Garden-Variety Garden of Eden: ‘Last Man on Earth’, Season 1, Episode 3

The writers’ room gave Kristen Schaal free reign over the first 12 minutes of this episode. And Carol Pilbasian returned it, beautifully wrapped, with a neat bow and handwritten card, because that’s what Carol does. There’s a generously bearded male cake doll too, and a pretty wedding cake covered in icing but made of lasagna. Schaal monologues her way through the wedding prep, and my goodness is she glorious. For the record, I too think rehearsal dinners which include walkie-talkie checks are romantic.

If the pilot of ‘Last Man on Earth’ was about time rapidly speeding up, this week’s episode is about time slowing to a crawl, then painfully inching along. Last week Phil was alone, Phil was depressed, Phil was going to kill himself, Phil met Carol, Carol made her intentions known, Phil proposed, Carol accepted. (Thank god Phil came through, am I right?) This week, everything appears to be in slow motion. I felt Phil’s exhaustion and disbelief as Carol orchestrates a traditional wedding – insofar as that’s possible in a world left with two people. Mendelssohn’s Wedding March plays (on a boombox), Phil tucks in his T-shirt to his cargo shorts, and cans and balloons are cheerily tied to the newlyweds’ compact car. How can she care so much? How could anyone care so much?

Time still hasn’t necessarily brought about comprehensive change in Phil. He only tucks in his shirt when he sees Carol dressed, quite adorably, for their wedding. And while she sat at CraftWorks assembling his rat-bearded cake doll, Phil was testing wig flammability at his bachelor party with his wolf pack, AKA sports paraphernalia. Tonight’s show was filled with belly laughs, so kudos to Forte and Schaal for playing so well off each other, even when they’re not onscreen together.

A headline from ‘The Onion’ came floating back to me during this episode: “Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show”. Specifically, ‘Say Yes to the Dress’. For those of you who are men/full-time feminists, SYTTD is a half-hour TLC program which follows brides-to-be choosing wedding gowns at a bridal salon in New York City. (Full disclosure: I have publicly stated my enthusiasm for this program.) The brides are generally depicted as stereotypes: obsessed with the perfect dress; this is the most important day of their lives; “I want to look like a princess!” I wondered, then: Is Carol’s wedding tyranny feminist? Is it anti-feminist? Is she a bridezilla? Under normal circumstances, would Phil run if he saw his future wife behaving this way?

My answer: I don’t think it matters. Carol makes the big grand gesture, and Phil’s contribution is a list of Carol’s habits which irritate him. They’re not Adam and Eve, and there’s no god, snake, or apple tree. (Yet.) They’re just two very average people. And after butting heads, they find some common ground. We should thank our stars Will Forte plays Phil. His first laugh at something Carol does (beating up that hussy of an ex/mannequin) is genuine and soft. He’s our hero, and we feel ourselves changing with him. For a few luminous moments, Carol and Phil might be okay, clearly awful sex notwithstanding.

But if I learned anything in college about the influence of Calvinism on early American literature, it’s that the human race is damned from the get-go. Tucson is no Gethsemane and there’s no snake. There is, however, an apple. And it smashes its way into Phil and Carol’s lives as if an entire tree was raining down on Isaac Newton. The Millers’ truck crashes into a hearse driving past that infamous stop sign. There’s another person on Earth! (That the person is driving a hearse is absolutely hilarious and on-point.) But the driver is January Jones. When her slim body and blonde locks emerge from the driver’s seat, Phil Miller stops in his tracks. To quote Gob Bluth, he’s just made a huge mistake.

Next week: a horny newcomer, a shattered newlywed, and a third makes a crowd.

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