What They Say:
Unreal City; Fight the Ship – Chandler and his fractured team join forces with an underground resistance in an attempt to defeat Amy Granderson; Rachel tries to help the sick while remaining a prisoner; Slattery and the crew try to regain control of their ship.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of The Last SHip is one that I liked for the most part, but struggled in a lot of places as it played to some weak material and less than clean line of thought when it came to how characters acted. With an intriguing start that faltered in the middle, it perked up a lot more in the last episode and had me a lot more interested in it with what it gave hint at. Part of it is a matter of expectations in a sense, because the idea of a lone ship out in the world and dealing with survival, and what it encounters, is interesting. But it changed things up to something more along the way and felt like it was getting invested in areas that were unexpected, which could make for some decent material. All told though, my hopes are certainly there for this new season, and starting off with a double episode certainly doesn’t hurt to establish the mood of the new season.
Because of the different groups that may be out in the world that have survived, this one gives us a big opening here with the ship getting taken over in search of acquiring the cure itself. That puts everyone into a few different motions here, mostly trying their best to stay alive, but also ensuring that others don’t get caught up more, particularly those that are connected to Quincy and what he did. With Chandler having gotten out those that he needed right from the start, there’s a lot of other elements in play as well with the new government that’s trying to keep things running. We saw some interesting things with it the last time around, and reconnecting with it here shows that not much has changed in how they’re operating. What it continues to come down to is that Chandler comes across as the man trying to do right by as many as he can while what we see of everyone else is their own self interest motivating them, even if they think they are acting in the greater good.
The state of things are certainly interesting overall as we have Granderson continuing to try and get Rachel to give them what they need for the lab to get it going. Granderson is still of the mindset of restarting a better society here as opposed to saving everyone, but she’s agreeing to a few additional things in order to do so, though you know that her overall goal is only to keep those that they need. Her position is definitely solid overall, now that her bodyguards in the state police have taken over the ship and are hunting down the primordial. What she doesn’t have is a lot of time because you know things can go badly quickly in this particular world, and knowing that Chandler is out there and likely to strike in some form in order to save his people. The plan to hit her where it hurts though with what generates her power is definitely the smart choice, since disrupting the environment she’s created at Olympia will cause quite the chaos.
Chandler’s plan is one that’s definitely curious as it unfolds since he doesn’t stop the flow of electricity, but does take control of the planet. With a bit of luck, he connects with the rebels that are operating underground and he finds himself having to set a plan with them in order to achieve the larger goal. It’s the enemy of my enemy is my friend routine, but it works well enough as it’s impossible to trust anyone not from the Nathan James at this point. With his intent on taking back both the ship and stopping Granderson, seemingly at the same time, he definitely needs help. But help is starting to surface back at the ship as well as some creative ways of changing their situation are unfolding, slowly bu surely, and you can see the Navy men making sure that they aren’t just going to go quietly. They’re at least attempting to try and do it smartly.
The time aboard the ship has its moments to be sure as the crew establishes their intent to fight back at some point, but it also goes for a darker moment along the way. With the troopers doing their best to find the primordial, the tension is rising a lot since they’re not finding it. That means threats, with Quincy’s wife’s life now being threatened if he doesn’t reveal where it is. While Quincy was pretty much a terrible character in the first season for the way he acted and interacted with everyone, he does manage to redeem himself at least a bit here by ending his own life rather than letting his wife, or potentially his daughter, to die. To say it’s a bloody scene is an understatement as he rips away his bandages and takes the term bleeding out to a whole other level. While the primordial is important, obviously enough, there are other options that start to appear as well, with the discovery that Foster is pregnant and offers the potential for a cure through that avenue.
What gets proven repeatedly since coming ashore here, thinking they’ve found some form of civilization, is that it’s a cutthroat world. They knew that before, but they’re reinforcing the idea of those with power looking to use it in drastic ways to ensure their own survival and to use people as needed. While we’re seeing the way people are used these days and almost an afterthought in the larger business sense, here, we see how Granderson will remove anyone that’s not deemed necessary and exile them from Olympia. That’s built up a few hundred rejects underground that will help Chandler and those that are “leading” them, but it reinforces the idea of what the world is like in more clear cut ways. Hell, just the way Hamada has no qualms about killing Foster’s baby to get the stem cells says that pretty clearly. It’s really just luck that saves her in the end, a combination of timing and someone else having a sense of what’s right and wrong, but it doesn’t diminish the bigger picture of what Granderson is working with here.
With the basic setup elements put into play in the first half of this two episode premiere, the second half largely works on the execution of it all. There was a lot of setup and character movements put into play, and reminding us who everyone is and where they stand in the first half. This half plays to the action more and it’s pretty damn regular. Which works, because these are effective people for the most part, so while we do get a lot of gunfire, it’s not just a constant background buzz but rather targeted material, precise as can be in each situation. And that does keep it interesting since it takes place in several different areas and we see a lot of things in motion. It also helps that unlike a lot of the first season, we’re not in the jungle or the usual warehouses, though some places come a little close here. Decent action on the ship, some fun things in the city, and the Olympia push itself.
It’s little surprise that as it plays on that everything comes together largely as Chandler and his various team members hope for. There’s a few losses along the way, mostly on Granderson’s side for the most part and a number of red shirts basically, and there’’s couple of interesting moments along the way as we get some good stuff with Granderson’s Naval daughter, and the interaction between Granderson and the rebel leader, who has enough charisma in general as actor Titus Welliver makes him engaging and sardonic enough. Some of the material gets a little grisly, such as some stabby time with an axe, but it’s played as the whole do what must be done to win/survive kind of scenario. Admittedly, you can see Chandler’s character doing that in a life and death situation as well, which speaks more towards the writing of the show than the characters and actors.
The Last Ship is a show that, as much as I enjoy parts of it, shouldn’t be done as a two hour event. It just wears on too long and is spread out too much with the story so that it loses the tension it needs to survive. The first half does all the heavy lifting and setup, and does it well enough, but when it shifts to the action in the second half, that’s almost all it really has going for it. There are some decent moments, mostly involving Granderson herself, but even that’s all given over to the very black and white situation that Chandler makes clear that it is. And that works well enough of the context of the show, but it also makes it a bit weaker in a more general sense, especially in a season with some complex shows out there that I’ve been watching lately. The season does deal with a number of things here and you can see the path forward and the adjustments to be made to the mission, and the challenges ahead. But with its less than nuance view of the world, it’s unclear how much it can really excel. It’ll likely be fun, but I again find myself wary of some very standalone story pieces that end up being more goofy than anything else. There’s limits to what a show like this can do to be sure, and I get the feeling it’s going to hit those limits regularly.