Monday, June 30, 2014

The Last Ship: Welcome to Gitmo.

A few spoilers ahead.....

Last night's episode of The Last Ship was nearly sixty minutes of action-packed suspense and drama that had me on the edge of my seat!

In this episode, the USS Nathan James heads to Gitmo to refuel and replenish supplies.  The tactical team is headed by Jocko Sims's Lt. Burk and Eric Dane's Captain Chandler. While one-half of the team attempts to refuel the ship, another enters the pharmacy on base to obtain desperately needed medical supplies and equipment which will allow Drs. Scott and Tophet to work on the vaccine. During the mission, the team falls under attack by Al-Qaeda prisoners. They run into a defense contractor named Tex who allies with them against the attackers. They are successful in their mission and make it back to the ship, with injuries but no deaths. 

Some thoughts.

Not shocking--I didn't trust Quincy from the beginning and I was right. He's a slimy bastard and time will tell just how much damage he may have done to the mission of the Nathan James and its crew.

The circle of prayer on deck gave us an insight to the emotions of the enlisted as they gathered on deck to say prayers for loved ones and share photos on their cell phones. Charles Parnell's Jeter and Eric Dane's Chandler were present and it was clearly evident from the looks on their faces, they felt the pain alongside their subordinates. While we've been focused on those in charge of the ship, we've had little interaction (of course it's only the second episode) with the enlisted so this was a nice touch and very heartfelt. I felt like that was just the beginning of us getting to know the heart and soul of that vessel.

Adam Baldwin's Slattery clearly does not like Rhona Mitra's Dr. Rachel Scott and he made it pretty clear when he called her out in the meeting. I am looking forward to more scenes between them. He doesn't trust her...and why should he? She lied to all of them. He lost his son. He blames her in part for that. I'm sure they all do. And she knows it as evidenced by her heartfelt remarks in the comms when she emphasized she was just following orders from the Pentagon.

The conversation that took place between Slattery and Chandler was one I'd been waiting for. At some point, especially after we were left hanging a bit in last week's episode, some of us wondered what would go down and if Slattery would defy his Captain. I'd hoped there would not be a mutiny. I like that while Slattery may disagree with Chandler, he's got his back and he is in fact, on board completely in the mission. For a moment, that look on Slattery's face when he reaffirmed his commitment to following the orders to Chandler, I thought perhaps XO was a little hurt that Chandler even asked him for that reaffirmation.

I really enjoy Slattery and Chandler together, they complement each other nicely. They can be at odds but  remain a united force. I also appears they have different commanding styles which will likely figure more prominently in later episodes.

Who of us wasn't cringing during the tactical team's mission to the pharmacy?  They had one hour to get in and out before they ran out of oxygen. We were watching the clock...waiting...wondering how in hell they were going to get out after the doors had been found chained and locked and the remaining terrorists waiting and shooting at them from the other side. 

As to thoughts on characters, I am incredibly impressed with the commanding performances of Eric Dane, Adam Baldwin and stepping up in this episode--Jocko Sims.

The character of Dr. Rachel Scott has grown on me. I like her. I just couldn't handle all that bitchiness in the first episode, it was too soon. Let us get to know her, let her sort of grow on us before you throw that at us!

I like Christina Elmore's Lt. Granderson. She's no-nonsense, fair but firm and...she's not a bitch. We saw a fair amount of her in the pilot, a little of her in the second episode and hopefully she'll have a stronger presence. I like her, she's got a commanding presence among her subordinates and she garners respect. She's a character that is easily-liked and respected.

My favorite part of this episode was the between-the-lines communication between Chandler and Slattery when Chandler was on the ground and facing armed terrorists and Slattery was aboard the ship.

"Listen to me Amir, you want the entire southwest corner of the warehouse...." (immediately the camera focuses on Slattery, he's thinking..he knows something's up.)

Amir, the lead terrorist demands all of the food. 

Well see now we've got a bit of a problem with that because there's one thing from the old world that still applies today...something that will never change..."

Suddenly we see the five-inch turning and I'm yelling at my TV "FIRE THAT SON OF A BITCH!" and at that moment Slattery yells "Fire!" (I have to admit I was pure giddy with excitement at that point! See...even girls like to see stuff get blown up!) and just before it hits the camera pans back to Chandler... 

"We don't negotiate with terrorists."  (Favorite line of the entire episode. Cliche and all!)

Slattery's distraction allows the team to kill the terrorists and they managed to get back to the ship, albeit with injuries but everyone survived. An added bonus is that Slattery decided to trust Scott and send her off the ship to take care of one of the wounded sailors, one whose life she saved. It was evident on board ship after all was said and done, that Scott had earned the admiration and respect from the crew for her actions. If they were angry or hesitant before, I feel now a spirit of camaraderie may have been borne of that experience.

In the final segment of the episode Chandler communicates with a ship he believes to be English but... is determined soon after that it is not a British ship, it is in fact the Russians.

Recall Dr. Tophet's frantic message in the last episode (in Russian)...and now we know who is on that ship! And...from the previews...we can be pretty sure what..or rather who...they want. And so the worn and weary crew of the USS Nathan James must prepare for battle again.

I'm very pleased with this week's episode and I hope the action and suspense continue. Sure, there were a few cliches like "Revenge is a dish best served cold" and its response "Let's Eat" but it worked and overall this was a solid episode.

A few people, mostly Navy vets have complained about procedural errors. I'm more interested in the drama and action and less interested in the tiny errors in naval procedures.  I served on a ship and the minor inaccuracies didn't bother me. Why? Because I was too focused on the main storyline. Sometimes tiny details just aren't important.

I would make a few recommendations to the showrunner. First, I'd focus some on the struggle among the enlisted crew in regards to being underway, in close quarters, without the possibility of seeing land for some time. No matter how seasoned a sailor you are, this is eventually going to get to you especially if you have the weight of what's going on in the world at that moment, weighing heavily upon you. Someone is going to crack. Add to this mix the torn feelings many have about wanting to get home versus their duty to their mission. Let's ensure the crew is seen as human beings and not robots. Human beings are fallible and we should see that. I'm not saying that the stress might turn some of these crew into traitors, its' not traitorous to be worn, weary and scared and want to go home. But while they know the vaccine that can be produced aboard that ship may get them home, they also know the longer they are away the more likely they are to never see their loved ones again. And in tense and stressful situations, human beings rarely think rationally. It would be nice to see this struggle because I believe in real-life, this would happen. It's human nature. And just as much as I might like to see this, I would add into that mix one of their own, likely CMC Jeter, as a force that helps keep them grounded and united.

Second, I'd like to see the show abandon the storyline of the romance between Lieutenants Green and Foster. It just doesn't fit. It didn't fit last week and it fit even less this week. It feels forced and out of place. And frankly, we just don't need it. Does it add to the storyline? No, not so far and I can't see where it will in the future. I talked last week about limiting subplots, now is the time. You can have a top-notch drama without throwing in a complicated romance and sexual relationship into it. If The Last Ship is going to survive, it's going to have to sacrifice that element. Believe me when I say it will not be missed.

All in all, while I wasn't sure last week how I'd feel after watching the second episode (because it was just too early), I am pleased that they came through. Once again I will reiterate that The Last Ship has two solid leads in Eric Dane and Adam Baldwin. They are entirely convincing. We're being shown a side of Rhona Mitra's character that we can now grow to like. Jocko Sims is positioning himself in a solid supporting role here and it fits well for his personality.  I also think the slowly delving into the personalities of some of the enlisted crew rounds it out nicely.

Kudos to the team at The Last Ship for delivering a great episode. I'm looking forward to another hour of pure action/suspense/drama next week!

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