I’ve only spent an extended period of time around a diagnosed pathological liar once, and while I felt sympathy for the poor guy, I also hated him. Everything was a game of one-upmanship, and he wasn’t going to lose. Did you have an attractive ex-girlfriend? Well, his ex- was a total stunner who looked like Lindsay Lohan (this was in 2010). Were you an athlete in college? Well, he was, too, and he was going to enter the NFL Draft until his bum knee gave out. He was endlessly frustrating to be around, yet I was still fascinated by him. How far was he willing to go to prove himself right? How easy was it to trap him? I thought about this walking Sex Pistols song a lot while watching Phil “Tandy” Miller in The Last Man on Earth‘s fascinating/frustrating finale.
In one scene, he lies about knocking over and breaking a lamp, which isn’t that big of a deal compared to what’s next: trying to pretend that he didn’t want to kill Todd and later, the new Phil Miller, a tight shirt-wearing hunk who can give the cul-de-sac electricity but can’t get a personality. Former President Tandy Phil eventually admits that while he entertained the thought of leaving both men in the middle of the Arizona desert to die, he never went through with it. Therefore, he’s a good guy. Pathological liars often aren’t aware they’re not telling the truth; Tandy Phil knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s fibbing for approval, for acceptance, for the chance to get into Carol’s pants. And Melissa’s pants. And Gail and Erica’s pants, preferably at the same time.
That’s one of the reasons why Last Man‘s first season didn’t work as well as it could have: the stakes were so low. Look, having sex with January Jones is a perfectly reasonable thing to want, but it absorbed so much of the season that there wasn’t enough time to explore what being the last man on Earth means. It’s like a version of The Walking Dead that’s all talking and no zombie-smashing, which, I’ll admit, is many episodes of The Walking Dead. Tandy Phil became so obsessed with sex that it stood in the way of everything else. His obnoxiousness rose with his horniness (or vice versa?), until it consumed him. Will Forte did a good job of fully delving into Phil’s hang-ups, and even when I wasn’t laughing at the show, I appreciated its look and insistence on telling the story it wanted to, one unlike any other in television history. But at the same time, I was ready for Phil to move on, and his Tucson guests to move on without him.
In the finale, both happened. Hot Phil pulls a Phil, and dumps Tandy Phil on the side of the road with two days worth of supplies. They’re gone in 20 minutes. He’s left with almost literally nothing, save the memory of framing Michael Jordan’s game-worn jersey on his wall, until Carol finds him and they drive off together, with a destination of anywhere but Arizona. But that’s not where the season ends. After back-to-regular Phil tells Carol about his brother, the camera pans out and keeps going, until we’re in outer space, where the other, more successful Miller brother, last seen in the pilot episode in a picture frame, has been floating around since whatever happened back on Earth, well, happened. It’s an exciting final note, and may go a long toward explaining why Phil’s the way that he is. His brother’s an astronaut; he seems like the kind of guy who even before the world went to sh*t talked to balls in a bar. More back story, and less pathetic horndog Phil, would be helpful for Season 2, something that Forte seems aware of.