Lewis was not made for this world.
I’m talking the world in which Phil Miller is in charge, a world where logic and reason fly out of the window, and even one moment of touching clarity is undercut by wanton stupidity.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH kills Lewis in “The Spirit of St. Lewis,” in which Phil zealously pumps up Kenneth Choi’s character enough to get him in a real plane when he hasn’t flown anywhere near the necessary amount of hours in a simulator. We see it coming (there’s a lot of time devoted to Phil pep-talking Lewis through the names of celebrities and historical figures he considers inspiring), but it doesn’t make Lewis’ death that much more shocking.
Because I wanted more of Choi. His Lewis was not only the lone LGBT character in the universe, but he had become the top voice of reason in the group, the only person willing to still consistently go toe to toe with Phil. And man, do we need that.
“The Spirit of St. Lewis” is still a Tandy episode. It’s Phil frolicking around in his dinosaur costume, Phil delivering a bag of “mix and match” pills in an effort to cure Melissa, and Phil delivering a morbidly awkward eulogy at Lewis’ funeral.
But “The Spirit of St. Lewis” isn’t like other Tandy episodes, which devolve into so much Tandy that it swallows the scenery and is ultimately just annoying television. There’s a lot more to this one, from the group’s realization that things aren’t good at all, to actual develop from characters previously unheard in season three.
I’m looking at you, Erica. I believe in this episode alone Cleopatra Coleman doubles her lines for the season, and it’s absolutely welcome. She brings both smart levity (“She just said ‘racial slur'”) and necessary truths (her speech at the funeral about the men she’s loved says more about Phil and the world he’s created than anything anyone could possibly say). Erica may not be the perfect combatant for Phil (she, like just about everyone else, lets him get away with plenty), but right now she’s the one who has to balance his general foolishness.
Because otherwise all hope is lost. Carol is just as kooky as Phil, and this week she’s given a fantastic running gag as editor of the (fake?) Post-Virus Post newspaper (complete with a food-and-wine section!). Her inaugural issue promotes Lewis’ attempt to sail into the clouds. Her second issue covers Lewis’ death (including a picture-perfect “Search for the black box” story under the fold).
Gail should return soon, as Phil’s “epiphany” to honor Lewis through brightening up the neighboring office building with a rainbow display restarted the elevator in which she’s trapped. But Gail had basically given up on everyone and everything by this point.
As for Melissa? Seriously, is it possible January Jones finds an Emmy nomination for her work this season? Reduced to sitting and standing in a locked room, she delivers a slew of outstanding punching-bag one liners (“good funeral”) and does more physically with less (even her thumbs-down is funny).
Melissa is basically a goner to us, too. Or maybe she somehow saves everyone. (That’s something this show has going for it – you never know what’s going to happen.)
Then there’s Kirsten Wiig’s Pamela Brinton, introduced last week in a standalone episode and likely to find the group soon. But she’s definitely off-center, and maybe she’ll compete with Phil (I mean, she will), but how long will that one last?
We’re in dire need of assistance here. But at least in “The Spirit of St. Lewis” all the cards were laid out, and somehow it ended up both funny and poignant. Plus there’s a lot to think about (two women are pregnant, and what the heck’s gonna happen there?) beyond Phil’s attempts to keep the group dancing in some happy wonderland. It’s good to be reminded of the larger situation, even if it comes at the expense of a character I still wanted out there.
Season 3, Episode 11 (S03E11)
The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 930 PM on Fox
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
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Timothy Malcolm | Contributor