Pinned down in a big way, the Nathan James crew really have to prove their skills here.
What They Say:
Dead Reckoning – An enemy demands that Chandler hand over Rachel and her research; Chandler engages in a series of risky strategic moves.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
THe Last Ship has worked better in its first two episodes than I expected, though it does fall into a few of the usual traps that you get with a series like this. I did like that it played things at least a little more realistic in a way when the ship headed to Gitmo and we had an interesting bit of fallout there from who they encountered in the facility. But we also had the Russian ship, which basically represents itself now as opposed to an actual government, making a fake play to try and get closer to the Nathan James. It worked well and got them closer to Chandler so they can get what they want. Getting their hands on Rachel and her research, along with their mole in it, makes a lot of sense as it will give them the advantage they need not only to survive but to be real leaders in the new world they might be able to forge.
Admiral Ruskov definitely makes an interesting presence to things since he has a good bit of control but also a kind of rogue element about him that makes him even more dangerous. He doesn’t play coy and just says what he wants and makes it clear that he’ll do what it takes. Making his reference to what happened in Frane is definitely important and it makes it easy to believe that Chandler would use that as a reason to meet and at least open a dialogue. Chandler has a kind of cowboy aspect to himself here in a way since he needs to look at Ruskov directly to really get a feel for things and that at least gives us a chance to get back onto Cuba in order to meet. Which brings Tex along as well, giving him a chance to start feeling his position and potential within this highly structured group.
The meeting doesn’t really offer any surprises when they start talking as you get the view from Ruskov that he’s seeing the world as wide open and that old allegiances aren’t what they once were so it’s easy to just start anew. Chandler, on the other hand, is intent on remaining a part of the US Navy and adhering to those principles. Chandler at least provides a decent offer towards Ruskov in order to give them something of what they want, but would still keep them behind Rachel and her research. Of course, it doesn’t work out that way and the standoff that exists goes in a pretty bad way. From what we saw of Ruskov on the ship with his officers before, it didn’t look like he had a lot of friends. With what he does here when the food situation is brought into light, well, it makes it clera why he doesn’t have a lot of friends and runs his ship through an iron hand of fear.
With a stalemate at play, one that has the Nathan James locked into the bay with no way out, it turns into a bit of a waiting game that has some consequences. With a few areas to explore for a potential way out, that just proves that Ruskov is as smart as he is crazy as he has all the bases covered and is ensuring that Chandler stays put until he gets what he wants. And it’s no doubt that he’d try and sink him afterward as well. Tensions do get raised well here as it goes on and we get a little bit of fun in how Chandler makes it clear that he’s more than Ruskov thought he would be, both in terms of some of the Nathan James military capabilities but also in his linguistic ability that potentially adds another wedge into the already tense crew that Ruskov has under him.
While all the naval material is good, we finally get a snapping point for Quincy during all of this as well. Since he was so close to getting back to the Russians who have his family, having Ruskov deflect him while wanting Rachel definitely got to him hard. So his intention of sneaking off in the night with the samples and Rachel is his next best bet, but that’s damn hard to do amid a ship of Navy men who are pretty aware of what’s going on, even in the night. It gets pretty tense in a good and honest, human way that has Quincy pushed to his end as he’s even ready to pop open the virus there to take them all out. With the stress and strain of what they’re doing and the reality of what’s happened in the world itself, he’s not been one to handle it well and it’s a snapping point that thankfully came earlier in the series rather than later. If it had been pushed off for too many more episodes, it would have been too forced and Quincy would have given off so many clues by then it would be hard to believe that nobody had seen them.
With some background out of the way that explains some of Quincy’s actions, and a bit of what Ruskov is up to as well, everything shifts to just getting out of the bay and into an area where they can fight and flee. The plan is, of course, a bit too much when you get down to it with the margin of error issues and the amount of uncertainty, but it’s the kind of ballsy plan that they just dig in and work towards without any real fuss or talkback. Which is definitely strange compared to other shows where half the time is the arguing about what they should do. So it’s welcome to see a command structure that works and executes the plan to the best of their abilities. The plan, with no radar and sonar, definitely leaves you cringing, but it reminds me of some of the things you saw in the Hunt for Red October with the preciseness of movements and how ships like this can work with the data they have. It’s a cat and mouse game on a whole other level.
As the plan goes into motion, it’s definitely fun to see it unfold since it has a kind of simplicity about it that exists when you deal with how the radar works and what the Russians are doing. The professionalism of the Navy crew is definitely well done on screen to make it a compelling bit of military porn while also keeping things nice and tense while Chandler keeps a calm approach during it all. While it’s a little chintzy with the special effects and the way it plays out in the final moments of the escape, it is done with a good bit of tension before that and you have to enjoy the way Rusko thinks he’s won, only to realize that he’s been played. Between that and the tension in going through the canal with what’s at stake and how much damage there could be, it’s a clean and easy close to things but they at least filled it with enough reasonable tension and made a solid push back against Ruskov to give him some pause.
The Last Ship kind of surprised me a little bit in that they didn’t just move on to a new location or issue after the second episode but rather extended their stay at Guantanamo by having to deal with the arrival of Ruskov. Keeping them pinned down for an episode lets us see the way Chandler and his crew handle getting out of a really tough situation by using some very low tech approaches to making a run for it. It certainly works and makes sense and is filled with enough tension to drive it home. We get a good bit of material with Ruskov and what’s going on there with him and a bit of how the world went dow while Chandler and the others were in radio silence for so long. There’s some good emotion at times and some smaller character arcs getting touched on a bit so that different people get attention across the episode and series in general and that’s a plus as well so that it’s not all focused on just the leads. Where it goes from here will definitely be interesting as the world is wide open.