Is it possible for the world to change so rapidly in a matter of months? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes on TNT's new show "The Last Ship," which showcased how the world was ravaged by a disease unlike any other without a reasonable cure or level of control in sight. Can a dedicated crew of hundreds be able to do what so many failed to do before them or die trying? Sure, the apocalypse thriller has been done before on both the big and small screens, but the show managed to put a new spin on things to get viewers tuned in regardless.
"The Last Ship" followed the crew of the Nathan James who spent months in the coldest place on earth for training exercises, but they were in for the shock of their life when it came time for their mission to end. Commander Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) was given the order to extend his assignment by the new acting President of the United States who revealed that the world he knew no longer existed because it had been destroyed by a deadly virus of unknown origin that has eliminated a large part of the world's population. He also had to deal with the fact that his entire family could be dead and he had no way of knowing. He soon found out that his training exercises were a smoke screen for Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) to gather samples that could lead to a long term solution of a cure to save the remainder of the population. Unfortunately, the crew was forced to encounter some Russians eager to get Dr. Scott and her samples because they had a mole in her assistant Quincy (Sam Spruell) who had been feeding them information all along. It also turned out that they were holding his family hostage in an effort to secure his cooperation. He just didn't expect to get caught and now he was a prisoner on the ship that was eager for his freedom by any means necessary; including a failed plot to cause a wide spread panic among the crew. The crew, including Chandler himself, were forced to compromise themselves in ways they never imagined as they traveled around the globe for supplies and means to help Dr. Scott conduct her research. As Chandler felt the pressures of being a leader, he had the support of his XO Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) and CMC Jeter (Charles Parnell) to confide in when the burden got to be too much at times. As the Nathan James traveled on, the crew's survival was nearly derailed by the secret relationship of Lt. Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle) and Lt. Kara Foster (Marissa Neitling) who allowed their feelings for each other to cloud their judgment on more than one occasion. Will Chandler's efforts pay off or will the crew die in vain as they continue to fight an unwinnable battle?
In terms of questions, the biggest one was recently answered when it was revealed that the show had been just renewed for a second season that will likely around the same time next year. The network was wise to renew it and air the show during the summer time where viewers were expecting an action thriller type series to entertain them when all of the serious dramas were left to be aired this fall. "The Last Ship" has managed to balance action, drama and the occasional moment of light comedy to help break up the tension every once in a while. The show was also very wise to make John Pyper-Ferguson's lively Tex more than a mere one episode guest star because he always managed to make viewers and cast members laugh without going overboard in doing so. His character's colorful presence allowed Dane a chance to crack a smile and a joke once in the most recent episode as their characters discussed the seriousness of a crew unrest situation. Ferguson also appeared to have a nice flirtation going on with Mitra's Dr. Scott that could go somewhere, or nowhere, depending on how long his character was sticking around. Unfortunately, the show's weakest storyline at the moment was the close quartered romance between Van Winkle's Green and Neitling's Foster because the story sometimes served more as a distraction than an important element to the show as a whole. The only time that it impacted an episode was when Foster and Green were on a mission together that was nearly derailed by one of them fearing that the other would get hurt. In order for that on-screen relationship to work, viewers might need a little backstory and few more opportunities for the characters to decide whether the mission was more important than sparing the other's feelings. Hopefully, the latter half of the season will continue to increase the level of tension for cast members to see how the characters crack, or thrive, under pressure. Only time will tell if that's the case.
As for breakout performances, Dane and Mitra led the pack as their characters were the driving force behind a lot of the stories and provided some of season's crucial moments as well. Dane's often stoic Chandler was starting to show signs of strain when he saw an important video that let him know that most of his family was safe in the woods for the time being. He allowed Chandler's conflicting emotions wash over his face as he watched the video and wondered when, or if, he could ever see his family again. Dane provided Chandler with a strength and confidence that allowed the character to lead his crew, even when he wasn't making the wisest of decisions in the process. A recent episode showed the characters as he struggled dealing with the fact that he had blood on his hands that could never be washed away no matter how hard he tried to do so. Dane was also able to showcase his character's playful side in his scenes with Ferguson, Baldwin and Parnell that demonstrated his rapport with the men and gave viewers a nice break from the growing tension. Let's hope that the show will continue to build upon Dane's rapport with his male costars as the season progressed and also give them their own storylines at one point to see things from a different point of view for a change. Mitra, on the other hand, had the challenging task of playing a character that most of the cast wasn't fond after being kept in the dark for months about the fate of the world. She has spent most of the season trying to redeem her character's mistake without much luck for the time being. Mitra provided Dr. Scott with the right amount of grit, arrogance and vulnerability as the fate of the world rested on her character's shoulders. She also had a nice rapport with both Dane and Ferguson for different reasons. Hopefully, the show will build upon one or both of them down the line sooner rather than later.
"The Last Ship" premiered on June 22nd and airs Sundays at 9:00 PM on TNT.
Verdict: The show has greatly improved upon a shaky series premiere by building up the tension each week as the crew tries to stay alive long enough for the virus to be stopped.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)