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[Warning: This post contains spoilers from Sunday’s season finale of The Last Man on Earth, “Screw the Moon.”]
The Last Man on Earth is broadening its horizons and exploring new spaces — including, well, space itself.
The new hit Fox comedy wrapped its very successful freshman run this Sunday with an episode that reached new heights, literally, and saw not one final twist, but two.
After Phil “Tandy” Miller’s (Will Forte, who also co-created the show) plan to kill the handsome new Phil Miller (Boris Kodjoe) backfired spectacularly, as co-conspirator Todd (Mel Rodriguez) discovered that Tandy almost followed through with a similar plan against him, Tandy finally is confronted for his sins.
Trying to run away from the conflict, Tandy holes himself up inside his house, toilet-paper corn dogs and all, but it’s a futile attempt, as eventually new Phil tries to take care of the Tandy problem once and for all — by exiling him from Tucson and leaving him alone in the desert.
However, knowing he lacks the willpower to survive, Carol (Kristen Schaal) comes to Tandy’s aid, and, after he sings the song he (actually) did write for her, the two decide to leave Tucson together and move on to (potentially) greener pastures.
“From the pilot, where [Carol] asks ‘Are you a nice person?’ and [Phil] says ‘Yes,’ she has this theory that there’s a good person inside of him that she’s going to bring out,” Chris Miller, who executive produces the show with Phil Lord, said of the two’s final moment. “[It] was a test to say, ‘If that was a lie too, then I don’t know if there’s any hope for you.’ And it turned out to be a moment of sincere vulnerability, enough to let her think there’s a good person deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down inside there.”
Meanwhile, floating high above the earth, the show delivered another truly out-of-this-world twist, with the reveal that Phil’s brother, played by Forte’s former Saturday Night Live co-star Jason Sudeikis, is still alive and up in space.
So where do Phil, Carol and the rest of the show go from here? And where in the world are all the dead bodies? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Forte, Miller and Lord to answer all of these burning questions and more.
The first big twist of the finale was that Carol went off into the sunset with Phil. Did she always know, in the back of her mind, that she would go with him, or did his song really give her a change of heart at the last minute?
Will Forte: She definitely didn’t go out there with the intention of going with him. There’s an element in her that often sees [Phil as] a still-unfinished project. She’s suspicious of him, but when she sees that he’s quite possibly being honest for the first time in a while, she gets reignited. Is that the right word? (Singing) Reignited and it feels so good …
Phil Lord: We talked a lot about that scene in edit. We wanted to make it more of a decision.
Forte: There was a lot more dialogue [written] that explained that she’s going. When we did the table read [however], it seemed like the song did some of the work for us. That song was written by Mary Steenburgen. I was looking for something to sing at the table read and she said, “Why don’t you try this?” She is an amazing songwriter and created this song.
Lord: Is “screw the moon” her line?
Miller: That just sounds like such a thing Will Forte would say.
Forte: That was the hardest thing to do the entire season, singing that song. It’s hard not to feel very vulnerable.
Phil drew a bit of criticism this season for how jerky he got at times. Were you ever afraid that perhaps he would become too unlikable, or was it always the natural character arc you planned?
Forte: We knew what his arc was going to be the whole way through. Looking back, would we have shortened the jerk period a little? Yeah, there are a bunch of things we might have done, but I’m fine [… and] really proud with how it generally laid out. It was always part of the plan. [He] invited everybody here to Tucson with his signs, so he felt this weird sense of entitlement, and when he wasn’t getting his way, he spun out and gradually found his way again.
Lord: That finder’s keepers feeling is an authentically human feeling, and it is behind many of the great conflicts in the human history — these people were here first, and these other people want to move in. I love that this show boils down humanity into these very essential conflicts as represented by as few people as possible.
With the two of them riding off into the sunset, will season two take place in a new location?
Forte: That’s all stuff we need to figure it out. The way we leave it at the end of this episode is so open-ended that we can do really anything. They could change their mind and go straight back to the cul-de-sac. They could go live somewhere else for anywhere between one and nine episodes. The possibilities are endless. We [could] really play with the loneliness a little more and these characters being isolated and having to deal with each other more one on one.
Lord: I called Will after we got picked up was like, ‘How many episodes do you think we could do where they’re on rafts adrift at sea?’ (Laughs.)
Miller: Could we do like eight or nine and go to Hawaii?
Lord: That’s the way we are thinking about it. We’re trying to come up with ways that mix it up.
Forte: We loved seeing that world just with Phil and Carol. Along the way, though, it felt like once you add more people, you can’t go back. We thought that was the period of the show that people were going to get impatient with and did what we thought was the best thing. Now, we might get a chance to revisit.
Will the rest of the Tucson gang be back, or is the show moving forward without them?
Forte: Those people are not going anywhere. You are going to be seeing friggin’ Mary Steenburgen and Cleopatra [Coleman], Mel, January [Jones] and everyone.
Lord: It would be such a Will Forte move to kill off your own character early in the season. (Laughs.)
Forte: I tried to do that with the Falconer on SNL. I tried to kill myself after like the fifth one and have Amy Poehler come through …
Miller: It was frowned upon? (Laughs.)
Forte: It was not met with happiness.
The other big twist was the reveal of Jason Sudeikis’ character. How did that twist come about? Did you always plan to reveal it as the last shot in the finale?
Forte: We had toyed with the idea of having it happen around the fifth or sixth episode and checking in throughout the year, as this person is doing different things up there. And then, productionwise, everythingwise, we got more excited about it as being a weird way to end the season finale.
Lord: The last shot would have been edited differently if we didn’t think we were coming back. That last shot is what you do if you know what’s happening — that this is the very last episode of the show ever, or you’re coming back. If we had been operating under a question mark, it would have been harder to pull that off. We would have been playing scared. It was really nice to finish the show with a lot of confidence.
How will we see the show deal with that new dimension next season? Will Sudeikis be back as a regular?
Forte: We didn’t anticipate a second season, so we just thought, ‘Oh, good, it will be a fun thing to do, and we’ll never have to deal with it.’ (Laughs.) We have little ideas for what we want to do with Jason, [but] we have to be realistic. He’s as good as it gets as an actor and comedian, and he’s got a ton of stuff to do. He was doing us a real favor just by doing what he did.
Miller: That [twist] was planted in the first episode. When Phil moves into his new house, he puts up a photograph of his family, and Jason is in that picture. It was on so briefly that only a few people noticed it.
How big, feasibly, can this cast get without drifting too far from the show’s fundamental premise?
Forte: We’re more excited by a smaller group of people. This arc of the first season was not out of laziness — we weren’t afraid to stay in the moments — this was just a way to introduce the cast in an interesting and slow way. I don’t think we’ll bring more people, and if we do, it will probably be a really small number.
Miller: The show is really defined by constantly changing its dynamics. There’s lots of different ways to keep the dynamics of the show changing and keeping it surprising and full of twists — and not just by adding characters.
The show was super successful right out of the gate and quickly was picked up for 13 more episodes in season two. Is there a possibility for more? Is this a show that can sustain 22 episodes?
Miller: There is a possibility for more. We’ve been talking to [Fox] about the right amount. We [don’t] want to do a full 22, especially because Will is so instrumental in the writer’s room, and he’s on set all the time and in the edit room. It’s really difficult to keep up the level of quality we want in that many episodes without him dying. (Laughs.) We want him to live.
Forte: This is actually my first day off. I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I’m probably just going to sit here and watch TV. It’s a really exciting day.
Lord: You should catch up on Last Man on Earth, Will. I’m like five episodes behind.
Will you be midseason again, or is there a possibility to be on in the fall?
Lord: We’ve heard both.
Miller: That’s the goal. Hopefully, that’s our mission.
Like a split season, perhaps?
Forte: That’s what gets us excited the most. For the three of us, that seems to make the most sense and be the most fun, in terms of creating two nice little arcs instead of one big arc.
Lord: We’re the only people in the world [who] advocated for this first run to be shorter, like, ‘Can this be 10 episodes? That seems like more succinct.’ That makes us the worst television producers in the world. It’s neat to think of the next season as two miniseasons.
Will we learn more of this mysterious virus in the next season?
Forte: I do have an idea that would deal with the virus and give us a chance to learn more about the virus. We’re definitely not going to do something just to get information out about the virus or have them have a conversation about the virus. It would have to be some organic thing. As for dead bodies, that’s something we’ve always wanted. We had dead bodies in the pilot but were instructed to remove them.
Lord: I’d love to have an answer where he goes into one building, and they’re all there. All the dead bodies had one last concert at the Super Bowl stadium, and everybody went and died there.
Miller: There was a thought, just recently, that there should just be clothes lying around on the ground all over the place. A flesh- and bone-eating virus.
Lord: That would have been the perfect answer: Their skeletons were gobbled up, and there was nothing left of them. Instead, right now, it’s a clothes-, bone- and flesh-eating virus.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in season one that you’ll take with you to season two?
Forte: The biggest lesson was just not biting off more than we can chew, storywise. The last two or three episodes, we had to cut so much, whole storylines. That’s a huge thing, to tell the story in a more economical way. Having to edit so much makes you lose little nuances. Everything seems a little more blunt and abrupt. It’s easier when we have [fewer] characters. You have longer scenes and can cut around a little more.
Opinions on the finale? Any hopes about where they might end up in season two? Have a favorite moment from season one? Sound off in the comments below!
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