Everything about “Screw The Moon” feels inevitable. This sounds like a knock against it, since the show originally made its mark by being so unlike any other sitcom on television. But as Phil got more and more caught up in his own depravity, defiance, and insatiable sex drive, the only question was how long he could go on before it would all catch up to him. The longer he got to go through the same manic motions of trying to sleep with people and creating increasingly convoluted mazes of lies, the more insufferable he got, and so on, and so on, and on, and on, and on. Him getting trapped in this web of his own making is absolutely the way this season needed to end.
The two most predictable but satisfying pieces of “Screw The Moon” are that Tandy realizes he cares about Carol too much to let her go and that everyone realizes how much they hate Tandy. After everything he’s pulled over the last few weeks, the cul de sac’s decision to kick him out just makes sense. Their frustration with him even takes on a new layer of horror when he lets slip that he was going to strand Todd out in the desert. Suddenly, this dude who was an annoying and horny creep feels like a dangerous creep. When there are so few of them left, it’s understandable that they would get tired of pretending to tolerate him when it seems like he might actually be a threat. Boris Kodjoe’s Phil has largely been an innocuous presence, friendly and open more often than not, but he gets to flex a much different muscle when he turns on Tandy. He’s fed up, and he hasn’t even been around for all the shit Tandy’s tried since Melissa showed up. Phil’s fed up, Erica and Gail (who remain a unit for all intents and purposes) are fed up, Melissa’s always been fed up, and Todd’s… well, dealing with the fact that Tandy wanted to kill him. Carol isn’t exactly mad, but she’s definitely disappointed, and that’s always worse.
And so Tandy is brought to his lowest point—or, more accurately, brought back to his lowest point. Holing up in his room for a three-day protest makes him regress into the Phil we saw in the pilot, chewing on chunks of toilet paper instead of floating listlessly in a margarita kiddie pool. The cul de sac at large can’t be bothered to deal with it, but there is one person who knew Phil at his lowest, and she can’t let go quite as easily. Carol coaxes him out—not with a raisinball, which he rejects for the aforementioned roll of toilet paper, but with the promise of a truce. Finally, he wanders out of the room, tentatively tiptoes outside, listens to Gail play “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane” on her accordion. Everyone is smiling, everyone seems ready to forgive… until he looks at Todd, who can’t look him in the eye.
Cut to: Phil Miller—the incredibly tall and fit Phil Miller—tackling the Tandy Formerly Known as Phil Miller to the ground.
Phil drives Tandy out to the desert and throws him two days of supplies (which seems needlessly cruel, when he probably could’ve just driven him to an actual town while he was at it). “Don’t even think about coming back to Tucson,” he says, and Tandy is devastated. Will Forte’s had plenty of room to stretch his buffoonery muscles for Tandy’s breakdowns, but he’s especially heartbreaking in this episode when the group says they’ll expel him and he protests that Tucson is his home. It’s what he couldn’t say when Phil asked “why Tucson?” Tandy just feels at home here, where he went to high school, where his parents are buried. It’s another genuinely bruising moment in this sitcom, which in recent weeks seemed to be avoiding the fact that this show takes place after almost everyone on the planet dies.
Cut to: “TWENTY MINUTES LATER,” when Tandy’s eaten and drank everything in his supply kit.
For a second, it looks like the show’s really going to let him wander off into the desert as The Last Man On Earth all over again, and it even makes sense. Carol’s with Other Phil, Melissa tells Todd she really does love him (which is different than “I love you,” except not at all), and Erica and Gail are… getting drunk and playing the accordion, probably. He’s as good as dead to Tucson, and so he’s got to figure out another way to live on his own. Again.
But then, just like the last time he thought he was finished, there’s Carol.
Carol’s been a controversial character ever since she showed up, thanks to her strict adherence to the “old world” laws and her constant nagging. Phil couldn’t stand her, and many viewers also found her to be over-the-top. New and more “normal” neighbors came by as the weeks went along, but if there’s anything that Tandy’s descent proved, it’s that he can’t do “normal” anymore. As he said, he kind of forgot how to interact with people while he was alone, and his desperation to fit in (and get laid) made him spiral into a barely functional person who locks himself in a room and sucks on a tube of toothpaste. As much as this season stalled midway through, it’s also been working toward getting Phil to the point where he realizes he needs Carol. She’s a stickler, and she doesn’t indulge his crap, but he needs that. As I said in their first full episode together, Carol is his counterpart. They might not see eye to eye on much at all, but they both are prone to extremes, and if they can figure out how to balance it out, they just might be golden.
These last few minutes of the episode are some of the series’ best minutes ever. Carol rolls over Gary, Tandy’s best friend slash volleyball, and asks him to sing the song he wrote for her. It’s earnest, and it’s sad, and it’s funny in a pathetic kind of way—which means it feels the most like the show the pilot seemed to promise. When you break down “Screw The Moon,” Eric Durbin and John Soloman’s script is actually very interesting that way. Every other scene feels like it came out of the bittersweet pilot, like Tandy talking to his best friends/balls in the bar or eating toilet paper in his room. The others are more scenes from the suburban couples comedy that the show evolved into once more people joined the cast. This is especially noticeable when you compare this final moment against the first time Tandy and Carol talk in the episode, when Carol brags about her casual sex and he sputters that that’s “kind of [his] thing.” I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that I preferred the first show, so it’s no surprise how much I like this last scene. Both characters can be stuck in their ways, which means they can feel like they’re just stuck in general, but they’ve both learned so much since they first met that this is a totally different and absolutely believable interaction. When Tandy finishes his nonsensical but touching song, Carol shrugs and smiles. Somehow, it feels completely right when she asks, “so, where should we go?”
So they agree to start over, which is a relief if only because I can stop forcing my word processor to accept the name “Tandy” now. But it’s also a very intriguing way to end the season, since there really is no limit to where they can take this from here on out. (It also would have worked as a series finale, which had to be in the back of the producers’ minds, since they didn’t know if they’d get a second season until after shooting finished.) Sure, Phil and Carol could end up in another suburb somewhere north of Albuquerque, but I hope they do something wildly different just because they can. I don’t even need to see the other neighbors again so long as Forte and Schaal are steering this show in unexpected directions. This show has the chance to get truly weird and wonderful—as proved by that last image of Phil’s brother (Jason Sudeikis), The Last Man In Space, floating in zero gravity and counting the days that go by without getting in touch with Houston.
The Last Man On Earth has had some growing pains, but there’s still no other show that could do that.
- Thanks for watching/reading along with me this season! I can’t wait for the next, and look forward to your wild speculation re: what it might bring.
- This episode features some very beautiful direction from writer John Solomon (who also co-wrote MacGruber with Forte).
- Will Forte’s best moments: running and screaming away from the campfire mid-sentence, balancing the chairs against the door, screaming at Phil before crying mid-sentence, “Screw the Moon.”
- I’m sure Phil having an astronaut for a brother has nothing to do with his crippling insecurity issues, no sir.
- Phil’s right, Kristen Schaal is radiant. I hope she got to keep that cherry dress, but if she didn’t, someone should get it over to me, please.
- “I don’t want to be with a man who leaves someone in the desert to die. I want to be with the man who didn’t have the heart to go through with it.”
- “I gotta be honest with you, Carol: I feel like you’re making a big mistake here.” “I know. Come on.”