The Last Man On Earth Season 4 Episode 9 Review ’Karl’

***Spoilers Ahead***


Leighton Meester (center). Photo: Kevin Estrada/FOX
If you're a loyal viewer of the series, 'Karl' should be a familiar episode of The Last Man on Earth. Since season 2's 'Pitch Black', the dramedy has set aside one episode per season to simply focus on a single character's backstory for the full twenty-two minutes. In retrospective, 'Karl' follows a similar formula to last year's 'Got Milk'. Both episodes introduce a new cast member and narrow into their life story leading up to the outbreak of the virus. Unlike 'Got Milk', Karl is a mentally unstable serial killer as opposed to the wealthy, moderately stable Pamela. Despite having focused on a deranged character like Pat, the series has never made one the center of an episode. This is what makes 'Karl' stand out and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable half-hour of television. 

The episode begins with Karl (Fred Armisen) on a date with a girl named Zoe (Leighton Meester) that quickly goes south. I enjoyed how the writers essentially hid Karl's murderer status until the end of the first act. It helped create a good deal of suspense when the police initially came after him and an amber alert was sent out. As the episode moves on, the viewer becomes more familiar with Karl's malicious ways until he eventually gets locked up for his actions. Once again, the series excels in the dark humor department throughout this installment. While moments like Karl killing his model or Martin Short should be violent and gory, Armisen's wacky and peculiar delivery of the character adds a dose of comedy to the situation. 

Nevertheless, The Last Man on Earth definitely isn't afraid to drop the comedy and simply go dark head-on. 'Karl' starts to take a turn into dramatic territory when the prisoners and guards begin to drop dead until there is only one other person left. While the installment doesn't go as in-depth into the consequences of the virus as 'Got Milk' did, it still paints a clear picture of the despair and hopelessness that Karl feels. In fact, the writers even manage to make the viewer feel sympathy for Karl when the remaining guard talks about his plan to leave him locked up. And, one can't help but understand where Karl is coming from. There simply wasn't a way for him to survive without murdering the guard. As 'Karl' comes to a close, we begin to see themes that have been prevalent since the start of Last Man. This makes it tough not to get invested in Karl's struggles despite his ruthless actions in the past. His anguish resonates in strong fashion when he fails to escape from prison and contemplates suicide. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Karl doesn't kill himself and the episode comes full circle and locks together with the events of the previous outing. His plight is reminiscent of Tandy in the first season-and-a-half. Except, in this case, it's extremely difficult to figure out if Armisen's character truly has changed.

Overall, 'Karl' is a phenomenal outing and easily the best of the season. It puts all of Last Man's strengths in one pot and it pays off incredibly well. Armisen plays his part as the wacky serial killer/cannibal well and even manages to invoke sympathy as he slowly becomes the last man standing. Additionally, I hope his introduction helps stir up some much-needed conflict into the show. His maniac personality definitely opens up many new possibilities.

Stray Thoughts 
  • Martin Short is the latest victim in the "kill off a celebrity" running gag. Once again, part of me wanted him to stay but part of me also loves the running gag.
  • I enjoyed the dynamic between Karl and the guard. It's a shame that Karl had to kill him. 
  • Is there any correlation between Karl's cannibalism and his immunity to the virus? 
  • As much I loved this episode, it did ruin the tradition of the show giving a standalone episode after a long break. Now, the show will simply give us a normal episode when it returns from hiatus.
  • I wish Leighton Meester's character would've gotten more to do. 
  • Looks like Gail may be the next person to have her picture painted by Karl. This may not end well. 

Grade: A

Leave your thoughts on the episode in the comment section below. Catch the winter finale of The Last Man on Earth next Sunday at 9:30/8:30c on FOX.

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