Nothing good will ever come from going into the jungle.
What They Say:
El Toro – A small team heads to the jungles of Nicaragua to find monkeys for Rachel’s vaccine trials. Chandler and his men face a moral dilemma when they encounter a former drug kingpin.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Last Ship had a decent if predictable fourth episode where the focus was more on the cast and how they’ll handle very difficult situations. While there are other outs that could have been written that were easier and made more sense, it would have avoided the main point of it all. Shifting the focus away from that here as the crew is now moving to Costa Rica, the plans are going into motion there to achieve their next goal. Getting monkeys is critical to what Rachel needs so she can test the vaccine that she’s developing as those trials will go a long way towards explaining how well it works, what faults there are and what side effects there might be. Experimenting on monkeys doesn’t sit too well with Chandler, but he also knows that it’s a must-do kind thing since there’s so many fates at stake.
Now that they’re closer to Costa Rica, they’re hearing a lot of radio chatter showing that the place just isn’t going to be safe to get through as the sickness is spreading and things are getting chaotic there. With that option off the table at the moment because of the danger level, the next best bet is to head to a preserve that exists in Nicaragua some thirty miles down river. That gives us a chance for some off-ship adventure time where they take the small boats they have with minimal but best crews to try and go in and get what they need. It’s all nicely armed and plays well visually as they make their way towards it. The downside is that the teams, which includes Chandler and Slattery running it, is outside of radar range and it’s expected that communications will be spotty at best, making for a lack of real communication in case things go bad – on either side. A pretty dangerous away mission all around when you get down to it.
As they make their way into the preserve, things go pretty well for awhile as they actually get to the location where the monkeys are, but they pretty much have the equivalent of zombies there as the locals are infected, stumbling towards them and pleading for help. It goes badly quickly and they do make their escape, but not without some moral difficulty to it all since they haven’t had to deal with infected people up close like this a whole lot. Most of what they’ve been involved with have been quiet places with no people, or just those who were fine, so seeing them freaking out isn’t a surprise. Chandler makes it clear that they’re going to get some monkeys, but they’re damn well doing it on his terms and not getting involved with the locals like the locals wanted. It’s a good bit of tension that gets put on display here but also while focusing on what their end goal is and not ignoring that.
Smartly sending Rachel back to the ship with that team, Chandler continues on out and starts coming across some less than pleasant things as they move from the river to the land. But as bad as things are, they go much worse when they get caught in a trap and brought to a drug lord’s base of operations in the jungle. It comes across as a refugee camp pretty well, albeit one run by the drug runners which gives it a pretty dark feeling. Still, it’s an existence that works on some level as it’s survival in the face of a really dangerous situation. Meeting the leader, El Toro, definitely has its tense moments as the two of them spar verbally as El Toro does what he can to establish that he is very much in control here. And he largely is, at least at the moment, since one of the soldiers is poisoned and they’ve all had their weapons taken from them. Standard fare stuff, but it’s all done with a good bit of seriousness.
Through a few conversations and events, we get a good feeling for how the camp is run and the kind of power play being worked here, but it just gets worse for Chandler as El Toro discovers more of what they’re up while still seeking out more of the real answers. El Toro likes his position of power, being able to present gifts in a way, especially since he’s dealing with Americans and Navy men in particular. Having one up on them, discovering their secrets and toying with them strokes his ego in a big way. He definitely rules the place with fear, and providing things to his men to be sure, and enough of it sets off Slattery that it causes problems that results in them losing some of what they were after. It’s a win for the mission overall in that they get the monkeys, but their sense of morals with what’s right and wrong stirs them to figuring out how to set the situation right. It plays to the sense of right to be sure, a very American sense of right, but it also provides a chance for the military men to do what they do best – hunt.
While we’ve seen some basic action with them before, weapons hot and going in to big situations, this one lets us see a small team – lead by Chandler no less- going in during the night to eliminate the thirteen or so guards that they’ve seen. And as the infil goes into play, they move quietly, quickly and very deadly without holding back. It’s definitely fun, even if I repeat myself, seeing the small team move with precision and experience to cover the camp and hunt. There’s no quirky or goofy moments along the way but just professionalism and that continues to stand out as a big part of what makes this series work instead of just another ragged group of survivors doing the best they can. It does get dark and dirty along the way, but they aren’t filled with bloodlust as they do what they can to make things right.
While it’s a lot of effort to get a few monkeys and we don’t get any real progress on the virus side, The Last Ship offers up something that’s been necessary. A look at how some of the world is surviving. Granted, I’d like to see more of the modern world with the cities and what’s going on there, but we at least get a few nods about it through the radio intercepts. What we get instead here is how some of the villages are coping, how one particular drug lord has set about to create a little bit of safety through dominance and fear and just how terrible it is to actually see the cost of the virus. It’s been at a distance to some degree for the Navy crew, but they have family out there themselves and seeing the villagers that are infected strikes deep with their own fears, making it all the more real knowing that their loved ones could be suffering much the same. And that should help redouble their efforts. A decent episode with some good stuff, but like the previous one it’s a bit by the book.