Airdate: July 6, 2014
Directed by: Jack Bender
Showrunner: Hank Steinberg
Written by: William Brinkley (based on the novel by), Steven Kane (created and written for television by), Hank Steinberg (created by)
Two episodes in, and I was just about ready to throw in the towel on this one. Does the third episode do anything different? Does it do enough to get me to come back for more? Click through after the break to find out!
<<Spoiler Alert: This review of The Last Ship Season 1, Episode 3 “Dead Reckoning” will include minor spoilers and plot points.>>
Rather than keeping you in suspense, the answer is quite simply: Yes. For now. But I have this ship on a short leash.
We pick up right after the end of last week’s episode, with Captain Chandler dealing with the Russians over his comm. It turns out that they are facing a guided missile cruiser – an older ship, but far outgunning the Nathan James. In addition, the Russian admiral at the helm just so happens to also be the expert in modern surface warfare, writing a book that Chandler keeps close to hand. How is the captain going to work his way out of this situation?
This episode is much more focused than either of the first two outings. For one, there is a clear bad guy that they are facing. This gives the show a sense of purpose that has been lacking. Frankly, “need to get fuel” just isn’t all that compelling, but “we’re facing an enemy ship with superior firepower” is. Although I realize that the primary MacGuffin of this show – the world needs the vaccine that Dr. Scott is working on – will be, for the foreseeable future, in the driver’s seat, it was still refreshing to see that there are alternatives to the main story that will – hopefully – keep things interesting.
The Russian demands are simple: give us Dr. Scott, and we won’t blow you up. They even admit to launching a nuke at the French refueling depot, merely to steer the Nathan James into friendlier (read: easier to control them in) waters. While I appreciated the ramping up of real threats in this episode, I was somewhat disappointed when the ace in the hole – the mole aboard the Nathan James – ends up revealing himself pretty early on. This is the sort of reveal that I think might have done better being held back a few episodes. After all, this is not exactly the kind of show that is setting itself up well to go much longer than it’s initial ten episodes, so why not hold back some secrets? Nonetheless, I’m not writing these scripts, and the mole is revealed, trying to take Dr. Scott to the Russians, and basically hamming the whole thing up.
Still, despite the ineptitude of their inside man, the Russians hold the upper hand, blocking the only exit from the bay around Gitmo with their formidable and missile-heavy bulk.
Captain Chandler asks for a face-to-face, and the Admiral acquiesces. Thing is, he uses it more or less as an opportunity to show Chandler just how bad-ass he is, taking a pistol from an underling and then shooting him in the head – just because. To be honest, this rang a little false. Ultimately, if there is no more national loyalty left (as the admiral is quite intent on pointing out to Chandler), then what has the admiral got going for him, save for personal loyalty? If he shows a belief that his men are expendable, that loyalty would evaporate in about three seconds.
The admiral is further a victim of stereotype. He’s like every bad James Bond villain and Russian stereotype thrown together in a hastily written script. Wait…that might be a bit too close to the truth. Thing is, this guy is not only a very cool cat, shooting his man in the head without a flinch, but he also menaces women while – wait for it – listening to classical music and drinking wine. Yes, he is, indeed, that guy. Bad guy stereotypes out the wazoo.
Really, though, the writers can’t be blamed for grasping at familiar tropes, what with the show floundering a bit (yes, they hit over five million viewers in their first week; oddly, though, they haven’t been advertising week two numbers. Silence can speak volumes). Despite this reliance on familiarity, the episode ended up being the strongest of the three so far. There were some moments of creativity and character development, not the least of which involved the mole’s exposure. While I can’t help but feel the show shot it’s load a little early on certain ongoing issues, I feel that the go the overall pacing and tension just about right for the first time in the last three weeks.
Eric Dane is, to be frank, a bit of a scenery chewer, but he was toned down just enough here. Adam Baldwin’s XO Slattery had a few good moments, and the best moments were reserved for the otherwise bit-part played by Sam Spruell’s Dr. Quincy Tophet. Yes, there was some overacting; yes, there was some definite scene chewing happening; but for this kind of a show, the summer filler with action, it did what it needed to do.
Lieutenant Foster to Captain Chandler: “I can knock the nipples off a chicken at one thousand yards. Sir.”
XO Slattery with regard to a Russian scientist: “What, you’re like Facebook friends?”
– When traveling at three knots, the Nathan James is producing a large bow wave. Not likely.
– When trying to negotiate with the Nathan James, the Russians lay mines and shoot at US soldiers – not bloody likely.
Steve’s Grade: B-
While not quite must-see-TV yet, The Last Ship looks to overcome some of it’s earlier failures, and perhaps become the summer-filler show we’ve been looking for to hold our interest until September’s new season premieres.