Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The return of The Last Ship with a double-episode opener was a mixed bag overall. The first season offered some decent episodes but had a lot that faltered before it found its voice a bit better towards the end of the season. Here, by knowing they were going to tell it in this fashion, we got an overly long first half before going into an action-heavy second half with some resolution. It just made for a show that felt off balance throughout and by the time the second half hit, it took a lot to really get back into the energy of it all. There was definitely some good stuff to be had though and a shift in the overall dynamic of the mission, but also some good character pieces along the way to keep it quite human and accessible as well.
With the plan to move forward and do as much good as they can, Chandler at least has a pretty solid approach of heading to the White House to gather things they may need but also to secure other aspects. There’re some potential interesting aspects there where the bunker can’t be accessed, so that could lead to something in the future. Rachel’s keeping busy as well with over ten thousand doses having been produced so far and the news is certainly spreading, which is a good thing as it means more people can be helped. Rachel’s working smartly with others that she can get in touch with and the push to spread the cure is definitely there. Though plenty are still dying after all that had happened, they’re able to start staving off some of it, and that has to feel like a win amid so many losses.
What we do get from some of the drives they found is pretty interesting since the government had set up a closely guarded network of facilities that could help to produce more of the vaccine should Rachel’s mission succeed. Getting ahold of this allows them to dig in deeper with things and it also strikes a good personal note for Rachel as her mentor is alive and heading one of these labs. Rachel’s also scoring a few points along the way elsewhere as Tex is still with the ship since he’s hitching a ride as the ship is heading south. Since the two have an amusing relationship to begin with, one that got a bit tighter with what happened in Baltimore, she’s a little more aggressive and probing about it. He does reveal the real reason for heading down south though as his fourteen-year-old daughter was down there last he knew, and he needs answers.
The situation in Norfolk, the first area of focus, is one that certainly reveals a few things. With a seventy percent infection rate, the place got hit hard so the potential for family to be alive is low. But their arrival there has revealed at least some military personnel on base there that have been doing what they can to try and bring a little order to the chaos. That bolsters the forces a bit but also provides Chandler with a bit more gear to work with as they set to expanding the scope of facilities that can help to create the cure in their own regions. It’s a good kind of approach, once again, to thinking big rather than small. You do worry about how bad it could all get, but there’s a decent sense of hope and optimism about it with them being proactive instead of continually reacting to everything.
The episode also deals with several members of the crew going through Norfolk proper to do the clearing and securing, but with the secondary mission of checking for possible loved ones that might have survived. There’s a decent sense of dread about it as it unfolds and few find anything there except empty places. Seeing some instances of how people came together to help each other out is good, such as the bowling alley that became a safe zone, helps to show that it’s not all for crap in the end. It also provides for some good reunions to happen, such as Kara discovering that her mother is alive after all that is said and done. Kara’s able to bring that hope out well with the reunion by also talking about having the cure, and it has a very good honest feeling about it that drives the narrative in the right way. Others don’t have as good a hand when you get down to it, as we see Tex and the XO making it to Deer Park and finding it pretty empty of people. But he gets clues that helps him believe that they may have just gone elsewhere for some reason. It’s a difficult situation to be in where there’s no real answer, but clues that provide both hope and fear.
The show does put some interesting things into motion to be resolved as we get Chandler having to deal with the problem of his kids being on the ship but others not able to bring their families on board. It does make sense that he’d resign his commission and find something important to do on the ground locally, but it’s also no surprise that his daughter is the one to try and shake him out of it a bit with some choice words. His position is one that you can easily understand the conflict as a parent and as a man of importance in the world, especially considering the strides made back on the Nathan James. Chandler’s father also lays into him well, using a bit of history as well, but it’s the kind of force that needs to be applied to him to get him to really think straight. It’s short, but well played without being too dramatic – or poetic.
While I had a number of problems with the pacing and some of the execution of the two-part opening episodes, this episode reaffirms my faith in the show with what it does. It’s focused on thinking big and putting into motion some solid ideas in regards to spreading the cure is what’s needed. It’s not focusing just on the ship and its crew but rather on what it can inspire and what it can set into motion. The show deals with a lot of things it needs to at this point, bulking up the cast a bit with some potential but also shedding others for the moment. That’s definitely welcome so it doesn’t become bogged down in too much melodrama. I’m definitely curious to see where the show will go from here though.