The Last Man on Earth
was canceled in May, a few days after its season four finale. That’s just a cold-hard fact we’ve had to live with. Unlike newly NBC-acquired Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another wonderful comedy Fox axed that same day, Last Man has not been saved by a superhero-esque network, despite our entreaties, a tragedy made all the more tragic by the open-ended way in which Last Man came to a close. (Warning: Spoilers abound from this point on.)
Season four concluded with Tandy (Will Forte), Carol (Kristen Schaal) and their rag-tag band of apocalyptic landscape-traversing survivors ending up face to face with an intimidating group of bunker-dwelling, gas mask-clad strangers, who confront and surround our protagonists at their makeshift encampment. It’s the kind of climactic endpoint that is perfect for a show with another card (read: season) yet to play, but brutal for a show soon to have the rug pulled out from under it. Fortunately, though it appears Last Man has rode off into the sunset for good, creator and star Forte has at least let fans of the show in on where it was headed next, had a fifth season come to pass.
“[The others] went down [into the bunker] when the virus had first started,” Forte said on Vulture’s Good One podcast. “They had some kind of medical expert or scientist who knew, ‘At this certain point, the virus will be dormant. You’ll be safe to get back out,’ and they had reached that point. Then they see a bunch of stragglers—us—and we represent a real threat to them, because they thought [everyone] was dead, so they quarantine us. We eventually communicate with them a little bit. They get comfortable with us. They look scary but they end up being nice people.”
In classic Last Man style, Forte also revealed that the bunker dwellers’ number would have included a famous guest star or two—one of whom, in accordance with this show’s rigid internal logic, would be required to die after, say, 30 seconds of screen time. Sure enough, Forte continued, “And eventually we’d all get comfortable with each other … We are immune to the virus, but we’re carriers. And so we would infect them and they’d die like wildfire. And then we’re back to just our little group, and maybe one famous [guest star] we could talk into staying around.”
Though Forte said he imagined a fifth season of Last Man would have been its last, he revealed that he had not given much thought to the series’ ultimate conclusion. “We don’t know how we were going to end the show,” he said. “We would have found something that would have been fitting for the audience.” Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.
In his mid-May essay arguing that Last Man deserves a second life, Paste’s own Jim Vorel writes, “Just don’t let the story of The Last Man on Earth end where it has. Forte and co. clearly have ideas for where they wanted this thing to go next—don’t rob us of TV’s strangest, most unique comedy, just when it’s on the verge of taking a major step forward.” Now that we know from Forte’s own lips what that next step would be, hope springs eternal that some ballsy streaming service takes a chance on giving Last Man the last hurrah it so richly deserves.