Phil (Will Forte) might be the last man on Earth, but we now know that Carol (Kristen Schaal) isn’t the last woman. Last week I wrote about how open-ended The Last Man on Earth was after its first two episodes and how it could head in so many different directions. I knew roughly that this was one direction the show was probably headed in, though—January Jones’s casting was widely announced several months ago, and now I wish paying attention to casting news wasn’t something that sometimes happens as part of my job. As soon as Phil fully committed to marrying Carol this episode, it was easy to guess how Jones would show up: as the other woman who would immediately make Phil regret his decision.
Before that kicker at the end, though, The Last Man on Earth followed up on its fantastic debut with another great half-hour. It still doesn’t feel like a network show, with an odd pace and an unwillingness to underline its jokes. Forte still underplays his predicament—some comics would be tempted to go manic and bug-eyed, pulling a Robin Williams to get across how crazed they’ve become in isolation, but Forte wisely resists that urge. Schaal gets to be a bit more demonstrative than Forte, but she’s still reasonably restrained. Her hopes of trying to create some semblance of a “normal” life might annoy Phil (spaghetti and raisinballs is about as disgusting as makeshift postapocalyptic food gets), but it doesn’t seem weird to me—she’s trying to cope in the best way she can, by trying to keep some flicker of society alive in a dead world.
The wedding scene boils these two characters down to their basics. Carol treats it as legitimately as she can, finding a church and a gown and preparing a tape of her acting as the officiant. Meanwhile Phil can’t hide his utter disinterest in the entire proceedings, showing up in ratty clothes and forgetting to find rings, the only responsibility Carol tasked him with. This might sound like well-trod territory, with a woman getting uptight and controlling over a wedding, and a bored, selfish man putting forth the least amount of effort, but the very concept of the show forces a new delivery for this old joke. The show smartly doesn’t judge either too harshly—both sides make a good bit of sense. Even if Phil’s attitude can be justified by the collapse of humanity, it’s still hard not to feel bad for Carol once Phil realizes how dedicated she is to preserving a recognizable way of life.
Eventually the two meet halfway, leading to more of the joyful anarchy we glimpsed during the debut last week. Carol becomes a willing participant in Phil’s destructive pastimes, playing racquetball with him in his foyer and engaging in some recreational blowtorching. They’re a cute couple when they’re on the same page. Her commitment earns his, and it’s during the consummation of their newly wedded union that Last Man on Eart finally hits peak Schaal. Carol’s absurd, defiantly unsexy dirty talk is a hilarious reminder of the outsized comic persona Schaal has developed over her career, and Forte’s almost horrified confusion is the perfect response.
And then, after finally starting to tolerate each other, Phil blasts through one of the stop signs Carol asked him to still follow and plows into a moving limousine. Having read those casting announcements, it wasn’t much of a shock when Betty Draper stepped out, and if the “next episode” previews don’t pull a Mad Men and purposefully try to confuse or mislead us, it’s fair to say that Phil’s commitment to Carol will be tested greatly.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. Follow him on Twitter @grmartin.