After painting itself into a corner over the second half of the season, The Last Man on Earth finally returns to a semblance of its former quality with “The Big Day”, and all the show had to do was time-skip six months into the future.
There’s nothing that telegrams the time jump, although just like the one that opened the second season, it easy to infer.
Moving forward in the story was perhaps the only smart move the show could make. The plots seemed to never really move, and if they did, the results weren’t good. The group’s – and in particular, Tandy’s – dynamic with newcomer Jasper was all off, and the two other arcs (Erica and Carol’s pregnancies and Melissa’s mental state) were wearing exceedingly thin. In “The Big Day” however, all of these storylines have progressed or resolved off screen and newer, better ones have taken their place.
Jasper is now talking to the group, but still communicates his annoyance with Tandy through a series of eyerolls. Carol’s concern about not seeming pregnant is now long gone, as both she and Erica are both visibly late into their pregnancies. Melissa has also recovered mentally, ending the season’s most tiresome arc.
The new stories are definitely better than the stale ones that have wasted the audience’s time over the past several weeks. Todd and Melissa’s marriage in the first act has Tandy at his goofy best as opposed to the human personification of annoyance that he has been for the past few weeks. Particularly, when he lets loose a bunch of crickets after the ceremony because “all of the doves are dead.”
The main plot of the story is also a solid one. Carol is hesitant to let Tandy deliver their baby and has agreed to let Gail do it instead. Despite Tandy badly wanting to do it, he is woefully unprepared, having spent six months writing a rap about childbirth that never once seems like he’s grasped the process of it.
The episode does great work building off the relationship between characters in this plot, from cordial iciness between Gail and Tandy to the unwavering trust between Tandy and Carol. It’s inevitable that Tandy is going to acquiesce to letting Gail deliver his child, but the show keeps that development true to his character. It feels like he is naturally coming to that conclusion over the course of the episode, as opposed it feeling artificial like some of his decisions over the past few weeks..
It doesn’t hurt that the physical comedy parts of the plot are quite great. Tandy catching baby dolls that are being hurled at him by a baseball pitching machine is a great image, and the scene where he tries and fails to carefully extract a doll from a Jello mold is funny entirely through the horrified grimacing that Carol makes throughout.
One of the best things about “The Big Day” is that it allows the Tandy-Gail-Carol story to build without a B-plot winding around it. The Todd and Melissa “plot” after the wedding is really only one scene, which ultimately feeds back into the main plot. Having the smaller wedding plot unfold before moving into a larger plot seems like a good setup following a time skip. While there’s nothing wrong with the traditional A/B plot structure of a television sitcom, in the case of this episode at least, changing it up seems to have made its main plot a lot sturdier and a little less cloying that it could have been.
“The Big Day” isn’t the best episode of the season by any means, but the fact that it was a solid 22 minutes of television means that it is a welcome return to form for The Last Man on Earth after three bad episodes.