Thought provoking dialogue that is intelligently crafted to make both sides of a sticky situation feel legitimately understandable. Outstanding performances from Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra, especially in their confrontational scenes with each other. Intensity and twists we didn’t see coming.
Hundreds of miles of bluetooth seems a bit of a stretch. Such a hard line for justice was difficult to swallow for most of the episode until Chandler made it clear at the very end.
The morality of society is a fragile thing held together by thin threads of accountability. When and where do the choices of individuals exist outside of society when everything breaks down?
The Last Ship — In the aftermath of Niels’s (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) death, questions swirl around Dr. Scott’s (Rhona Mitra) involvement and as an investigation begins to suggest murder instead of an accident, fingers and rumors begin to point directly to her. With a wary crew and a fragile new president set to meet the New Orleans flotilla of ships safeguarding survivors from the virus, the question also remains of exactly how the Ramseys have spread their message so effectively. When the secret is decoded on the prisoners’ cell phones, the truth begins to set in—that a vast network of Immunes has stretched across the U.S. to spread their message.
When the New Orleans flotilla is within sight hope finally creeps in that real progress can be made toward rebuilding, but the Ramsey’s have other plans. When the civilian ships are destroyed and the Nathan James is blamed, the task of rebuilding a nation and distributing a cure becomes taller than ever. While everyone reels from the news, tradition and faith in the rules of the old world collide with the circumstances of the new. With Niels—the only evidence that could refute the fabricated lies surrounding the Nathan James—now dead, Captain Chandler (Eric Dane) and Dr. Scott clash in a contest of wills that may change The Last Ship from this point forward!
Obey the rules or ignore the rules? At every turn that was the question of the hour.
Literature, games, movies and television are full of apocalyptic settings that explore the nature of man when the rules of society break down and the accountability we live under today no longer exists. This is part of the mass appeal of apocalyptic and dystopian stories. What happens to individuals and societies when there are no rules and no traditions to go by? What becomes of mankind, and specific individuals, when there are no consequences and morality other than their own internal compasses to guide them?
The Last Ship has flirted heavily with this subject from the beginning. Almost every episode has touched upon the idea that a moral code of conduct is both a personal choice and one guided by the traditions of the Navy. If there has been a central thread throughout the series, it would be that choosing to uphold the rules and codes of the Navy are the crew’s way of maintaining the fabric of society when everyone else has seemingly let it go.
The Ramsey’s are a perfect example of the opposite. Having abandoned their British Naval traditions, they have assembled a ragtag crew that are each guided by their own loyalties and their own compasses. Up to now, all of those compasses have been more or less pointed in the same direction out of fear or a mutual need for self-preservation. What happens when individual compasses are no longer aligned and no accountability other than their own thoughts governs individuals?
The writers, and specifically Writer Onalee Hunter Hughes who penned this episode, posed this same question again and again in large and small ways throughout. From a thematic point of view, that was quite a brilliant stroke that allowed them to explore the same subject from multiple angles that likely everyone in the audience could find a perspective to agree or disagree with.
From the very technical approach of the chopper at the beginning, to the questions of sex aboard the ship, everyone was faced with following the rule book at nearly every turn. Nearly everyone in a Navy uniform held fast to the idea that rules are what defines accountability. Let’s face it, LT Burk (Jocko Sims) must be Navy through and through to stick to his guns after LT Bivas (Inbar Lavi) tempted him. Protocol is what holds together right and wrong in the Navy and cold shower or not, he held his ground.
Nearly everyone outside of that Navy fraternity provided a different perspective. Ray’s (Adam Irigoyen) curiosity of the subject, Bertrise’s (Hope Olaide Wilson) outrage at the thought of Dr. Scott having done anything wrong and even Tex’s (John Pyper-Ferguson) virtual endorsement of the good doctor provided contrast to the code the Navy lives by every day.
“Most people have been avoiding me since this witch hunt started.” ~ Dr. Scott
“Well, it’s a tricky situation, being, on the one hand, the most popular person on board, and, on the other, the most radioactive.” ~ Tex
“Comforting to have that clarification.” ~ Dr. Scott
“[Chuckles] You okay?” ~ Tex
“Yeah. You’re not gonna ask me the question that seems to be on everyone’s minds?” ~ Dr. Scott
“I don’t know much. I do know this. Wouldn’t be here—No one on the ship would be here—if not for you. So, me? I wouldn’t change a thing about you. Oh, you’re ruthless, baby. That’s why we’re alive today.” ~ Tex
At what point do rules matter and at what point do they blind those that live by them to the justices or injustices of the world? And on the flip side, where does the lack of rules and accountability start to see society crumble with little chance to ever come back? These are tough questions The Last Ship is asking.
Egos and torpedoes cranked the intensity to eleven on the dial.
Despite this episode’s deeper philosophical questions, it wasn’t without its moments of intensity that we’ve come to expect from The Last Ship. If we said we’d seen Sean Ramsey’s (Brían F. O’Byrne) plan to destroy the New Orleans flotilla, hide beneath the burning wreckage and then blame it all on the Nathan James, we’d be lying. That was a crafty twist we just didn’t see coming, but fit exactly into the game plan the Ramsey’s have been playing all along of framing the Nathan James as the enemy.
Add in the ensuing battle of tactics and wits to prevent numerous torpedoes from sinking the Nathan James and we got one of the most intense sequences of the series in some time. And just to remind us of what we’re fighting against, we got a juicy confirmation of exactly who was responsible with the exchange between Sean Ramsey and Captain Chandler.
“Hello, Tommy. Given up on the secret service? Hope you enjoyed the fireworks. My boys worked hard on them.” ~ Sean
“You just sent 10,000 people to their deaths. Stop hiding behind civilians. You want to fight? Come out and fight. Let’s go. You against me.” ~ Chandler
“Oh, it won’t just be me, captain. You see, the number of your enemies is about to multiply.” ~ Sean
As an audience we were left with very clear evidence of who committed the atrocity at New Orleans, but Sean Ramsey certainly revealed one of his character flaws. His need to gloat and rub in the victory and horror of the moment may ultimately be part of his undoing. A more level-headed commander without any need to boost his ego and prove himself in a verbal spar would have left that communication out. Yes, as an audience we got to see clearly the stakes and players, but tactically it was a flaw. How could Sean know that the transmission wouldn’t be overheard, recorded and used against him?
We’ll give the writing team credit for leaving it ambiguous. Whether it was a scene meant just for our benefit and a major character flaw for Sean Ramsey, we’re left to simply wonder for the moment. The answer is probably both, but Chandler being the good tactician he is will likely use Sean’s ego against him at some point in the future. In the mean time, we got a five minute thrill ride that contrasted in yet another way the discipline of the Navy versus the free-wheeling anarchy of the Ramsey’s.
We’ll give the writers’ room credit, they aren’t afraid of the bear.
The writers of The Last Ship have very distinctly poked the proverbial bear by striking a nerve with their audience. Whether we agree or disagree with the stance Chandler took with Dr. Scott, we’re all riled and questioning. Many rejoiced at the fitting death of Niels. Very few however considered the angle that the writing team would take in this next hour of this show. Outrage and ire flooded Twitter during the live viewing of the episode as the question arose of whether Dr. Scott would face undeserved consequences for an act most felt needed to happen, but few would have the courage to actually do themselves. But support was also voiced clearly for the rashness of Dr. Scott’s personal revenge. Niels’s fitting death was something many wanted to see, but would we have done it if it were us?
The question remains if the exploration of the moral right and wrong of a fledgling society will incur the wrath of the bear or be a mere blip on the bear’s awareness. With the horror that a PR war is underway and the Nathan James is now perceived as a murderous, rogue criminal outlier, a much bigger problem got even larger. One final confrontation between Dr. Scott and Captain Chandler however made the ramifications of her choice much more clear.
“The mouse survived. We have a contagious cure.” ~ Dr. Scott
“Are you certain?” ~ Captain Chandler
“Everyone who’s already vaccinated will just need a booster to carry it. But after that, once we get to a city that’s densely populated, every hand we shake, every cheek we kiss, every child we hold in our arms, it will spread, just like a common cold.” ~ Dr. Scott
“That’s great news.” ~ Captain Chandler
“I honestly didn’t expect an enthusiastic embrace, but—” ~ Dr. Scott
“I just watched the best hope for a fresh start sink to the bottom of the ocean. And now the whole country thinks we’re the enemy. And without Niels to put in front of the world, I have no way to fight the propaganda war to come. So excuse me if I’m not feeling more enthusiastic.” ~ Captain Chandler
Despite her successes, does that excuse Dr. Scott of any and all actions she chooses? Without the moral high ground can a ship full of people trying to now both clear their name and save a world succeed at either? That’s a huge question facing this show at the moment. One that will undoubtedly dominate the show’s direction for the near term. Right now, the jury is out whether the bearish audience will lash out over the stance taken by Chandler toward Dr. Scott. There is much more to this story to come and in the mean time, the bear is still weighing its options.
FINAL VERDICT: What happens when the apocalypse destroys the fabric of society? What rules stick and what exceptions does wisdom dictate are worthy? Tough questions face The Last Ship as the world they seek to save is turned against them.
Blind faith in a system and set of rules can be the one thing that holds everyone together. It can also tear at the fabric of one’s soul when those rules conflict with our human needs, desires and internal compass that aren’t necessarily defined by right and wrong, but our basest human nature. The glimpses into Rachel’s past and the loss of her mother from her father’s blind faith in religion, and not medicine, was undoubtedly a defining moment for her. One that would have turned her from faith and toward an empirical truth science provides that can be seen and touched.
But it did not escape us that blindly following the Navy’s traditions could also result in touching a deep nerve in Rachel when her actions are subject to scrutiny by that code. Scandler shippers, your hopes of seeing that come to pass may now be burning and sinking right along with the New Orleans flotilla. If Dr. Scott turned from religion because she trusted her inner compass more than an outer one over tragedy, she’s not likely to embrace the Naval code now for the same reasons. And for her, Captain Chandler is now the personification of that code.
The Last Ship hasn’t hidden from religion and faith as some shows do. Jeter (Charles Parnell) has been quite forward with his beliefs in a higher power guiding his captain and this crew toward a purpose that none of them can yet see. As is likely the case in society at large, the tug of war between the belief in the tangible and the intangible on this show is likely somewhere in the middle for most. Oliver Wendell Holmes probably said it best:
“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Somewhere a balance will need to be struck. Rules, accountability and justice all need to find a balance in life and wisdom sees through the blindness of a system to understand when and where to make exceptions. The Last Ship is asking some very personal and difficult questions. Ones that likely do not have clear right or wrong answers, but about which everyone who watches will form strong opinions. That’s an unexpected twist from what has been a solid action and drama oriented series and Writer Onalee Hunter Hughes did an excellent job showing us the contrasts between the two views.
Director Mario Van Peebles definitely had some experience exploring this same question during the filming of Heartbreak Ridge alongside Clint Eastwood. Sometimes wisdom and the right thing to do trumps tradition and blind faith. All in all he helped The Last Ship succeed in growing a world where right and wrong are judged by both the rules of the old world and the framework of a new one. It will be interesting to see where exactly the answers lie as this series continues.
The crew of the Nathan James have a far greater challenge than ever before ahead of them in convincing a world they are not the enemy they’ve been portrayed to be. In the process of doing so, will they also reconsider the new and the old and come to a place where the actions of Dr. Scott are understood differently? Time will tell. Her actions judged solely on the rules of the past would be criminal and unjust, but does Niels require an exception after carelessly killing five billion people? Some of which he purposely infected to weed out the Immunes? We don’t know where the answer to that question will land, but we’ll be watching The Last Ship next week to see what direction things go next!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- Only the Lord decides who lives and dies? Uh oh. That’s a little backstory. Hmm.
- Niels is dead. I’m thinking .. Or not so unfortunate.
- Burn the corpse huh. Can we do a few other horrible things to him before then? #ImHorrible #ButLetsDoThat
- No selfies. That’s inhuman. This really is the apocalypse.
- And we can get that from his lung tissue? Wow. Convenient he had that bad reaction. o.O
- Um do we need evidence that the murderer of 5 Billion got what he deserved?
- That look. Is NOT #BeGentleIThink
- If there’s no sex on the ship. Get out. Somebody needs a second cold shower now I think. 😉
- Writers’ room: It’s been two episodes, we need two guys without shirts again for the ladies..
- Uh oh. She used Mike. The cop’s ears just perked up.
- I’m gonna be hella pissed if there are consequences for what she’s done. So me. I wouldn’t change a thing about you. You’re ruthless baby. But that’s why we’re alive today. LOVE Tex.
- All I could think of was that he died too quickly. Damn right. I’m prepared to be PISSED right now.
- I get both sides of this thing, but still .. this is difficult to watch.
- They’re here. This is NOT good I think.
- Okay .. that was about the most crazy and intense 2 minutes of this show I’ve seen. WTF??
- Without Niels to put in front of the world.. Now THAT made sense. I’m SOO conflicted here.
The Last Ship Review: 2×10 “Friendly Fire”