If the first episode of Michael Bay’s The Last Ship was a picture-perfect Subway-commercial sub, the second episode was more like what you actually get at Subway: a lackluster sandwich made by a sullen teenager that still manages to taste better for you than most other fast food.
“Welcome to Gitmo” failed to deliver on the drive of the first episode, seemed to lose the plot about halfway through, and then snapped itself back together in the last thirty seconds. I still have hope for the rest of the season, but this week’s pacing felt a little too slow for my tastes.
When we last left our dashing crew, they had just spent a quarter of an episode refueling and stocking up on supplies and as we enter into a fresh episode, we find our crew’s first priority today is … to refuel and stock up on supplies again. And apparently the only reasonably safe place to accomplish this goal is at Guantanamo Bay, the extremely high security prison.
We spend five or ten minutes learning that the entire naval crew has to be prepped and trained to do a ground mission in hostile territory in the short trip between our last location and the prison/military base because apparently everyone on this ship skipped basic training. We focus in on a little redheaded kid who can’t even hold his gun properly and the dialogue leads me to believe we are supposed to feel sympathetic for this character, rather than wonder who let him onto a top-secret mission crew — which was my initial reaction to him.
Elsewhere, Dr. Scott’s partner, Dr. Quincy Tophet (Sam Spruell) continues to secretly communicate in Russian to mysterious persons through Dr. Scott’s private satellite phone. It’s refreshing that a modern television series has finally moved away from vilifying only generic “terrorists” and returned to the ’80s and ’90s favorite pastime of using generic Russians as villains.
Dr. Tophet tries to convince Dr. Scott (Rhona Mitra) let him land with the party at Guantanamo instead of her, but Scott is insistent that only she can ensure that the proper culture plates and test tubes are collected from Gitmo medical supply. I would like to take a moment to point out that culture plates and test tubes are the actual examples used on the show. These are incredibly basic pieces of lab equipment and she considers it absolutely necessary to risk the life and health of one of the only people who can stop the virus which is wiping out mankind in order to retrieve them.
Fortunately for Dr. Tophet, Captain Chandler (Eric Dane) stops in to say hello to Dr. Scott and inform her that it is too dangerous for her or her partner to go on this mission because they are the only people capable of stopping the virus which is wiping out mankind. After some protestation, Dr. Scott finally assents to common sense and agrees to tell the ground force what to get through a camera and microphone rather than, say, making them a list.
In a very serious meeting, Dr. Scott informs all of the people in the ground crew and some commanding officers of the importance of wearing a face mask when in enclosed spaces containing the corpses of people killed by an extremely infectious virus. XO Mike Slattery (have I mentioned yet that this is Jayne from Firefly? Because it is.) asks some reasonable but insubordinate questions and Captain Chandler pulls him out of the meeting to give him a talking-to. Chandler rightly points out that their subordinates need to trust the Doctors and the men in charge absolutely because there is no longer any system of government in place and the men need to be able to trust the ranking system inherently or all hell will break loose and mankind will die. Chandler then proceeds to leave Slattery in charge of the ship, because he’s going to lead a ground team into hostile territory.
Turns out, the leader of the medical supply team is Lt. Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle), the guy who has an illegal girlfriend and a dog but who lost his BFF Frankie (Kevin Phillips) in a heartbreakingly pointless death in the premiere. Danny, unsurprising, isn’t handling the loss of his friend very well and takes it out on his secret girlfriend, but decides he’s fit to lead a team into hostile territory anyway. Three teams leave the dock and each have a fancy name, but for our purposes we’ll call them Food Supply, Medical Supply, and Fuel, lead by the ship’s captain, Danny-the-brokenhearted, and The Chief Engineer respectively.
As they start off, it seems like this is going to be a quick run because everyone on the island is dead. Fuel starts pumping gas to the ship through a supply line. Medical Supply plays a ridiculous game of “Hot and Cold” with Dr. Scott because she thinks that’s easier than telling them to grab a centrifuge … which is another really basic piece of lab equipment. But Food Supply has to go the farthest and is the first to run in to trouble.
To kick things off, the little redheaded kid shoots at nothing because he gets spooked and Captain Chandler gets to intimidate a skinny ginger, which is always fun. Then things take a decidedly less-fun turn when a car bomb explodes next to them. In case that wasn’t obvious enough for you, a former contracted security guard arrives to tell them that some members of Al-Qaeda have taken over the prison after the guards let them go as an act of compassion at the end of the world. Naturally, the Al-Qaeda members turned on the guards and now our new friend is the only man still left alive.
I take back what I said about TV no longer using catch-all “terrorists” as bad guys.
Things go quickly downhill from there. The Medical Supply team gets trapped inside and is running out of air after Danny makes them take extra-long to do their job, because he’s very upset over his friend’s death and this is a healthy coping mechanism. The Fuel team breaks the valve to turn off the pump and the ship begins to overfill and then begins to take fire from the terrorists. The Chief Engineer takes a hit in the leg, so Slattery does the only reasonable thing and sends the Chief Medical Officer to help her. This makes a total of three high-ranking officers on the ground in hostile territory, if you’re keeping count. Medical Supply starts off doing pretty well, but their surprise attack on the terrorists goes South when the little redheaded kid is taken hostage because these Al-Qaeda guys are striving to hit every stereotype possible in under an hour.
Danny finally realizes he doesn’t want to die and that an awful lot of people are depending on him, so he gets himself together at the last possible second and gets everyone out safely. Except one guy who also gets shot in the leg. Unfortunately, he’s losing a lot of blood and the Chief Medical Officer is helping the Chief Engineer who is still in a hot zone and apparently there is only one Naval doctor on the entire ship. No one else is even trained in enough first aid to put pressure on the wound. So, of course, Slattery does the only reasonable thing and sends humanity’s-last-hope-Dr-Scott into an actively hostile environment. She saves the unnamed soldier and finally has the chance to earn the trust of everyone in the ship to whom she’s spent the last four months lying about her purposes.
The ship drops a very carefully placed missile to startle the terrorists long enough to allow our Captain to disarm them and everyone gets out safely, even giving the Captain enough time to say “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” which was super cool, even I can’t be cynical about that. The ship is refueled again, resupplied again, and now has adequate amounts of basic lab equipment to let the doctors save humanity — plus Danny makes up with his girlfriend and stops being super-loco-crazy-pants and they got a cool Gitmo guard out of the deal.
All things considered, it wasn’t a bad supply run.
Dr. Tophet isn’t done being suspicious, however, because he requests that they hold the ship in the bay long enough to recalibrate some equipment. Moments later a mysterious British ship comes floating up to say hi and no one questions it until the foreign vessel is close enough to obviously be Russian. The episode ends with our heroes trapped in the harbor with a vaguely Putin-esque captain closing in on them.
Those last five minutes don’t quite make up for the twenty minutes of wandering around an empty prison camp, but they do give me serious hope for next week’s episode. The pacing today didn’t quite hit the mark like last week’s episode did, but I still think they can pull out a great first season. I’m not saying that you should watch this show to accurately learn how the military chain of command works, but that’s what the History Channel’s for.
If they manage to keep up a good story and pull a Master and Commander level cat-and-mouse game between the Russians and the Americans for the rest of the season, I’ll be a happy, nautical viewer.
What do you want from the rest of the season? Which characters desperately need more screen time? Who can you stand to lose? Let me know in the comments!
Totals for episode two, “Welcome to Gitmo”:
On-Screen Deaths: “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Unnecessarily Important People Who Go Ashore: 4
Number of times Dr. Scott thinks everyone is an idiot: “To your left. Back to the right. Back to the left. Down…That. The centrifuge.”
Instances of Dissent Among the Ranks: 1
Dr. Tophet Acts Suspicious: 3
Is the Dog Dead Yet? No
New episodes of The Last Ship air Sundays at 9/8CT on TNT.