Outstanding performances by Eric Dane, Marissa Neitling and especially Fay Masterson. Compelling and emotional storyline with a fantastic mix of highs and lows by a solid ensemble cast.
Slightly naive approach to the cure distribution, but that’s nipped in the bud later in the episode.
As The Last Ship pulled into port, all the emotions contained within her for over a season came flooding out as the crew learned the brutal truth about the world they left behind.
The Last Ship — As the Nathan James returned to Norfolk, a prevailing nervousness lingered. Scientists and the cure were sent to labs across the globe and afterward, everyone’s attention turned to family. Captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) ensured that teams sent ashore contained those whose families lived in the city and one by one crew members learned good, bad or frustratingly little news. From the high of LT Foster (Marissa Neiting) finding her mother to the low of LCDR Garrett (Fay Masterson) learning her entire family perished, the crew either suffered or rejoiced. Some, such as XO Slattery (Adam Baldwin) were left with frustratingly little information.
With his children and father with him, Captain Chandler decided to honor his promise and not leave his family again, but they saw what he could not. He still had much to do before the world would be a stable place and with so few leaders of character, his drive would be needed to rebuild a world left in shambles. Loved ones might still be alive, but the family aboard the Nathan James still had a job to do. Without spreading the cure, the world would crumble and fail. As everyone faced the decision whether to stay, go or give up, ultimately the bond they shared as shipmates and the responsibility of a mission not yet complete pulled most back together, but not without heartbreak for many on this week’s episode of The Last Ship.
The fate of my family.
If there was a constant throughout the episode, it was everyone wanting to know the fates of their families one way or the other. Quite the opposite of the opener with its end-to-end thrills, this episode provided much-needed character depth and time to breathe. Well written and well constructed, events unfolded as a mix of emotions hitting at once. Highs and lows took us from euphoric peaks to gut-wrenching valleys and as a whole, the episode provided a complex mosaic of returning home to the uncertain.
“How you doing?” ~ LCDR Garnett
“Nervous. You?” ~ LT Foster
“Terrified.” ~ LCDR Garnett
The pure joy by Marissa Neitling as Kara discovered her mother not only safe, but sober and essential to the survival of others was a definitive high. As the story progressed and her decision to stay or go became clear, Kara made the conscious choice not to tell her mother about her pregnancy to avoid being asked to stay. In so doing, Writer Hank Steinberg gave us one of the most satisfying scenes of the episode as her mother wished her well and acknowledged that she’d known about the baby and LT Green (Travis Van Winkle) all along. A mother always knows and the moment of surprise worked to perfection.
There is no safe harbor in frustration and grief.
Make no mistake, Fay Masterson stole the show and delivered the emotional punch for the night. As uncertain as everyone was about their families, LCDR Garnett’s story hit home through a beautifully raw and unfiltered performance by Masterson. The reveal was a clever one as we watched her frustration of finding no clues at her home and only learned the truth when Chandler came to her quarters to see her. As Garnett revealed her entire family’s fate at the hands of the red flu and she broke down before her Captain at their loss, we know we didn’t have dry eyes either.
“It was so surreal, seeing their names there on that paper. I mean I don’t know what I expected You know, why–why I’d be special, why I’d be spared.” ~ LCRD Garnett
In similar fashion, XO Slattery also found at least one place where his family had been, but unlike others, found no clues of what fate had befallen them after. Adam Baldwin has created a strong physical presence for Slattery, but seeing the distress, worry and indecision swirl in his facial expressions was a subtlety that simply fit the character and the moment. Slattery gave us the impression that even in his demonstrative moments, he’s got a definitive weak spot for his children as any strong man would. Seeing Slattery’s frustrating struggle along with Garnett’s heartbreaking revelation grounded the episode in a realism that good news will likely not come for most.
As crew members wrestled with continuing with the mission to manufacture the cure or focusing on their families, the decision for each became something personal. And it was in those personal decisions that each made that we got to see the commitment that each of them held for their shipmates and for the larger task of saving a world not even close to recovering from the worst disaster in the history of man. After the intensity of the opening episodes, this quiet reflection upon family and mission was needed to build the world and The Last Ship did it well.
You mean I could have had my first command?
At some point, we knew that a decision would have to be made by CO Chandler regarding his mission, the world and his family. While we respect the show for giving us the natural “family first” approach with Chandler deciding to step down and be with his children, as fans, we all knew that would ultimately not be his final direction. After all, the main character of a show isn’t going to suddenly sit things out and let the rest of the story pass him by. That’s not how television works.
What surprised us was the way in which it played out. As his children and father settled in and Chandler becames restless, it was his family that ultimately sent him on his way. We clearly expected the opposite from his children, but in a gutsy admission, Ashley (Grace Kaufman) hit him right in the emotional center by pointing out that her mother, the late Darien Chandler (Tracy Middendorf), wouldn’t have wanted him to come home without finishing what he started. As the internal struggle between captain and father languished, it was the CO’s father, Jed Chandler (Bill Smitrovich), that hit the nail on the head regarding the captain and his responsibility to the world outside of his home.
“You think because you got a, a lab in Baltimore and six planes with the cure that everything’s in hand? The world is in chaos. There’s a lot more to do.
Cut the shit and quit laying this guilt trip on yourself. There’s no time for it. Whether you like it or not, you’re Noah and that ship is your ark.” ~ Jed Chandler
Even going so far as to equate the CO to George Washington retiring to his farm and ignoring a country that needed him, Jed provided the emotional fuel that gave us what we knew would ultimately happen. Our CO would return to his ship and the mission to save the world would move on. But in doing so, good writing tipped where this show can go and how far the world has fallen. If everything has indeed fallen apart, it will take the sheer will of brave individuals willing to stay the course to pull the world back from the brink of chaos.
Eric Dane has captured well the idea of a man committed to honoring his country and his commission. Not because it’s his duty, but because it’s the right thing to do. That same fortitude may be exactly what a fledgling new society needs in its leadership to begin anew. We don’t know where this show is going, but the selfless man is the one we’d choose to lead us if the world fell apart tomorrow and that would have us waiving “Chandler for President” flags quickly. That may or may not happen, but the seed is planted. Now, we can’t wait to see what grows. In the mean time, Slattery, who made a very similar sacrifice, will have to wait a bit longer for a command of his own. The Captain is back aboard his ship.
FINAL VERDICT: The Last Ship reached home, but emotion overtook everyone through the highs and lows of a world that’s spiraled into chaos. Notes of joy, despair, frustration and conflict all rang through a melancholy return to families lost, found and broken. But valor and commitment paved the way for brighter days.
If there’s one thing The Last Ship has excelled at over it’s 13 episodes, it’s in giving us examples of triumph through bravery, faith and never giving up. In the end, there are always positives that come from even the darkest moments. These good vibes tend to be a thread that continuously weave through all the story lines whether they have us rejoicing or cursing before they conclude. CMC Jeter (Charles Parnell) said it best to LT Alisha Granderson (Christina Elmore). The situation they find themselves in does bring out the worst in people but it can also bring out the best. And it’s that best that keeps us coming back for more every week.
Writer and Executive Producer Hank Steinberg delivered a third episode that gave us time to pause and reflect after the intensity of the season opener. While still rousing in its success of distributing the cure, we also experienced the heartbreak of uncertainty and loss. Family has been on the minds of this crew from the beginning and it was that mix of highs and lows of loved ones that made the strange brew of this episode work so well. We needed a breath after all that’s happened and these characters needed a pause to grow and evolve into what this season will become.
As expected we didn’t get answers on every front. It may be some time before some members of the crew find families again or learn the fate of those they left behind. That would be expected of a crew consisting of 200+ men and women. It will take time. The answers we did get left us mixed with both joy and sorrow. In particular, the high of LT Kara Foster finding her mother not only alive, but sober and in good spirits, was a lift. In turn, the low of LCDR Garnett learning her entire family had perished was gut-wrenching.
We do love the way this show has not trivialized women as the only bearers of emotion, but it’s worth noting the exceptional performances by both Marissa Neitling in her joy and Fay Masterson in her sorrow. Both women reached deep and found in themselves something primal to let out on screen. We don’t know what inspirations helped drive the joy of finding a mother alive or the complete heartbreak of losing a family, but both moments moved us and felt utterly appropriate in the world of the U.S. Navy returning home to a barren and chaotic world.
Kudos to Director Tim Matheson for working within the world of The Last Ship and its sobering vision of chaos to bring us a story that slowed the pace and made the joy and loss of returning home incredibly real. The world at hand is nothing like the one this crew left and their isolation and reinsertion into a disintegrated society may give them the unique perspective needed to reach a brighter future now that a cure is in hand. To do that, it seems they will have to overcome an emerging elitism that could stand in the way of a peaceful future.
This show has not shied away from the positives of religion and it would seem they are about to explore the opposite as well. Both perspectives would likely emerge in a post-apocalyptic world and though the themes have been seen before many times, it will be interesting to see how this show deals with the challenges of a fractured country and the even more dangerous fractioned beliefs.
Despite the sorrow, there were definitive positives that are the staple of The Last Ship. Eric Dane, normally stoic and reserved, let out quiet emotion as Chandler struggled with the decision between the responsibility to his family and needs of the world. As he came to grips with the greater good, we knew others would follow—and they did.
Few take the road less traveled. Fewer still embark on that path across highly uncertain waters, but true to form, The Last Ship gave us hope. Despite unseen obstacles, we believe in the Captain and Crew of the Nathan James. And we will stand with them as they overcome whatever odds are set before them to build a new world upon the blood-stained tears of the old starting next week with the next episode of The Last Ship.
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- Least he’s not sick. Yeah. I think breathing around him might be dangerous.
- The White House with X’s might be one of the most disturbing images yet.
- I won’t let you down sir. I just love Kara’s character. Such heart.
- Dr. Hunter from Florida. Who is dat Dr. Scott?
- Well if he’s not becoming a son of a bitch. #PatientZero
- You [Tex] care for the people more than you care to admit. Damn right he does.
- Well as if we needed another reason to love Tex.
- I have a deep, disturbing feeling that this episode is going to hurt in ways we don’t yet know.
- Damn right he did. Pop Chandler stole my line. lol
- All that’s left is what she became. Man. That’s got to hurt.
- Everything moves a lot faster in the apocalypse. That’s for damn sure. #Scary
- Let’s do this. Oh man.
- Because that’s where you go to be safe in the apocalypse. #TheBowlingAlley
- That look? That’s the woman I love—happy. ~LT Green. Heartfelt moment
- Dammit. When @MarissaNeitling cries, I do too. That was an amazing moment. We needed that.
- Why ain’t you sick? Same question I’d be asking.
- Good news and bad news all at the same time. That was tough.
- This is where things get good, bad and .. worse I think. #MixedBag #Emotional
- Oh God. That was utterly heartbreaking. @FayMasterson
- She wouldn’t want you to give up. Wow Ashley. Didn’t expect that. Powerful stuff.
- You think I don’t see? I’m your mother. Wow. That was an inspiring moment.
- Cut the shit. Your Noah. And that ship is your Ark.
- I can’t. Those words are not spoken here. #BOOM! @tinalorenn
- You mean I coulda had my first command? @AdamBaldwin @RealEricDane #LineOfTheNight
- I knew tonight would hit us in the feels. @MarissaNeitling & @FayMasterson were outstanding on both ends of the spectrum!!
- Outstanding episode tonight! Wow.
The Last Ship Review: 2×03 “It’s Not a Rumor”