We’ve been watching The Last Man on Earth lately. I can’t remember why we started; it wasn’t a show I thought about often, although I certainly enjoyed what I’d seen of it the first time through. (Turns out, I dropped off somewhere in the middle of the second season; the show ran four years, all told.) I remembered it being a light, silly, occasionally cruel show in the vein of Red Dwarf, of all things — another post-apocalypse sitcom from days of yore — but, on rewatch, I realized that it’s actually the best, worst show to watch in this COVID world we’re in.
The key is what killed everyone off. It’s a topic more or less ignored at first, for obvious reasons. (Why does it matter? Everyone’s still dead.) Before too long, it’s revealed that it was a virus… that showed up around 2019 or 2020 or so. Which, I’ll be honest, was somewhat unsettling to watch from today’s perspective. Even more unsettling were the comments about how it originally just seemed like a bad cold, with people coughing a lot and being unravel to breathe, before dying.
And then there’s an episode in the middle of the third season — a season that is surprisingly dark, breathtakingly so in many respects, with the regular cast seeming to fall apart through trauma, mental illness and just plain bad luck — where everything flashes back to show how a previously unseen character played by Kristen Wiig dealt with the outbreak and its aftermath, and it’s genuinely disturbing when viewed today: her upset at seeing streets filled with everyone wearing masks, her paranoia about the origins of the virus, her loneliness when she’s forced to self-isolate and essentially go into lockdown.
It hit hard, watching that episode; it captures (and, of course, heightens) what it’s felt like since February 2020, and feels like a show made about the last year or so — but it was made back in 2017. I don’t know what I really expected when we started watching the series again, but this has been something more intense, and maybe more rewarding.