'The Last Man on Earth' finale: Will Forte on that double cliffhanger ending and what happens next
[SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on if you haven’t seen, “Screw the Moon,” Sunday night’s episode of The Last Man on Earth.]
Well, that’s one way to end a season. Actually, make that two ways. Sunday night’s season-ending episode of Fox post-apocalyptic comedy The Last Man on Earth gave us a double whopper of a cliffhanger/twist that fired the imagination with possibility. In the final minutes of the finale, we watched as Phil, er, Tandy (Will Forte) was banished from the cul-de-sac by New Phil (Boris Kodjoe), who dumped him on a lonely desert road with only two days of supplies (which he promptly ate). Luckily, Carol (Kristen Schaal) arrived with more snacks, and more importantly, companionship: After listening to the romantic song he wrote about her, she surprised him by saying that she’d join him on his adventure to points unknown. And then things got “bonkers,” as series star/creator Will Forte had promised. As those two drove off, we ventured into deep space, where, as it turns out, Tandy’s brother (played by Jason Sudeikis, and previously seen only in a photograph) has been floating around on a spacecraft, crossing off the days that have been spent futilely trying to contact anyone back on Earth. The finale concluded with him gazing forlornly out the window at our planet, set to the tune of “Supersonic Rocket Ship” by The Kinks. (Jason Sudeikis is… The Last Man In Space.) Got a few questions orbiting your brain? Of course you do. Which is why EW rang up Forte for some answers.
Where on Earth are Phil and Carol headed? And what does this mean for all of those other characters that joined the show later in the season? Forte cautions that the plotting of season 2 is in the embryonic stages, though he notes, “I have one idea that would be a really fun first episode. It is fair to say that you haven’t seen the last of the old new gang, despite Phil’s banishment. “Obviously we’re not going to not show Mary Steenburgen or Cleopatra [Coleman] or Mel [Rodriguez] or January [Jones] or Boris,” he says. “They’re so important to the show. There’s a lot of room for play and it opens us up to having some time where the characters are once again in a very desolate situation. We really want to open up the world and look at the starting up of a society again with just a small group of people and basic rules…. Phil is not allowed on the cul-de-sac right now. It is entirely possible that Phil and Carol could be living somewhere else for the whole season, and we’re checking in on the different people. But I would think that they would somehow rendez-vous at some point earlier in the season.”
Is Phil truly going to try this time to make a relationship with Carol work? “Is this just a situation of you want what you can’t have, or is he truly in love with her?” Forte asks right back. “That’s how we go into season 2. They’re still totally different people and they have such different world views, we still think it’s going to be really fun to see how they act as a couple. Not in any way would I ever compare it to this, but an Archie-and-Edith type situation, or Sam and Diane—that’s what you shoot for, these two different people who just somehow are together.”
When did Carol decide to stay with Tandy? While you might be wondering if she had a change of heart before she left the cul-de-sac— as she told him in the desert, “I don’t want to be with a man who can leave someone in the desert to die; I want to be with the man who doesn’t have the heart to go through with it”— that was not her intention when driving out to meet him in the middle of nowhere, according to Forte. “In our minds, Carol came out to the desert just to give him supplies,” he says. “She had no clue that she would be ending up with him and it just kind of hits her after the song. When he told her about the song, she didn’t believe him immediately. He’s told her a million things. We edited the show a million different ways, and it used to be edited in a way that you really didn’t believe that he had written a song, so we put a lot on that song. You can tell that Phil actually took the time to write this song and was feeling very real feelings toward Carol. [Click here to read more about the song, which was written by cast member Mary Steenburgen.] It’s an impulsive decision that she makes and Phil even says, ‘I think you’re making a really bad decision here.’ But she’s willing to take the chance and Phil really appreciates that.”
Where did he and the writers get the idea for Phil’s brother to be stuck in space? Sorry to disappoint, but its origins do not date back to “Potato Chip,” a Saturday Night Live NASA sketch featuring Forte and Sudeikis. “As early as the pilot, when we were thinking about including flashbacks, we would talk about Phil’s relationship with different members of his family,” says Forte. “We had this idea for a brother that was much more successful than he was, and even had written a scene in which his mother is trying to give him a pep talk, and they’re at some dinner, and his brother the senator/astronaut is introducing him at a big speech, and it really takes the wind out of the pep-talk sails.” While finishing up a draft of a script from the middle of the season, he recalls he simply tacking on the space shocker at the end. “The original idea was to introduce it in episode 5 or 6, and then every couple of episodes cut to him doing something up there,” he says. “But then we just decided it would be more fun to end [the season] on this discovery… Jason is a close friend, and he was, thank God, willing to do it.”
When will we see more of Phil’s brother? And how often will we see him? Much of that answer hinges on the calendar of Mr. Sudeikis. “We’re still trying to figure out what his involvement will be,” says Forte. “I mean, he’s got a freakin’ huge movie career, so it’s exciting to have him involved in whatever way he can be.”
Will Brother Miller be trapped in his spacecraft for a while? Or will he somehow make it back to Earth sooner than later? “I don’t see him being up in space forever,” hints Forte, adding: “He used to live in Tucson as well, so it seems natural that he might try to go back and see what’s going on with his hometown.”
Phil says he had a brother. So are we to assume that Phil assumed that he died in the virus or was just lost in space? “We had written that in several different ways,” explains Forte. “Phil said [to Carol], ‘Well, I have a brother. Excuse me—had a brother.” But we just decided to say “had a brother,” as if he just assumed that he was no longer living.
What can we expect from the lone astronaut and his dynamic with Phil? “Phil was a temp and his brother is an astronaut, so Phil has always been a little frustrated by how successful his brother was and he got a lot of attention,” says Forte. “So that’s kind of a hint as to what their relationship might be like.”
NEXT: Forte on virus flashbacks and cast additions[pagebreak]
Will we learn more in season 2 about the virus that wiped out almost every single person on the planet? The short answer: Possibly. The longer answer: ”We’ve purposely avoided the virus stuff because we didn’t think that it was important,” says Forte. “And it’s tricky to handle virus stuff and how real should it be. What happens if a real virus becomes a problem around the world? There were a lot of pitfalls. We’ve always had this general idea of the type of virus that it was. We’ve said that it’s a virus that is potent enough to sweep across the world in a matter of months but one that is slow moving enough that allows people to safely crawl into their beds and die very neatly in their own homes. (laughs)… At some point in the pilot, we showed a dead body. There was a lot of back and forth, and it was decided that we shouldn’t show the dead body. We’ve always wanted to address that, so I really do feel like there will come a point where we address the virus. Even if it’s just an indirect addressing. When we still were going to have flashbacks in the pilot, one of the ideas we had was just a regular dramatic scene between two people wearing surgical masks and everybody around them is wearing surgical masks. They don’t ever talk about the virus—it’s just happening. I would love to flesh out the virus with little scenelettes like that, although they would have to be in flashbacks, because obviously everyone who was not immune to the virus has died.”
What was up with Forteo & co. testing the limits of Phil’s likeability with his lies, selfishness, murder plots, and obsession with getting laid? Let’s start here: Forte doesn’t see Phil as unlikeable and attributes his extreme behavior to the extreme circumstances in which he lives. “Everyone can imagine what it would be like in that situation and you feel sorry for him because he’s all alone,” says Forte. “This is a person who’s just like everybody. He’s got his positives and negatives. And I still look back and go, ‘Oh, he’s not a bad guy, he just goes a little crazy.’ I think that that situation would drive you batty. You’d think it was just some big cosmic joke. And then because he paints ‘Alive in Tucson,’ on all the billboards, once people start showing up, he feels a sense of entitlement, like he should get to do whatever he wants. And of course, he goes pretty crazy for a while and then comes back around at the end. But he’s not the person that he is in the pilot and he’s not the scheming dude that he is through the middle episodes—I think he’s somewhere in between. The heightened situation brings out the worst in him and the best in him. We made that decision to send him to some unsavory areas and I stand by it. But I also have weird taste. We are not afraid to try different stuff out and cross our fingers and hope for the best, and it landed with some people and maybe some got offboard once I became less likeable. Sorry if people didn’t want their Phil to be a meanie for a while, but that’s what we went for and we thought it was funny. And I still think it was funny.”
Will the show continue to add more people next season, similar to how it was done in season 1? Forte and the writers have yet to map out season 2, but he does speculate, “I would imagine that we won’t introduce as many people.” Why? He would like to keep the audience guessing, and last season’s systematic roll-out of new faces may have felt a bit formulaic by the end of the season. “We loved introducing new characters but it’s very possible that at a certain point, it wasn’t surprising anymore when we’d introduce new characters because they were used to it and expected it,” he says. “We just thought it was a fun way to introduce people.” He also notes that the show already boasts a healthy number of characters—human and perhaps otherwise—and there’s still plenty to learn about them. “There’s a lot more I want to find out about all these characters, especially Mary Steenburgen’s character and Cleopatra’s and Boris’,” he says. “There’s very little we know about them and I’m excited to dive into that. And there’s so much we don’t know about Melissa and Todd. And Carol and Phil have been to there the longest and you still don’t know that much about them either. And the cow! The cow doesn’t say anything, so it’s wide-open territory. Oh my god, we should do a flashback episode for the cow, a la Lost.”