September 7, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Last Ship”


Despite an underwhelming season finale that favored sentiment over action until the closing seconds, THE LAST SHIP had a fairly smooth second voyage.  (The show, one of TNT’s highest-rated originals, has already been renewed for Season 3.)  Season 1 had ended, somewhat surprisingly, with the discovery of a cure for the virus that had killed most of the world’s population, making one wonder what the rest of the series was going to be about, but creators Hank Steinberg and Steven Kane found plenty for the crew of the USS Nathan James to do.

After the season’s first few episodes extricated the show from the dystopian Season 1 melodrama of President Granderson (Alfre Woodard), who was consuming innocents as literal fuel for the city of her chosen elite, the major Season 2 plotline gave the world a Big Bad in the person of Sean Ramsey (Brian F. O’Byrne), leader of a group of Immunes, who were determined to infect the world so that they and their fellow genetically lucky cult members could take over whatever was left  It was an oddly Stephen King-ian notion for a show that mostly keeps itself in Tom Clancy territory despite its post-apocalyptic premise, but O’Byrne was convincingly toxic, and Ramsey served his purpose, seducing the former Cabinet official–12th in the line of succession–turned new President (Mark Moses, for once playing a good guy) to the dark side until Commander Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) talked him back, while distributing infected teddy bears to surviving children, and otherwise being all kinds of dastardly.

It was somewhat mysterious that the show dispatched Sean and his brother to the great beyond in the season’s penultimate episode, which left their 3rd in commend Kevin McDowell (Patrick Brennan) as fodder for the finale, not all that much of a challenge.  Since the Nathan James’ super-scientist Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) had coldbloodedly killed the revolting Niels (Ebon Moss Bachrach), the man who created the virus in the first place, so that she could use his tissue to make a “contagious cure”, the key finale sequence featured the semi-comic spectacle of McDowell’s people and the Nathan James crew each trying to breathe on as many people in Memphis as possible, to alternately infect or cure them.  McDowell was captured shortly thereafter, so it was 4th-tier villain Curtis (Travis Hammer) who delivered the season’s cliffhanger, an abrupt bullet into Dr. Scott’s chest, just as she was about to leave the ship for other duties, and just after Chandler had come as close as the show had ever allowed to admitting some potentially romantic feelings for her.  (This coming after he’d grimly told her that he’d have her put her on trial for Niels’ murder, an idiotic storyline–we get it, Chandler goes by the book–that was mercifully eliminated with a hasty presidential pardon for Rachel.)

Once a helicopter spraying the cure trumped the Immunes’ efforts to infect the populace, the finale script, written by Consulting Producer Anne Cofell Saunders, turned much heavier on emotion than Last Ship‘s usual load, in an almost series finale way  We’d already seen the happy reunion of Tex (John Pyper-Ferguson, doing yeoman duty this year as a simultaneous regular on Last Ship and Suits) and his long-lost teen daughter, and the closing sequences included an extended salute to cast members that hadn’t made it through both seasons, and the President promoting Chandler to a Cabinet-level position, as well as the love-that-almost-dared-speak-its-name scene between Chandler and Rachel.  Director Jack Bender did a fine job of extracting stiff-upper-lip emotion from all this, even if a montage of townspeople sharing bottled water with the crew (one of the other ways the cure could be passed on) ended up looking a bit like a Poland Spring commercial, but Last Ship steers better in action-driven waters.

The Last Ship is a solid success for TNT, especially since it skews younger and more male than the network’s other hits Rizzoli & Isles and Major Crimes, and unlike its recent Sunday partner Falling Skies, it seems built for a reasonably long haul.  While the season finale didn’t raise anticipation for Season 3 to a particularly high level of excitement, the show should be able to deliver its cargo when called upon next summer.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."