In its second episode, The Last Ship looked at Guantanamo Bay, with all its associations in politics, ethics, and the media, and decided to answer the difficult question of "Are terrorists bad?"
This was an episode that wasn't really about the disease. It was about getting supplies to the ship and the fact that no one likes Dr. Scott after she spent four months not telling them that everyone they loved was dying back home. Also, there are still evil Russians out to get the ship.
And I know I said last time that I wasn't recapping this show anymore, but I'm handling this show for a little bit longer.
Spoilers start now...
We pick up almost exactly where we left off, with Dr. Russian Spy telling his bosses that the Last Ship is headed to Guantanamo for supplies. Then he's told to stall them. He's as incredulous as I am at this request. GOOD LUCK, Dr. Russian Spy. His plan? To volunteer to go to Guantanamo instead of Dr. Scott.
Being given the role of "character development" this week is the Lieutenant Who Has a Dog. Look, I'm not going to tell these people how to do their job. But if I have to keep looking up this show on Wikipedia, discovering that I can't tell who a person is from the character descriptions available, and then googling photos of castmembers to match to the character names in order to figure out who everyone is, they've fucked up.
I go the extra mile for you and the guy with the dog is Lt. Danny Green, is what I'm saying.
He's also the dude who watched his friend kill himself in the pilot, which is why he's been assigned character development this week. I have to admit being impressed that a show like this remembered that happened and thought about how it would affect people.
Which would have more resonance if Lt. Green and Chandler hadn't entered this episode with this exchange:
Chandler: How do they look?
Green: Janowitz has an eye. Harris and Cassetti have the balls. Depends on what we're going to need out there.
Chandler: Balls. We'll need the balls.
My inner preteen is still laughing. And my outer twenty-something is as well.
Green, his dog, and his angry grieving are met by the girl he made out with in the pilot, Foster. He's upset that his friend killed himself, and also that everyone's families are probably dead. That's fair. I'd be fetal if any of this happened to me.
Life sucks all over, since the people listening at everyone else's desperate cries for help have been instructed to ignore them. And then, we see a bunch of crewmembers in a sort of shared prayer/remembrance of their families. They show pictures of them on their cell phones and give little bits of information. Both of these little vignettes about life on the ship after the virus are pretty heartrending, and I'm not okay with that.
Now I'm better.
Because we're in the second episode, Dr. Scott is literally laying out the "rules" for the disease. Which are:
- It's airborne
- It's symptoms are lethargy, cough, hemorrhaging, and ending in dementia (I'm 100% sure that this is a symptom just so the writers can have people acting crazy for MAXIMUM DRAMA)
- The last known incubation period was 3-5 days
- It was artificially altered and now probably stable
- Plot-conveniently, dogs are immune.
- Also convenient: you only have the wear the face obscuring masks inside confined spaces.
Commander Adam Baldwin has just now realized that all of Dr. Scott's information is about a month old, so he's questioning whether she can actually do anything about the disease based on that. There's some tense back and forth but I do not care, because it looks like SHIELD Agent Jasper Sitwell is on this ship. Dude, things did not go well for you the last time you were on a ship, either.
So we've now set up the dynamic for this show: Chandler's all about the cure, Dr. Scott's convinced she can make it, and the XO's not a fan of her or of Chandler's current decisions. But he's going to respect the now-nonexistent chain of command. Until the inevitable episode where he's asked to lead a mutiny. I do so love a show where I know exactly what points they're going to hit. Also, Adam Baldwin is this show's version of Battlestar Galactica's Tigh, but without the drinking problem to make him fun.
The Last Ship gets to Guantanamo, where everything they need is spread out, so there will be three teams. Neither of the microbiologists are being allowed to go, because they can't be risked. But Chandler's going because, fuck it, that's what real leaders do.
And then, as Dr. Russian Spy tries to sabotage the ship, he's caught by Sitwell. Take that, Dr. Russian Spy.
In Guantanamo, they find this:
Which leads to someone being ordered not to vomit in their oxygen mask. This show has such a way with words.
The ship has three teams: Team Fuel, Team Hospital, and Team Everything Else. Team Everything Else, lead by Chandler, sees a man who yells "Get out of there, I'm an American!" just as a car bomb goes off.
Yelling American tells them that there are 14 escaped, non-infected Al-Qaeda members who want to kill them. They're all alive because they were in the isolated part of the camp for high-level prisoners. Yelling American and the rest of the guards figured that, at the end of the world, there wasn't any politics any more, and they let the prisoners out. And the prisoners turned on them. Not because they're Al-Qaeda, but because the guards were idiots. Yelling American is the only one left, and he says the 14 terrorists are guarding the food and, oh, pointing rocket launchers at the Last Ship.
Chandler, rightly, is pissed that Yelling American (WHOSE REAL NAME IS TEX, ONLY SLIGHTLY LESS STUPID THAN THE ONE I GAVE HIM) saved that tidbit for last. He warns the ship, and then he and Yelling American team up to get to the food.
Team Hospital has only 11 minutes of air left to get supplies, and they stay to get everything Scott needs. Then, of course, they get trapped by shooters with only minutes left. Team Fuel can't stop fueling the ship, which would be a slight problem if the terrorists with rocket launchers hit the fuel line. Team Fuel has a member shot before the ship takes out the guys surrounding them.
Team Everything Else heads to where the terrorists are guarding the food supplies, and are confronted with this:
So, if you were wondering how The Last Ship would handle the politically complicated question of Guantanamo Bay, the answer is "Without any moral ambiguity whatsoever." Let's assume that the virus kills the morally ambiguous, leaving only actual evil terrorists and the pure-hearted members of the Last Ship alive. We can add it to Dr. Scott's list of plot-convenient rules.
In response, we get another example of The Last Ship's sterling writing:
Yelling American: Animals.
Chandler: Revenge is best served cold.
Yelling American: Let's eat.
I am endlessly delighted by the dialogue on this show.
Both Team Hospital and Team Everything Else are fighting terrorists. Team Hospital manages to get out, but someone's shot. The doctor's already with Team Fuel, handling their gunshot victim. So Dr. Scott turns to Adam Baldwin with "I worked a year in a trauma ward in Mogadishu." Which is all he needs to send her in. I'm going to start using this to justify anything I want to do. "I want pizza." "No, tacos. I worked a year in a trauma ward in Mogadishu." Also, it works, because she saves the guy.
Meanwhile, Yelling American has been captured by Amir, who is "a big fan of IEDs and mutilating American soldiers." Chandler manages to communicate to Adam Baldwin that he wants a diversion from the ship, so they arrange one. Chandler tells Amir, "It's a new world. There are no good guys and bad guys. We're all just trying to survive." But, of course, it's a speech that's a cover for giving information to Adam Baldwin. When Amir refuses, Chandler says, "Well, we got a problem. Because there's one thing from the old world that still applies today. Something that will never change."
Chandler pauses to let us see the ship get into position and just long enough for me to chant "We don't negotiate with terrorists" seven times before he actually says it. Blah, blah, ship fires to distract the terrorists, blah, blah, terrorists are killed. Yelling American joins the crew.
So, now the ship has food, fuel, and Dr. Scott's medical supplies. And everyone's fine. Dr. Russian Spy has finally figured out how to delay the ship: By just tipping over his own work station and claiming he needs time to secure it. No clue why he want looking for so many other, more dangerous to him personally, options.
Now, obviously, Dr. Scott went to save Team Hospital's hurt member to make the rest of the ship trust her. Chandler tells her she has nothing to prove and not to do it. And we get a close up on the ID card of the guy who killed himself last week. Oh sure, his name I need to see in its entirety. I had to google the guy holding the ID, though. Lt. Green finishes his character development by telling his girlfriend that he should be preparing to give all this stuff to the dead guy's family, but he can't even do that. And he starts to cry.
Whatever! The Russians have arrived and they've put the Last Ship in their crosshairs. And the Russian captain introduces himself with, I kid you not, "I'm sorry to have made such a rude introduction. But I believe you have something that I want."
Just like the pilot, I still very much enjoy this show's commitment to being an mindless action show. Not even the dialogue strays from formula into anything like how normal people speak. This is a show that went to Guantanamo Bay and came up with nothing deeper to say than "Terrorists are bad." That's actually impressive. At no point did the writers suffer from delusions of grandeur that they had the skill to tackle the complexities of the situation there. There were no attempts to probe the human condition. Just "terrorists are bad. Also Russians. Russians are also bad."
Would I like a show that addressed these things? Yes. But I've been burned by shows that thought they could handle difficult topics and just ruined themselves trying before. At least The Last Ship never strays into areas it can't actually handle. It's found its niche and is happy there. And I'm happy to hear Eric Dane say, "Balls." That's this show in a nutshell. Let's see if that can be his catchphrase.