If you thought last week’s attempt at a bottle episode lacked network TV violence, The Last Ship has it covered in episode 7! We open on a sweet, unexplained, high seas gun battle between two of the Nathan James’s boats and mysterious Russian boat. Somebody in a TV show finally points out how hard it is to shoot a gun in a moving vehicle and the crew (including Tex and Commander Chandler) call for backup in the form of an armed helicopter. The Blackhawk successfully drives off the Russians but the Commander’s boat is damaged and sinking, forcing them to dive and swim back to the ship.
After the cut, we enter the Russian vessel where Commander Ruskov (actually speaking Russian this time) tells his crew to keep looking for the Nathan James’ boats and “the girl”. Without further explanation, we return to the Nathan James as Dr. Tophet is brought in to remind the audience that he used to work for the Russians, whoops, I mean to translate Russian signals for the Nathan James’ comm officers. He does so sullenly but effectively when the crew agrees to his request for vengeance on the Russian commander who killed his family. That plot point taken care of, XO Slattery puts his full attention to finding Commander Chandler, who could accurately be referred to as the Last Remnant of Free Society and Government. The boat’s beacon was lost during the gun battle and radio communication was cut off to keep the Russians from tracking their location, so the crew on the ship has no way of knowing the boat went down.
Stuck in open water, Tex has to convince Chandler to radio the ship after learning that the Captain has removed every other possible means of their rescue. Instead of calling for help, however, Chandler orders the crew not to attempt rescue and then cuts off communication once again. A furious Tex finally calls Chandler out on his ridiculous need to martyr himself and by doing so steals into my heart with his zero-tolerance of overdrawn TV drama, heretofore unheard of on a TNT show. Nothing sways the Captain however (even a firm reminder of his position as the last standing representation of government) and Tex begrudgingly begins the long swim to shore.
We get our first glimpse of “the girl” as Dr. Scott greets her on the deck with metaphorical tears of joy in her eyes, but no name or explanation for the girl’s presence is given. Because who doesn’t love needless, drawn-out mysteries? We stop for dinner (lunch? They don’t really establish a timeframe, it was midday outside in the last shot, but this definitely looks like dinner) with Ruskov and, big surprise, Tophet’s wife and daughter are still with him.
Mrs. Tophet makes it clear that she’s exchanging sexual favors for their continued safety and baby Tophet is 1000% done with both of them. I’m sure this scene would evoke some kind of emotion from viewers if we knew anything at all about either of these women beyond their familial relationship with the world’s mopiest research scientist. Before they finish eating, an officer comes to inform Ruskov that they intercepted Chandler’s last transmission and the commander smiles cheerfully as he orders a drone out to survey the area.
XO Slattery is arguing with an unnamed officer about whether or not they should find Chandler despite his orders when a comms officer picks up the drone’s signal. Slattery instantly decides to ignore Chandler’s orders and the crew attempts to track and destroy the drone with their missiles faster than the Russians can lock onto their signal.
In the open water, Tex and Chandler see the drone headed for them. Chandler instantly knows that it is a Russian drone and not one from the Nathan James’ because apparently you get psychic powers when you’re promoted to captain. He watches its approach stoically while Tex looks in horror but the James’s missile hits before it gets a clear look at them. Tex cheers appropriately and thanks the Nathan James for its help but Chandler sneers, disappointed that his crew has once again thwarted his attempt at martyrdom. The Russian officers are horrified that the drone hit more quickly than they could track it, but Ruskov realizes that they can use the crew’s desire to protect their captain against them.
Rachel talks more with the girl — whose name we learn is Patrice — as she draws her blood. Patrice grew up in Jamaica and her father took her away on a boat to escape the virus after her mother died. Everyone on that boat died before they reached land again except Patrice herself. As Dr. Scott runs unnamed, instantaneous blood tests, she reveals that Patrice is immune to all strains of the virus and with her samples, they may be able to make a cure. On the bridge, comms overhears a garbled Russian message that leads them to believe the Captain might have drowned. Unable to confirm, Slattery decides to send a helo out anyway to check.
As they approach a reflection in the water in the direction Tex and the Captain swam away, the two swimmers are approached by a helicopter, whose light obscures its identification. In case the weird camera angles didn’t tip you off, the low, intense music makes sure you know not all is as it seems. Tex insists that the Captain go first, to ensure he doesn’t try to kill himself for the third time that day but as the Captain is lifted into the air via harness, the James’s camera reveals they have stumbled upon the wreckage of the captain’s boat, with no signs of survivors. The moment he’s pulled aboard the helicopter, Chandler is surrounded by guns and men speaking Russian in the least surprising reveal of the series so far.
As we close on another episode that lacked any concrete character building and barely moved the plot forward, I’m left wondering where, exactly, this series is going. We keep picking up and dropping plot points everywhere only to rediscover them again, nearly forgotten, several episodes later. The premise is solid and interesting, but many of the series’ biggest causes of tension (“the captain keeps abandoning the ship and leaving it leaderless!”) seem to have simple solutions (“keep your Commanding officer on the ship”) which gets tiresome seven episodes in and many important leads lack consistent, reasonable characterization (Tophet and Lt. Green, to name a few). But moments of the show shine. When Captain Chandler talks about his fears for his wife and children, I really believe him. When Tex uses his freedom as non-military personnel to try and lighten up the very serious crewmen, I genuinely cheer for him. And certain characters, especially minor ones, are dynamic and well-written. Lt. Granderson is in the background most of the time, but remains effective and Christina Elmore does a phenomenal job bringing her to life. Lt. Kara I-will-not-take-responsibility-for-my-boyfriend’s-inability-to-compartmentalize Foster is my personal hero on the show, and XO Slattery remains a steady hand aboard the Nathan James who has real moments of character as he mourns his dead son.
If the writers can find a way to make the drama-of-the-week fit into the grander scheme of their show and up the consistency of their main characters, they could have a groundbreaking show on their hands and set it apart from TNT’s usual lineup. If they do that before the end of the season, I could even see myself as a long-time fan of this show. In the meantime, I hope you’ll be back with me next week to watch Chandler struggle with his manliness in Ruskov’s soviet-era Russian regime and to enjoy Tex’s never ending stream of sass.
Oh, and is anyone else still wondering what happened to that dog?
New episodes of The Last Ship premiere Sundays at 9/8CT on TNT.
Photos: TNT/KAREN BALLARD