Not every post-apocalyptic story has to be depressing. The Last Man on Earth presents a future where only a handful of survivors are left in North America after a virus strikes. That鈥檚 pretty grim, but the show consistently manages to stay comedic 鈥 and decidedly not dystopian. Sunday鈥檚 episode, 鈥淩elease the Hounds,鈥 continued the show鈥檚 story line about a tricky issue: whether the remaining adults will have children. It鈥檚 a valid question, and The Last Man on Earth took a refreshingly empowering stance.

The Last Man on Earth鈥s baby-fever discussion also presents a stark contrast to another popular TV show about repopulation. In The Handmaid鈥檚 Tale, the birth rate has declined to the point where women who鈥檝e had children (and are thus known to be fertile) are forced to carry children for other people, against their will. Ostensibly, it鈥檚 regarded as an honor and an important duty. In reality, it strips them of their personhood.

The Handmaid鈥檚 Tale exists in a time where population decline is so dire that people are trying to steal babies from hospital wings. The methods are barbaric, but adoption and fertility treatments don鈥檛 appear to be options in Gilead, so the society has turned to using the so-called handmaids to ensure that there is a next generation.

On The Last Man on Earth, the experience is just the opposite. When January Jones鈥 character, Melissa, decides that she doesn鈥檛 want to have a child, the rest of the group respects her decision instantly. Despite the fact that the only three babies born in the post-virus world are biologically female, no one tries to convince Melissa that she needs to have a child for the future good. Instead, the episode focuses largely on Todd, Melissa鈥檚 husband, and his disappointment over potentially not being able to become a father. For a few minutes, one could even forget the tragic future the story is taking place in, and see Todd and Melissa鈥檚 disagreement as one that a typical couple might have, minus the everyone-is-dead setting.

Without even addressing it directly, The Last Man on Earth presented a post-apocalyptic future where women still have complete agency over their own bodies and decisions. Yes, it would help the group repopulate the area if they kept having more babies. But it鈥檚 still each woman鈥檚 decision whether she wants to have children, no matter what the surrounding circumstances are. The fact that the group respects that presents a nice beacon of hope, especially compared with the gloomy future depicted in The Handmaid鈥檚 Tale. Wherever the United States is headed, it鈥檚 nice to see at least one fictional future that鈥檚 not all doom and gloom.

(photo via Kevin Estrada/Fox)