However, producer Michael Bay and showrunner Hank Steinberg have thrown their hats into the ring, and thankfully, the results seem to be a fresh and unique take on the subject, in the form of TNT’s (Boom) latest thriller, The Last Ship. Premiering last Sunday, The Last Ship is literally that, it’s set aboard a naval destroyer that has been sent to a remote arctic location under the guise of military training, but unbeknownst to it’s entire crew, is there to deliver the scientist (Rhona Mitra) they thought was piggybacking a ride to study birds, while she scrambles to find a blood sample that will lead to the cure of a new deadly virus that is about to hit the wild.
When the crew of the USS Nathan James, led by their captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) are finally able to break radio silence and attempt to reach their families, it is revealed to the crew that nearly 80% of the world’s population has succumb to the virus and perished, including the majority of the senior staff of the White House, from whom Chandler was receiving orders. It’s still early, so it is forgivable of The Last Ship to have a majority of nameless and underdeveloped characters among the 200+ crew members of the Nathan James, which is clearly the case in the series’ premier. Dane turns in a serviceable performance as Chandler, who is thrust into the role of morale officer as well as Commander, while trying to maintain the guise of following orders that have stopped coming in the wake of disaster.
The seamen aboard the Nathan James quickly realize that in order to survive this crisis long enough for Dr. Rachel Scott (Mitra) to develop her miracle vaccine, they will have to remain aboard their ship, away from the population that is clearly a danger to them at all turns. The Rachel Scott character, however, immediately strikes me as one that will be more a pain to deal with than a contributing factor to the show, as her holier-than-thou routine is one we’ve seen develop into a trope in recent times with these kinds of projects. I understand that your job is the most important one right now, and finding the cure is priority one, but the mentality that somehow you are immune to following orders or having to answer anyone is simply annoying to me, and the good doctor displays it often in the first episode.
There are plenty of stories that have to balance out over the course of the show’s 10 episode season, including the crew having to scramble and likely often face going to land in order to retrieve supplies for their ship, which means having to brave the risk of infection at every turn. I’m sure morale and cabin fever will at some point become a major problem for Chandler to have to deal with, and I’m interested to see it play out. The seeds have already been planted for a few characters, such as the couple who have been hiding their relationship, and the young man who loses his friend to the disease in the latter parts of the episode. However, the most notable case is XO Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) who finds himself squaring off with Chandler right away, over his decision to keep the crew aboard the ship, rather than attempt to reach the last known location of the White House staff. Perhaps it’s just my extreme love of Baldwin, but I feel it’s pretty clear that Slattery stands out as one of the few characters to latch onto early in the season, and Baldwin is best suited to his role, as we’ve seen him play the military man a few times before. Hopefully the character will have more to do and will be able to be fleshed out in the coming episodes, because his dynamic with Commander Chandler stands as the most interesting part of the show so far.
The Last Ship also comes with everything you’d expect from a Michael Bay produced project, as well. There are some great action scenes, including a shootout with Russian helicopters, and impressive visual effects for a TNT series as well. The episode ends on a bit of a cheesy patriotic moment, but it’s done justice by Dane’s delivery, so that scene gets a pass. The Last Ship takes the idea of surviving a viral outbreak and turns it a bit on it’s side by keeping the story focused mainly on survival at this point, and isolation from the effects of the disease, rather than something like The Walking Dead that puts it’s characters in the middle of the outbreak trying to survive, though to be fair, that particular band of survivors also have to dodge zombies, something I’m thankful doesn’t show up here.