June 21, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Last Ship”



THE LAST SHIP was one of last summer’s biggest cable hits, taking a premise that was technically post-apocalyptic sci-fi, in which most of the world has been annihilated by a plague, but staging it as a more or less contemporary military action adventure.  That’s an approach, modeled after Tom Clancy’s fiction, that clearly appealed to a broad audience, making it one of TNT’s strongest original dramas.  Tonight’s season 2 premiere, written by series creators Hank Steinberg and Steve Kane, and directed by Jack Bender, made it clear that no one intends to mess around with a good thing.

The show offered a genuine 2-hour premiere tonight, as opposed to the back-to-back episodes we usually get, presenting a fairly self-contained story.  Military thrillers can always use a seemingly reasonable but actually power-mad dictator as a foe, and at the end of Season 1, we met Amy Granderson (Alfre Woodard), the highest ranking US government official left post-plague, who had kept Baltimore going after the crisis–but, we discovered, did so by allowing those she considered unworthy to die, and then using their bodies as fuel for the city’s electric plants.  (Because nothing quite raises historical chills up the spine like the sight of huge human crematoria.)  She was also the mother of series regular Alisha Granderson (Christina Elmore), who recoiled as well when she realized what her mother was doing.  Naturally, our stalwart hero, Commander Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) of the USS Nathan James, his XO Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) and the rest of his crew, could not let this stand.

Bender is one of the most effective action directors in TV, and the battle sequences in the premiere, of which there were many, were admirably structured and edited so that for once, it was possible to tell exactly where people were in relation to the enemies they were fighting, and where the bullets were coming from that were bringing people down.  With simultaneous sorties going against Granderson’s headquarters, the electric plant, and aboard the Nathan James,  not to mention smaller operations like the rescue of pregnant Lt Kara Foster (Marissa Neitling), whose baby was going to be harvested for stem cells that contained anti-plague vaccine, there was little room for characterization in the episodes, and the tone of the two hours didn’t vary much from patriotic determination and the occasional heroic death, the latter notably from the previously duplicitous scientist Quincy Tophet (Sam Spruell), who died to save the key to the cure from Granderson’s brutal troops, and the head of Baltimore’s resistance (guest star Titus Welliver).  On that level, the show delivered.

The Last Ship took a surprising turn last season, when it allowed Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra), the show’s resident scientific genius, to actually find the cure for the plague, making it unclear just where the series was going to go after that.  After the premiere, that’s still an open question, since the episode ended with Amy Granderson’s suicide and no obvious seeds planted for future storylines, as the Nathan James prepared to depart from Baltimore for its home base.  As long as it keeps its upper lip stiff and the bullets crisply flying, though, it should deliver what its viewers, and by extension its network, expects.


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."