June 20, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Last Ship”



The world was saved at the end of THE LAST SHIP‘s second season.  Not only was a cure found for the virus that had caused a nearly apocalyptic pandemic, killing off most of Earth’s population, but the dearly departed Dr. Scott (Rhona Mitra) perfected a way to distribute the cure so that it was “contagious” in the same way that the disease itself was, stopping the plague in its tracks wherever it was released.  Former cabinet secretary Jeffrey Michener (Mark Moses), the highest-ranking official still alive, was installed as President of what remained of the United States, and as one of his first acts, he promoted Last Ship‘s hero Tom Chandler (Eric Dane), the commander of the USS Nathan James, as his Chief of Naval Operations–although Tom, a man of aw-shucks American integrity, insisted on only raising his naval title to “Captain.”

All of this required a reboot for Season 3, which aired tonight after a week-long delay ordered by TNT because a sequence of shootings in a crowded Vietnam nightclub was uncomfortably reminiscent of last weekend’s ghastly events in Orlando.  Despite its fictional virus and the death of most of humanity, The Last Ship was always just tenuously sci-fi in tone, and version 2.0, launched by series creators Steven Kane (credited as writer of Hour 1 of the Season 3 premiere) and Hank Steinberg (Hour 2) is even more of a conventional military action-adventure.  Barring future plot twists, the bad guys are now the Chinese, who in the person of nefarious President Peng Wu (Fernando Chien) is at the very least withholding the cure from sick people in Asia, and probably has even more evil in mind.  The premiere had Peng attempting to blow Tom’s plane out of the sky after a summit meeting, and also masterminding that nightclub assault, aimed against Nathan James personnel, including new commander and Tom’s former Executive Officer Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin), who were delivering the cure in Vietnam.  One of the prisoners was having his blood drained by his captors, for reasons as yet unexplained.

In the absence of Dr. Scott, The Last Ship also has a new leading lady, Sasha Cooper (TV veteran Bridget Regan), not just a diplomat and kick-ass rebel who’s been delivering the cure in China behind Peng’s back, but conveniently enough an old flame of Tom’s.  In addition, Australian naval officer “Wolfman” Taylor (Bren Foster) has been promoted to series regular, although his love interest, hacker Valerie (Tania Raymonde) was in that plane that Peng blew up.

Despite his new high-ranking post, Last Ship can’t keep Tom behind a desk for long, and the premiere ended with Mike and his men held hostage somewhere off the coast of Vietnam and Tom back in charge of the Nathan James, determined to track them down and free them, a task that will likely occupy a chunk of the season.  Last Ship‘s uber-producer is Michael Bay, so there’s never been a shortage of bang-bang on the show, and director Michael Katleman ably handled the car chases and exploding jeeps/boats/airplanes, while moving the expository dialogue scenes along briskly.  The cast, rarely asked to put a spin on their characters, reel off their clipped jargon with great seriousness.  While TNT has been trying to go deeper with new shows like Animal Kingdom, Last Ship is one of its most reliable performers, and its fans are probably there more for the action than the biological sci-fi overtones, so the new changes shouldn’t disrupt viewership.  In its altered version, it’s a bit less distinctive, but no less efficient a delivery system for faux-Tom Clancy-style patriotic intrigue.

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."