by Billie Doux
When the premise of this show was announced, it was treated as a joke. Yet another apocalyptic TV show, but this time on a Navy destroyer and executive produced by Michael Bay, which immediately makes you think of bang boom Transformers movies. Honestly, when I first tried it, I didn't expect to like it at all.
But The Last Ship turned out to be the surprise of the summer for me. I liked it much better than the other two big new summer shows, Extant and The Leftovers. In fact, I liked it more than the last season of True Blood. It never once sat unwatched on my DVR.
The Last Ship is about the crew of the U.S. Navy destroyer Nathan James, who spent four months under radio silence in the Arctic (or was it the Antarctic) as Dr. Rachel Scott, a scientist, searched for something that the crew knew nothing about. When they returned to the world, they learned that while they were out, most of the world's population had succumbed to a global pandemic, and that Scott was quite possibly the world's only hope of creating a cure.
This is not The Walking Dead. The Last Ship doesn't lend itself to repeated viewing and analysis, and I doubt it will turn out to be a television classic. But it is doing a great job of being just what it is -- a fast-paced military drama with a science-fiction plot.
One big reason I am enjoying this show is Eric Dane as Captain Tom Chandler. Dane works so much better as a Navy commander than he did as Doctor McSteamy on Grey's Anatomy, and I have a huge crush on him already. He just exudes authority with a hint of sexy so very, very well. Maybe it's those steely blue eyes. And maybe I just like him better as a top cat than as a hound dog.
Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) was less successful for me, at least until the last few episodes when her character finally got more interesting things to do and I started to warm up to her. Although every time someone calls her "Dr. Scott," I flash to
Adam Baldwin is always wonderful, and X.O. Mike Slattery is a good part for him. (Or more accurately, he's good for the part.) We don't get the comic slant he gave us so well in Firefly and Chuck (okay, maybe just a little bit of a comic slant) but it's still the eminently watchable Adam Baldwin and he gives Slattery his all. He and Dane have good acting chemistry, too. I can always feel the liking and respect they have for each other without it being explained in expositiony dialogue.
A big stand-out character for me is guest star John Pyper-Ferguson as Tex, a prison guard that the crew picks up at Gitmo. Tex, who is irreverent and has long hair so that you know he's not military, functions beautifully as the anti-Navy character, saying the things that the others cannot say, and he actively flirts with Dr. Scott in an adorable and not at all obnoxious way. In fact, I was so in love with Tex and so aware that he was just a guest star that I kept actively worrying that they were going to kill him off.
So why does this show work for me when Revolution did not?
It could be the excellent casting. Especially Eric Dane, whom I could watch all day and into the night. It could also be that they filmed on an actual destroyer with Navy technical advisers, and it feels real. I know nothing about the Navy, but I bet they are portraying Navy regs, terminology and hierarchy with accuracy. I never go, wow, that would never happen on a Navy destroyer, or a Naval officer would never do that.
The Last Ship has a simplicity and focus that Revolution did not have. In fact, The Last Ship has something of a Star Trek vibe. The Nathan James is on its own and accountable only to itself. The captain has to make life and death decisions all the time that could affect not only his crew, but the entire world. They must find food, water and fuel in order to continue functioning, but they cannot risk interacting with people on the mainland without getting infected. Everyone on the ship, including the captain, is desperate to just go and look for their families, but they all know they cannot. They long to help the sick, but must keep their distance. I found a subplot with the young radio operator and the distress calls he couldn't answer to be quite touching.
In the last couple of episodes, The Last Ship pulled out some big acting guns (pun intended): Titus Welliver (who shops at Josie Kafka's Trader Joe's) as a mainland warlord, and the always wonderful Alfre Woodard as a mainland civilian leader. The first season ended in a huge cliffhanger.
Will I review this show? Probably not. Will I be watching next summer? Absolutely.
[Please note: There may be spoilers for this first season in the comments below.]
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.