Stellar performances, by Rhona Mitra and Eric Dane plus a compelling and greasy performance to be remembered by Ebon Moss-Bachrach. Emotional and tight script with a satisfactory arc.
Somewhat predictable results from the encounter with the children. Let’s face it, we all saw that outcome, or some version of it, well ahead of time. And why are our main characters now background material?
Large or small, the role of a leader responsible for others brings with it a heavy burden. Whether it is mouths to feed or a nation to lead, the first decision is often the hardest.
The Last Ship — Working with the recovering Niels (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), as revolting as it may sound, could be the key to Dr. Scott (Rhona Mitra) finally stabilizing her airborne version of the vaccine. Despite vile hesitations, Dr. Scott invites Niels to her lab where the two work to solve the puzzle of strengthening the cure into a stable delivery system. Their solution? Proteins found only in fresh water mussels that can effectively act to protect the cure long enough for it to do its job. With a mission to find those mussels in hand, CO Chandler (Eric Dane) and his team set out to find the specimens needed. What they find in the process is a group of teens seeking to hand members of the Nathan James over to mercenaries for a bounty of food and weapons.
Instead, Chandler helps the teens to safety and uses their communication to lure the bounty hunters into a trap, but not without the young group’s leader, Ray (Adam Irigoyen), putting himself in harm’s way in order to fight at the Captain’s side. When the trap is sprung, all hell breaks loose and not everyone walks away. Aboard the Nathan James, President Michener (Mark Moses), struggling with his burgeoning command, looks to find firm footing while everyone around him takes a hard look at the tough decisions a leader must make every day in order for a society to survive. With one such decision before her, Dr. Scott reveals a shocking twist to end this episode of The Last Ship!
History is replete with those thrust into leadership unexpectedly. Some failed, but the world has flourished under those that did not. And who is the right man for the job?
Wake up one day and find that you’re the President of the United States? Sure, we might have all had the fantasy of the power and command that might entail, but when reality sets in, how would we deal with the decisions we had to make every day in order to truly lead? That very dilemma faced brand new President Jeff Michener (Mark Moses).
Assigned to the President, Jeter (Charles Parnell) was asked by his captain to “Be his guide, his preacher, his father, his friend. Whatever he needs,” in order to prepare a leader that wasn’t quite ready to lead. And while Moses played the shaky part of his role rather well, it remains to be seen if he truly can be Presidential. Yes, as the episode progressed, the words and encouragement of Jeter seemed to be reassuring and make an impact.
“Leaders aren’t born. They are made.” ~ CMC Jeter
But with an entire audience clamoring for Captain Chandler to assume the leadership role of a nation on the brink of collapse, will the audience get behind Moses? The jury would distinctly be out on that at this point. While Moses was admirable in his skill at portraying uncertainty leading up to making a few decisions and bringing a few encouraging smiles from the crew of the Nathan James, time will tell if the audience will support this President and accept a leader that may not have the loyalty and depth of the show’s main character. If there’s a conflict this show must overcome in the next few weeks (aside from the Ramsey’s) that would be it. Can Michener be the President this world needs and can this audience ever accept anyone but Chandler in that role?
Young or old, leadership isn’t about perfection. It’s about being the rock for others and leading them home even when you cannot go yourself.
Comparison and contrast of leadership was clearly the central theme of an episode titled Uneasy Lies the Head. With President Michener struggling with his newly inherited duties, Chandler presented the stoic and confident leader he’s been since day one. And his advice to young Ray about a leader’s true nature, that of a person that can withstand the worst and guide people to the best, is an inherent truth Michener likely needed to hear as well.
“There’s an old saying. ‘Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.’ Being a leader is not about being perfect. It’s about weathering the storm and carrying on.” ~ Chandler
“I just wanna go home.” ~ Ray
“I know son. We all do.” ~ Chandler
We certainly saw the trappings of poor leadership decisions as Ray insisted he stay behind to help fight the bounty hunters. That leadership decision by Ray, inspired others and it would appear young Cody (Dmitri Schuyler-Linch) paid the price with his life. Those are the moments that help to mold leaders. Jeter was exactly right. They aren’t born, they are made. True, some people have natural qualities that make them more inclined to lead rather than follow, but the best leaders are those that have gained wisdom from experience and learned from their mistakes.
While the plot line for the children had a predictable result—let’s face it we all knew someone was going to pay in blood for not understanding the gravity of the situation—it still created a contrast to Michener for the audience that we likely needed to see. If nothing else it gave us a glimpse of Chandler’s gained wisdom. Michener is going to need every minute of the 67 years of leadership experience of Jeter, Slattery (Adam Baldwin) and Chandler to survive the earliest parts of his presidency. If Michener, and specifically Moses, cannot be the rock that this nation builds upon, there will be a mutiny among fans for a different leader—one’s who’s face is on every poster for the show.
The game of chess between Dr. Scott and Niels for a season and a half has been a vicious war of attrition until now. Checkmate Niels.
We could read the tea leaves with ease where the children were concerned, but did anyone see Dr. Rachel “Harbinger of Death” Scott coming? We know we didn’t. At all. Rhona Mitra is a cool cucumber. She has played the part of Dr. Scott with a calmness all along. In fact, even when she’s upset, she doesn’t look the part too much. But perhaps more than she has in just about any episode we saw range from her and action that demonstrated growth. We’re not sure that growth is a very healthy one, but characters grow in all different directions before they are done.
We have to give the writers’ room credit for dreaming up a reunion between Rachel and Niels that allowed for both deception and a vile disgust of him to fester. Ebon Moss-Bachrach has done an admirable job of creating a character we love to hate, but we found ourselves quite uncomfortable with every sly look or twist of his beard hairs. But all those things were small potatoes compared to Rachel’s ultimate gambit of suggested seduction and manipulation to get the most vital information she needed to finish stabilizing her cure. Twitter did a verbal vomit at the sight and we’re not so sure there weren’t a few people who didn’t actually do the deed.
That feeling is a credit to a very good performance by Rhona Mitra throughout and a greasy final one by Ebon Moss-Bachrach. We’re sorry Ebon, but Niels creeps us the hell out and he met a fitting end. We might have cheered. Just a little. We’re also going to give Ebon props. Those feelings don’t happen if he doesn’t make us believe in the foulness of his character. Not for one minute did we think that he was doing anything other than being cautious and working toward self-preservation in this episode. So as the virus took him, we found it quite apropos.
“The people on this ship will sleep better tonight, knowing that it died with you.” ~ Rachel
“I helped you.” ~ Niels
“Yes, you did. You’re gonna help all of us.” ~ Rachel
But to get all the information she needed AND kill the man responsible in the most fitting way possible on this show? No, we didn’t see that coming at all. Kudos to the writing team and to especially Writer Nic Van Zeebroeck who penned this episode. We were shocked. And then did a little dance. And then might have been shocked again we felt that way. We could swear we heard munchkins singing about the wicked witch being dead somewhere. Sorry Ebon (not really).
FINAL VERDICT: Vengeance takes center stage on The Last Ship in a twist we didn’t see coming, but the bigger question might be who should lead as this series moves forward and where are the stories for our lead characters?
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. With that little nod to Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fourth, Part Two, The Last Ship explored multiple angles of the burden leadership can bear on those that are thrust into the role by circumstance. In the process of that exploration, the writing team for this show has painted themselves into a strange corner. Will the masses of this show accept Jeff Michener as their President? And will the audience accept Mark Moses as the same? But even more important, where are the stories that surround the main cast and why have they been pushed to the background?
Up to now, Moses has played the role of a puppet in a larger game. A person manipulated by others into a role he did not choose on his own. Can such a man be molded into a President? Can one man change his stripes more than once with such ease and be trusted? Moses has left us feeling ambiguous and still very uncertain about Michener’s ability to assume the role of President. One thing is for certain, if Michener cannot win the hearts and minds of this world and Moses cannot do the same for the audience in a forced play to make him the leader the writing team wants him to be, there will be a bit of revolt by the devout watchers of this show. Chandler for President is already a battle cry for the loyal watchers of this series.
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In the mean time, that same audience still enjoys seeing their Captain and Crew perform with the same precision and nobility that they have from day one. Moral and leadership questions aside, the backdrop of battle for the main story line involving the surviving kids and Ray as their leader was a visual spectacle that was certainly enjoyable to see. The results of that conflict were predictable and though we did get a more personal connection between Chandler and Ray that highlighted the burden leadership can bear, we would still like to see those themes play out with the crew we love more than we’ve seen in recent weeks.
We do get it. For Chandler, protecting the children was his primary concern. It simply made for a strange and slightly different approach for this show to center its story around them more so than its main characters that were relegated to mostly background material. Bringing things around full circle in the end with Ray saving Chandler’s life made some of the predictability pay off, but as an audience we want to dig deeper into moments such as the ones between LT Bivas (Inbar Lavi) and LT Burk (Jocko Sims). That story has been touched on in several episodes and we’d like to see it become less of a diversion and more of a character exploration between these two. Even if a romantic relationship isn’t in the cards, there’s a connection there that isn’t quite being explored deeply enough.
And for several weeks we’ve left the story of LT Foster (Marissa Neitling) and LT Green (Travis Van Winkle) in the dust. Where is that connection and why have we seen so little of it recently? The same can be said of LT Alisha Grandson (Christina Elmore). All these stories seem to have taken a side step in order to explore a wider world, but we’d like to see that exploration involve these characters more deeply and pull us in as they struggle and grow. Granted, the details of the episode by Writer Nic Van Zeebroeck were relatively well constructed with good dialogue and a story that moved easily enough. The pieces this episode felt like it was missing were likely created in the writer’s room well before the season began. Director Peter Weller (yes, that Peter Weller of Robocop fame) did a solid job of piecing together a study of leadership from the different angles presented. That message rang through loud and clear. We’ll be interested to see how that same message resonates as the season draws to a close and we examine more closely Sean Ramsey’s (Brían F. O’Byrne) leadership as a contrast to the leaders now established aboard the Nathan James.
We certainly give credit to the writing team for a rather brilliant resolution to the architect of the apocalypse in Niels. His arc, thought not completely satisfying for his character alone, certainly provided Dr. Scott with a moment of character-defining decision and her actions will likely have consequences both for her and for the crew. What those are just yet, we don’t know, but we do know that we hope we dig more deeply into the back stories and meaning for the main characters on this show. A lot has been hinted for all of them and we’ll be looking for the payoff for those hints as we watch in the weeks to come on The Last Ship.
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- The truth can set you free. What will that freedom mean?
- Good morning death breath. How you doing now?
- He wants to speak to you. Speak? I’d just as soon stab him.
- He KILLED my WIFE. And I was able to talk to him. You have to talk to him. The feels ..
- Be his God, his preacher, his father, his friend .. whatever he needs. No one better to do that [Jeter].
- HA!!! Niels said nine lives!! Someone read my tweets from last week lol!
- You call call me sweetheart again I’ll make you eat those pathetic 9s your holding.. I like her. 🙂
- What do you think Burk. Do I have the goods? Damn right she does
- She needs a bunch of mussels. And the ladies are wondering .. Will muscles do?@BrenFosterReal @TVdub lol
- Leaders aren’t born. They’re MADE. Just give yourself time. I LOVE Jeter.
- Can we take a couple of Niels remaining 9 lives just for shits and giggles? #LeaveOne 😉
- Worth more alive than dead huh. We just had an interesting #LordOfTheFlies moment there. 🙁
- Hmm. Either Ray has a set .. or there’s more to this than we see just yet.
- I guess we’ll know that society is okay again when there are Cons to attend. #SaveTheWorldSaveTheCons lol
- Looks like being President might start with a good meal. Nice job @AmenIgbinosun. 😉
- Bringing a ship to a gunfight. Nice. 🙂
- Oh he remembers. It’s his shining bloody achievement. Damn right he does.
- She took off the glasses. You are so screwed dude. And not in the way you hoped. 🙂
- Does it seem ironic to anyone that a viagra commercial followed that moment? #YouWishNiels #LimpDick lol
- Bad move Ray. Shit’s about to get real.
- T.A.O. killed the pickup. @MarissaNeitling Bye bye truck. BOOM.
- Ray, you got another one of those for Niels? #JustSayin
- And shit got VERY real. That hurt. @adamirigoyen
- Maybe, just maybe we’ll stop killing each other. But nothing’s changed. It’s all the same. That hit hard. @InbarLavi
- Being a leader isn’t about being perfect. It’s about weathering the storm & carrying on.
- That was something incredibly Presidential.
- The people on this ship will sleep better tonight. F**king. A. @rednaughtmitra
- That ending was bloody brilliant. @rednaughtmitra @mrstevenkane
The Last Ship Review: 2×09 Uneasy Lies the Head