Phil stops to fill the RV with gas and doesn't notice that Carol gets out to shop at the gas station. He leaves without ever knowing he has left her behind. It's a terrifying prospect for both of them. Once again, they are alone in this world. They had happiness and they allowed a petty disagreement to create this divide between them. Phil doesn't know if he'll ever find Carol again. That rocks him to his core. He frantically searches for her for days. And yet, he can't find the gas station where he left her behind.

Phil swallows his pride and his fears to return to Tucson in the hopes that Carol went there. Tucson is the last place both of them called home. It's uncertain what fate will meet Phil there but he's willing to take that risk if it means he can be reunited with Carol. To his surprise however, Tucson is deserted. No one is there. Melissa, Todd, Gail, Erica and New Phil have all left. Dust now settles over what they used to call their community. The only thing that Phil discovers is that his old house has been set on fire. All he finds is that their anger towards him is still so strong. They left nothing behind for him to retrieve. He is truly on his own again.

This premiere opens with the fun and happiness that comes with people being together. It ends with three people being as isolated as they've ever been. Phil is in Tucson uncertain of what to do next in the hopes of being reunited with Carol. Carol is still just sitting at the gas station waiting for Phil to return. He was searching for the wrong franchise of gas stations - an honest mistake. And then, there's Phil's brother, Mike, up in space. This is the first glimpse of that character the audience receives. It's very easy to see the familial connection. Mike is just as desperate to find someone on the ground to help him land his space shuttle. But he is also living in space in the hopes of avoiding the virus. He's talking to the worms that were a part of his experiment. But with only one left by the end of the premiere, he's running out of things to talk to. That could mean he'll be coming down to Earth soon. But for now, he is still alone up in space. He has the potential to reunite with other people. However, he is all alone wondering if there is anybody else out there. The answer is yes. Now, the characters just need to find a way back to each other.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Is There Anybody Out There?" was written by David Noel & John Solomon and directed by John Solomon.
  • The margarita pool makes its rousing return. But it's no longer a symbol of sadness. It's one of happiness and contentment considering Phil and Carol are enjoying it together on the floor of the Oval Office.
  • Gotta love the cut from Phil and Carol having sex to the picture of Bill Clinton.
  • It's always a tad weird to be reminded of what society was like during the height of the virus. Carol's roommate, Glen, did everything possible to cut his room off from the outside world. And yet, he still caught it. That's dark humor.
  • It's amusing that Phil isn't able to hear that he has left Carol behind at the gas station because she is shooting her gun off in unison with the guns in M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" which Phil just happened to turn on. It's a hilarious reveal despite the tragedy of the situation.
  • Any guesses as to where the rest of the Tucson crew moved away to? It's not surprising that they moved considering New Phil was always curious why Tucson was chosen as the place to unite all the survivors of the virus.
  • How long is Carol going to sit at the gas station and wait for Phil? When is she going to be faced with the fear that he may never find her again?
  • Phil: "Sorry! A little traffic." Carol: "Hardy har har."
  • Phil: "Gary, now's not the time to ask if I'm certain it was a Speedy Pump."