Saturday, April 27, 2019

What's Next On My List? The Last Man On Earth

I have a weird fascination with post-apocalyptic tales, in every medium: movies, TV shows, books or even fan-fictions to some extents. A few years back I spent a whole month reviewing movies of this sort, and entitled that #ApocalypticApril, and I released that I want to add to that anytime I can. I just like to wonder how we are going to go extinct and who, if anyone, will survive it. On that note, I finally got around to binge watching a wonderful series that dealt with the topic from different and all angles.

Phil Tandy Miller believes he is the last man on Earth to have survived a virus that wiped out the population. Just when he sets his mind on ending the pain of loneliness, he stumbles into Carol Pilbasian, who believes she is the last woman on Earth. Phil leaves signs behind as he travels the country for survivors, "Alive in Tucson", and as a result they manage to find couple more people who have survived the apocalypse. Together they try to avoid terrible people that they are bound to encounter while running for their lives.

"The only time you even came close to being special was when everybody died but you."

It was my sister who was watching this show, as it came out, and she suggested we watch it together, seeing my fascination with apocalyptic tales. I was scared shitless at times and I couldn't stop laughing at others. I have to say, right off the bat, that I was taken by this show from the first second. The main reason why I believe this to be exceptionally wonderful as far as the apocalypse is concerned, is that every time I would have come up with any criticism, it was followed by the show resolving that issue in a wonderful way. I really was scared and I felt that at times they acted against instincts, but I had to remind myself that we are all different went it comes to driving forces behind our acts.

"- Well, how was your trip? Did you find any people? 
- Hate to say it, Carebear, but we're all still fighting a raging case of HPV. 
Human people vanished."

Season 1, starts our main character off like an asshole, but it actually shows a mirror to how he was before the virus. Phil was not a very nice man, and it is actually his relationship with Carol that changes him. This apocalypse changed all of them, but what is hard to remember is that once you are surrounded by people, you are likely to fall back into your old ways. After all, it is our reactions to social situations that defines many of us. I do, however, believe in everyone's ability to change if they want to. That is exactly what happened with Phil, renamed Tandy, after they find another Phil Miller. You sort of hate the protagonist in the first season, but you need to keep going with the show, especially because I find it wonderful how just seven people represent every kind of stereotype on the planet right now and their interactions say a lot about us.

"Nobody knew Gordon the way I knew him. He was a friend, a companion, trusted advisor and a valued lover. Sure, he could be a real son of a bitch. He was so cranky in the mornings, and he cussed like a sailor. And he was a bad drunk. He was a mean drunk. Racially insensitive. Male chauvinist pig. Um, and there was the body odor, which was challenging for me, but now I look back and, you know, when somebody dies all that stuff just melts away and you're just left with the good memories. 
So, to Gordon. Easy come, easy go."

Season 2, Carol and Phil need to get back to their friends, and face the mess left behind. The others are reluctant to see how Phil has changed, and overall, just like to mess with him. But some open up, because they work much better together than apart. Tension is always present, and much larger problems come about. Among many, the problem of the team lacking medical knowledge. On top of that, the difficulty of finding proper food. Once the team uncovered a cow, which meant fresh milk after years of eating canned food. Gasoline goes bad and even if they find electricity that is solar panel based, it does not last long. Forced again to move to a safer location, the team heads out after the end of the second season to avoid the persecution of a mad man.

"I made you a very special collection of highly erotic images of women. But unlike the misogynistic, male-centric trash you read, these women are sexy because they're highly intelligent, accomplished, and as far as we know, unmolested. I call it 'female empornment'."

Season 3, I have to say, was my favorite. The team finds an office building that reuses rain water and solar panels and they face much bigger problems on a social scale. One of them, Melissa, starts to behave strangely, and they figure out that she needs medication she stopped using. They also try to teach life to a boy they have found, who will never know what life was prior to the virus. Not to mention, that the women of the group are with child, and the difficulties that might come about in childbirth scare the group, having lost others to complications. What I loved about this season, was the fact that Tandy always comes up with very silly things to do, but that is proof of the limitless amount of creativity a person possesses. See, the main characters never lose their humanity. Even when forced to end a life, they don't sleep easy afterwards. Every single story set in a post-apocalyptic setting details how people lose their humanity and chaos ensues: these characters seek in any way possible to regain that normality and I have found that to be a unique way to tell this tale.

"- What do you mean we're moving? 
- The house is filled with dead bodies sealed up in the walls. It's like a gingerbread house made of corpses, bud.
- And guns! All over the place. You'd swear we were still in America."

Season 4 was the scariest. Among many things, our team of heroes encountered a cannibal, and as such, they were forced to end a life. Before that, they find more people, some of whom - stranded on a deserted island - are completely unaware of what the virus did. And they also find the ghosts of lives past haunting them. Some of the characters behaved unlike themselves, but here I was reminded that what life is now, might have made them act differently in the beginning. See I find that unlike Tandy, the others returned to their older selves when life became manageable. Once settled down, and they have to because of the babies, one might squeeze back into old routines. It was so for Gail, in my opinion, who sold herself as drunken old woman, uninterested in survival, or at least blacking out throughout it. She for one stopped drinking from morning till the evening, at this change happened in the background. Some jokes referred to it, but it was no longer her character trait.
Same with Todd, who was very annoying in the last season, it seemed unlike him to be irritating and needy. But to me, it showed that him being a gentleman is connected to the happiness that came from knowing he is not alone anymore in this apocalypse. Once he too settled in, he might have shown what kind of person he really was before everything went bad. The strongest point of the story, aside from the cliffhanger that ended the season, was the realization that no place will ever be home. They come across a part of land that has goats and trees that bear fruits, and Tandy tells all of them, that they keep moving on hoping that the next place will be better, but there is a time limit on this kind of life, and being parents now, everything rotting around them, cans expiring, this is the only real place that guarantees survival for them. Again, the wish for normalcy overrides any sign of a possible chaos. Our main character, Carol, for one, wishes to adhere to the laws set by humans, even if Tandy sometimes does not. Even if breaking the rules is fun, they never do it in a way that sticks permanently.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've had a fear of being scared."

So what is my overall review? This story was unlike everything else I had the pleasure to see/read in a similar setting. Now, unfortunately the series got canceled before going into its fifth season, but creator Will Forte told in an interview that although our protagonists are survivors, they are also carriers of the virus. As a result, if they come into contact with someone who managed to escape it, they will kill them unknowingly (read the article here!). As far as the cancellation is concerned, I do partly blame the way it was aired: my sister watched it week to week and with cliffhangers here and there, never really knowing when it was back, it just made it frustrating. I am almost certain that views dropped for the same reason. Because, as far as the quality of the show is concerned, it was outstanding. The writing was exceptional, for one, Phil was renamed Tandy during the middle of the season, and he was never referred to as Phil again. I have never seen something like that in any other shows. Then, each season had a special episode, that brought as back to before the virus through the eyes of a guest actor in the show, and how while the virus developed they had to endure seeing their loved ones disappear, waiting to be the next in line to pass away. Chaos did ensue in many places of the country, understandable so. The virus did not take all the bad people away with it, and as a result, it shows that our main characters might still encounter some who mean harm to them. If I had to give an advice to future viewers, it is one of those shows, that is much better to binge watch. 

Watch it? Highly recommended. I wish there was more, because the show made it possible for the viewer to deduce actual conspiracy theories, and that simply survival is not the only thing that the story is about. With the infants surrounding them and having found an actual place to settle down, the story I find was coming near to an ending anyway, and to know what that ending was will always be a question mark. Nonetheless, the ruthless black humor of this show will stay with me for forever! I can only recommend it to everyone.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Phil Tandy Miller - Will Forte
Carol Pilbasian - Kristen Schaal
Melissa Chartres - January Jones
Todd Rodriguez - Mel Rodriguez
Erica Dundee - Cleopatra Coleman
Gail Klosterman - Mary Steenburgen

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