Castle: Cool Boys – Adam Baldwin Sings (Review)

NATHAN FILLION, JON HUERTAS, SEAMUS DEVER, ADAM BALDWIN

Castle:Cool Boys was a lot of fun. Adam Baldwin getting back together with Nathan Fillion is always a good, seeing “Jayne” sing with Mal Reynolds was great, as was the touch of “Hope and Crosby” fisticuffs with the villains. (Granted the duo were not strictly doing the “pat-a-cake” routine from the “road pictures” but it was very close.) Still missing is Stana Katic as Kate Castle ‘nee Beckett.

Molly Quinn appears, for a bit, as does Martha (Susan Sullivan) and  Toks Olagundoye  makes a very brief appearance as Hayley Vargas. When the news of Stana’s signing a one year contract was revealed it did signal a “bowing out” move from the performer, but the sudden disappearing act could have been picked up a number of ways.

Alexis, Castle’s daughter,  started this season with a increased presence and it looked good, turning the show briefly into “Castle and Kid.” Martha was rarely seen for more than a second or two and the only real possible replacement for Katic (Toks) seems to have been overlooked by the show’s new runner.

Olagundoye (Whom I firmly believe is this generation’s Dame Diana Rigg, aka Emma Peel.) has a presence onscreen that could do much to make what seems to be the last season of Castle go out with a bang instead of a tired groan.   This performer has a brilliant chemistry with the existing cast and if Stana has decided to leave, putting Hayley into a regular slot with a lot more to do than writers have given her thus far makes perfect sense.

This current season of Castle appears to be struggling.  The last two weeks aired two previous season episodes instead of following a timeline started where Kate left the marital bed and is apparently going for some kind of uber closure.

On the plus side, Castle: Cool Boys gave viewers a chance to see Adam Baldwin step way out of his comfort zone and do things like cook and sing.  Until recently Adam been on the TNT apocalyptic drama The Last Ship as XO Mike Slattery.  Baldwin returns to reprise his role of Detective Slaughter (2012 Headhunters) and it was an enjoyable episode, albeit one that lacked a certain sparkle.

There were a couple of standout moments. Number one is  when Rick desperately smacks the  desk for his gun, delivered with a spring-loaded device (that worked so well in a pervious episode), Slaughter snatches the weapon before Castle gets near it.  Number two was the “Cool Boys” bit where the detective, a bit slow on the uptake, joins Rick in singing the song.

Castle seems to be spiraling out of control in terms of storyline.  Without Stana Katic the show is limping from one episode to the next. This is not the fault of the performers though.  An actor is only as good as the script and everyone, thus far is suffering.  This new season has left Javi and Ryan to fall back on a mostly comedic routine as  “double-act “while Rick flails about trying to win Beckett back.

(Granted these two are a comedic double act but in they past the two characters have exhibited much more depth.)

This last bit is just one of the issues plaguing  Castle this season.  With Beckett missing, the writers are striving  to place a reminder in each episode, from a major guest character no less, that Kate loves Rick. In the last “current” season episode The Nose it was the presence of Beckett’s pheromones that allowed the guest star with the sensitive olfactory perception to placate Rick.

In Castle:Cool Boys, it is Baldwin’s Slaughter who takes a moment to remind Castle that Kate is “crazy about him.”  This is an amazingly clunky interaction as the detective does not see Beckett at all and the entire thing feels manufactured.  This has got to be down to show runner Paul Winter who took over from David Amann.

There are clearly some issues in season 8. For example, why bring Toks on board only to use her in a very minimal way. Why build up Molly C.Quinn’s presence only to fall back to (once again) a smaller spot.  More importantly, why air two episodes from last season two weeks in a row…

With everything that is, apparently, going on behind the scenes, Castle is starting to limp harder than it did in seasons 4 and 5.  The show airs Mondays on ABC, tune in and see what is going on without Kate…

 

 

The Last Ship: Season Finale (Review)

The crew of the Nathan James setting out to cure The season finale of The Last Ship felt a bit flat after all the previous action from the week before. With no prolonged shoot-em-ups, or cat and mouse or chessboard moves between ship and sub, the episode had to focus on spreading the cure. There was still one Immune team left locally from Sean Ramsey’s group and they managed to create havoc until the leader was captured at Memphis.

There was still some pretty touching moments. Tex finds his daughter and at the end the crew hold a long toast to fallen comrades. Lt. Green finally proposes and Kevin McDowell, played by Patrick Brennan manages to pull one last dirty trick, or two, before being brought down in Tennessee.

Master Chief Jeter makes a mistake by telling his in-laws that they should avoid Vicksburg on an open line. When the Nathan James shows up at the city, under 200 people show up for the cure. Jeter confesses that he may have been somewhat responsible and the president is not too happy with the man.

This is one part of the show that felt manufactured. Jeter, as the senior enlisted man on ship, has been on-point throughout. This “lapse” may have provided a vital plot point, but overall, it did not feel characteristic of the master chief. Even worse, the decision to have the new president react so badly to Jeter’s confession, also felt false. Michener has been stepping up since Chandler, Slattery and Jeter all worked hard to get the new leader out of his deep depression.

Certainly it is to be expected that the man’s journey would not be totally smooth, but his reaction to the master chief’s admission just felt wrong. Especially after Jeter also relays his attempt to set things right. The one thing that did work out of the entire scenario was Commander Chandler’s reaction to the president’s ire. He, like the audience, conveys his disappointment at the way Michener reacts.

There are a number of other things that took away from the victory over the mercenaries being headed up by Sean and his brother Ned. The contagious cure, which the crew can now spread after getting their booster, will only work for a short time period; 8 to 10 days, after which they will no long be contagious.  The aerosol cure will only treat so many and it will use up all their stockpile.

It is interesting to see that the Immunes try to scupper the Memphis cure by dressing up as Nathan James crew members to spread the virus, once again trying to vilify the crew of the destroyer. Obviously McDowell is no Sean Ramsey and they provide no real challenge for the real crew. After Tex is reunited with his daughter Kathleen, he spies the leader of the Immunes. The away team find  even more dressed in Navy uniforms and they take action.

There is a small riot of sorts when the people amassed at Memphis try to leave but the sailors save the day by controlling the crowd, with a little help from Tex’s daughter. At the same time, McDowell and his most of his little crew are taken in or shot. Wolf Man grabs the leader and Miller gets to clothesline one of the Immunes who is trying to escape.

After their success at Memphis the crew and the ship head to St. Louis. Here the president is finally sworn in, Chandler is promoted and Scott is forgiven (pardoned) for murdering Niels. Rachel goes to see Tom and after a short chemistry laden exchange, she leaves.

A man approaches her asking about the contagious cure. He wants to know how close you have to be. As Scott tells him he is close enough, the man pulls a gun and shouting the John Wilkes Booth quote (Sic Semper Tyrannis – Death to Tyrants) he shoots Rachel and runs on.

This last act, where the crew celebrate, propose, and start to answer that age old question of “will they, won’t they”  ends on a pretty heavy duty  and last minute cliff hanger that feels almost thrown away. The series has been approved for a third season. Rather interesting when one thinks of where things finished in season two.

As the end credits roll, Rachel Scott is possibly dead, Tom Chandler has been made the head of Naval Operations, and the president reveals that things are bad across the US, South America and Europe. The Last Ship has been an interesting ride, or cruise, for two whole seasons.  It does, however,  seem hard to picture the show going on for another season in what sounds like a land-locked scenario.

Scott was heading out to Nebraska, Ohio and points west before being shot down. All that remains now is  to see if Rachel survives being shot point blank in the chest. If not, Dane will have to have another love interest introduced.  Smart money should be on Mitra’s character surviving. Rhona plays pretty tough characters some of that may have rubbed off on Scott.

*Sidenote* It would be interesting to see if Naval recruiting numbers have increased since this show has been on air. This show is nothing if not a walking talking recruiting exercise for all things Navy.  Hell, if I wasn’t so old, I’d think of enlisting.

In terms of performances? Eric Dane rocked as the commander, Adam Baldwin was grimly patriotic as the second in command and Rhona Mitra was excellent despite not being able to really fight anyone. All in all, the actors in this show rocked it. Bren Foster as Wolf Man aka SCPO Wolf Taylor and John Pyper-Ferguson as Tex, brought a lot to the table as did the rest of the cast. 

The Last Ship has finished on a very anti-climatic downer. President Michener has turned out to be a bit anal and Scott may be dead. Sure Danny and Foster are now official but overall the season finale felt a little lost. Seemingly once the Ramsey’s wound up on the sea bed a lot of the excitement wound up down there with them. Shooting Rachel seems like a device thrown in to make sure viewers come back. Not to worry TNT, the viewers should tune in if for no other reason than to see that great cast act their little cotton socks off.

The Last Ship: Cry Havoc (recap and review)

Eric Dane as Cmdr Chandler in The Last Ship Cry Havoc is the penultimate episode of The Last Ship season two. Last week saw the Nathan James lose four crew members and Sean Ramsey openly challenged his nemesis Commander Chandler. This week saw an increase in action and excitement as the destroyer and the sub face off at last. The episode also allowed Adam Baldwin as XO Slattery to get his hands dirty and prove that, like his character, Baldwin is not getting older, he is getting better.

*Sidenote* In terms of action, it is always annoying to see London born Rhona Mitra have to take a back seat to the action. One can almost see her gritting her teeth when the “menfolk” get all booted and suited to kick arse while she has to remain behind.

The crew of the Nathan James are bruised and battered this week, before they even start their face-off with the Ramsey’s and their group of international mercenaries.  Chandler decides that he is tired of playing hide and seek with the Achilles and he orders that the James flank the sub and end the whole thing “today.”

“Valkyrie” aka Valerie is being shadowed by Lt. Granderson who really does not like the technical wiz. When Val makes a joke about security Granderson jumps down her throat.  Chandler tells the president that he, Dr. Scott, the kids and a few crew members, along with the cure, will be off the ship until they have taken Ramsey’s bunch out of the picture.

President Michener is not overly pleased to be out of the action, but he goes along with the plan. Valerie points out where all the civilians are that have teamed up with the Immunes to blockade the destroyer. When it looks like the crew may have attack the civilians, something that Michener says is not acceptable, Valerie comes up with a  plan to divert the civvies to a fake sighting of the ship.

As the away team arm themselves and sort out supplies, Tex shows he is still attracted to Dr. Scott. Lt. Wilson and Lt. Green have a moment and Wilson tells him that he had better not make her raise their child on her own.

The XO tells his commander that it “really sucks” that he will not be there when Chandler sinks “that sub,” and similar to Wilson and Greens, “Lt., Lt,” greeting, the two men call each other commander after Tom hands his XO a letter for his family. Slattery calls the landing team away.

Once they reach the shore, the XO tells the group that they are on radio silence till the Nathan James tells them that the sub is dead. Back on the destroyer, Jeter and Garnett are setting up their jury-rigged sonar.

Valerie (Tania Raymondeand Granderson share a comic moment. As Val swamps her system with false leads for the Immunes and the hostile civilians, she and the Lt. have a very short chat. Granderson does not trust their new friend and Val knows it.

“Relax,” Valerie says, “I’m not a double agent. I’m on the ship too.” 

“I’m not worried,” says Granderson, “The first sign you’re not on our side, I’ll kill you myself.”

 

Valerie smiles at the Lieutenant  who stares back at her, stony-faced, and the smile slowly disappears.

The bickering Ramsey brothers continue to disagree about almost everything. When they learn, via Val’s mis-information that the Nathan James has gotten out to sea, Ned’s response is scathing.

“So much for your bloody Armada…They let a 500 foot ship get right past em,” says Ned. Sean is not fazed, “Fear not, Bruv. I’ve got a contingency on land for this very reason.”

What the leader has is a rocket battery ready to be aimed at the destroyer the moment it appears.

While the crew try to outmaneuver the British nuclear sub, the landing team set up in camp. A couple with a child wander by the tents. The woman and child are obviously sick and Dr. Scott wants to treat the child as she is now a contagious cure. Against the wishes of  Lt. Green and XO Slattery, she approaches the trio. The man, Mace, points his gun at Rachel until his wife tells him to lower it.

Rachel Scott tries her healing touch out.

Rachel touches the child and begins the healing process. The parents of the girl relay information that they got from the Immune camp (the Immunes infected their daughter by wrapping  her in  an infected blanket). They tell Slattery of the rocket battery that Sean’s men are manning and the XO takes Green and Tex to take the team out.

The last part of the episode has action aplenty with the ship and the sub competing for the upper hand. After a lot of tension, and naval jargon, the Nathan James ends up right on top of the Achilles. Each vessel then jockeys for position. The destroyer squeaks to a position to fire ahead of the sub and shoots four torpedoes at the Achilles.

The sub returns fire, which floods the magazine and limits the destroyer’s access to ammunition. With four rounds left in the five-inch guns, Chandler decides to force the sub to take the battle to the surface.

Meanwhile, back on land, Slattery, Tex and Green find the rocket battery. The XO briefs his three man team on their strategy. “Okay boys, here’s the plan. Win.”  Tex approves, “Good plan.” The men take on the seven mercenaries and a prolonged fire-fight takes place with all three of the Nathan James ground team taking hits.

Slattery heads to the mercenary manning the battery and the two go head to head. As the destroyer maneuvers for a shot, the trio on land overpower the mercenaries, “Aren’t you a little old for this,” says the one fighting with Slattery just before the XO shoves a knife into his opponent’s torso, killing him.

The XO fires rockets at the Achilles and all are direct hits. He also gets the last word, “Cheer’s a**hole.”

The Nathan James has won more than the battle with the Ramsey’s they have won the contagion war. Rachel’s touch has healed the little girl.

The sub sinks to the sea bed and we see the Ramsey brothers laying side by side. Ned is clearly gone, his glazed eyes stare at nothing. Sean sees his brother’s lifeless body and screams, “Bruv…”

Somewhat amazingly, The Last Ship took out the “big bad’ in the penultimate episode instead of the season finale. This can only mean one of two things. Either Sean Ramsey has a trick up his  sleeve, or the Immunes are still a vital threat. With one episode left in the season, there is not a  lot of time left to end the show with a huge cliffhanger.

*Sidenote*Kudos to Eric Dane, guest star Tanya Ramonde, Adam Baldwin, and Brían F. O’Byrne  as the mad leader of the mercenaries who wanted to take over America. All of the actors did well in their roles and only one bit of complaint is appropriate here, more Rhona Mitra please. Mad props to the writers again this week who got the slang and jargon so right with the British submarine crew. Well done chaps.

TNT have come up with a real winner. Something that is a combination of drama, action, and patriotic hodgepodge. The Last Ship airs Sundays and has only one more episode left in its second season. Tune in and get excited.

 

 

 

The Last Ship: Friendly Fire (recap and review)

Dr. Scott after injection on The Last Ship
Just when it seems that The Last Ship has lost its bearings, Friendly Fire turns to a little hardcore Naval action. Last week saw the Immunes using a bounty system to get the crew of the Nathan James captured or killed. It also featured the brutal, yet satisfying, death of the most despicable man in the show, Niels.

If no other lesson can be learned from watching this post-apocalyptic series, one thing has been made abundantly clear, scientists are some cold blooded people. Firstly, Niels not only infected and killed everyone he came in contact with, except for the immunes, he then set about turning teddy bears into viral dispensers. Now we have Dr. Scott who, to be fair only did what most people wanted to do, cold bloodily kill Patient Zero in last week’s episode. She then turned around and gave herself the untested vaccine knowing full well that if she got it wrong, she would die.

As the mayor says in Slither, “B*tch is hardcore.”

Although this would be unfair. Part of what makes The Last Ship work so well is its attention to detail and a timely introduction of backstory. Last week we learned that Niels, for all his “Typhoid Mary” traits, was desperately lonely. It was this, combined with his “crush” on Scott, that doomed the walking contagion to die so horrifically.

Rachel Scott watched her mother die from Malaria because her father refuses to allow the woman to be vaccinated. An event that so traumatized the young Rachel that it obviously set her on the path to scientist. It was this information, so perfectly timed in terms of delivery, that makes her action of allowing Niels to die from his own disease ridden body almost a serendipitous event or at the very least poetic justice.

*Sidenote* Not to be too picky…But Malaria? Scott is not that old and surely, missionaries, which her father obviously was, must be required to have the entire family inoculated before “spreading the word.” While there are two churches who do not believe in using doctors missionaries must still, presumably, follow vaccination laws before visiting third world countries where Scott’s mother would have encountered the malaria. Final complaint; using such an stereotypical, almost cliche, backstory for Rachel was a bit of a let down. Just saying.

The storyline this week is split into two distinct threads with a common theme. Rules, aka codes, must be followed. The Nathan James is close to “the Big Easy” and Slattery and his team are working hard to “turn” any of the just captured Immunes. One, Flea, proves to be the weak link and he finally helps decipher the cell phones’ code so Chandler’s crew can intercept Ramsey’s messages.

Running concurrently to the main storyline is the focus on Niels’ death. As Scott has flashbacks to childhood while she dissects and “cannibalizes” the body to aid her development of a vaccine delivery system, she is under investigation for Niels’ murder. The crew are divided in their support of the scientist and Chandler is keeping away from Rachel while the investigation is going on.

*Sidenote* It should be pointed out that Rachel is plagued by her act. Apart from her two childhood flashback sequences, she keeps seeing “flashes” of Niels and his death. While she is not “suffering” per se, she is feeling the guilt of her action and one gets the impression that she will never forget this deadly act of retribution.

Lt. Granderson and her team work out that the cell phones use bluetooth technology to bypass the useless cell towers. Ramsey’s Immunes are using a bluetooth game to communicate, and spread damaging propaganda, but using the phones is somewhat problematic as they must be within a 90 yard radius to operate. Later, on the Nathan James, all the crew’s cell phones are paired long distance so a damaging video can be streamed on their phones. Someone on Ramsey’s team has boosted the signal somehow.

The Ramsey’s, who have been hiding like an unwound Jack-in-the-box, suddenly make themselves known and destroy the small flotilla of survivor vessels outside New Orleans. The Achilles then fires multiple torpedoes at the Nathan James and the destroyer has to deploy rounds and chaff to deflect the guided missiles. All but one are detonated and the one straggler explodes causing damage but not to the hull which is reported to be intact.

This must class as one of the more irritating episodes of The Last Ship. While this segment could be seen as necessary, to show that the crew must follow regulations and codes, it is frustrating. The amount of time that the crew had to spend investigating the death of the vile and despicable Niels kept them from making the more important discoveries necessary to crack the cell phone problem.

Could they have prevented the deaths of so many civilians at New Orleans? Possibly, but in all likelihood it would have made no difference. As a plot point, not to mention that the mercenary’s had to act against the ship, something bad had to happen, because despite the Ramsey’s being barking mad, they still have a plan. Taking over America and destroying Chandler and the Nathan James. Had the small flotilla not been blown up, the Achilles would have still attacked, using the ships above it as both hiding place and shield.

This week also saw the new president hitting his stride in becoming the guy in charge of the country. He even passes on some wisdom to Chandler about making unpopular decisions. Eric Dane, once again, stepped up to the mark and did some brilliant acting. His final scene with Rhona Mitra, as Rachel Scott, was spot on. He manages to convey with just his facial expressions the frustration, anger, regret and disappointment he feels about Scott’s murder of Niels.

The fact that the commander of the Nathan James grew attached to and respected Scott for her determination in finding a cure for the pandemic made his decree of what amounts to quarters arrest a hard one. Although he is angry enough that she killed the one man who could have been used to effectively fight the propaganda campaign against the destroyer that he tells her, “on land” he will turn her over to the authorities to be tried properly for murder.

For the time being, the Nathan James have been boldly portrayed as the bad guys in the Ramsey’s little “winning hearts and minds” scenario allowing them, as Immunes, to be the country’s saviors and the question of Chandler and Scott in term of “will they, won’t they” has been laid to rest. At least for the foreseeable future. One gets the feeling that even once passions have cooled over the issue of Niels’ murder, the commander will never forgive Rachel for scuppering their one chance to easily fight the Ramsey’s lies.

The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT and continues to provide excellent post apocalyptic television.

The Last Ship: Safe Zone (review)

Eric Dane as Commander Chandler
Last week’s episode of The Last Ship, had plenty of white knuckle moments as Chandler pulled the president from Ramsey’s grasp and Safe Zone is a slower ride but no less intense. While there were no shootouts this week or any action sequences, the storyline following the new president was emotional and almost as full of suspense as the previous episode.

Safe Zone belongs to Eric Dane, as Commander Chandler, and to new cast member Mark Moses who plays the new president, by default, Jeff Michener. Adam Baldwin proves that he can play understated very well thank you in his scenes with the president. Rhona Mitra only appears very briefly toward the end where she shows the “recovered” commander-in-chief the virus-filled teddy bears that Niels was working on.

The whole of the episode was based upon Michener’s realization that Ramsey’s lies were his aid to dealing with the horror of what he had done to his daughters. This, added to the fact that he brought his son down to the safe zone; who then infected everyone, put the man straight into internal meltdown mode. Ramsey’s group took in the new president with sickening ease. After talking to Baldwin, whom Michener accused of lying to him, the president reveals to Chandler that he wandered around the survivor camps attempting to get the disease.

While the storyline followed the journey of XO Slattery and Chandler “curing” the president of his “brainwashing” from the Ramsey brothers, it was also about trying to give the survivors some semblance of the old order. Chief Jeter (Charles Parnell) tells Slattery at one point that Chandler is working hard to “turn” the president because he needs someone to “salute to.”

In essence Jeter is correct, as proved at the end of the episode when Chandler squares up and salutes the new president, because the commander of the Nathan James realizes that with the Ramsey’s spreading lies and fear, the remnants of the country need a figure head. Sean realized this and it was this knowledge that motivated him to condition Jeff Michener to be theirs.

While the threat of the sub is not directly dealt with until late in the show, when Michener reveals to the crew that the Achilles has a sound matting problem, the mercenaries provided an indirect threat via the president’s belief that he was one of the “chosen.” Something that he was desperate to cling to as it made the horror of what he had gone through easier to cope with. It took a lot of work from Chandler to “break” Michener and to make him realize that the Ramsey’s were not the answer.

This was a powerhouse episode in terms of performance. Eric Dane proved that not only can he be heroic and one hell of an action figure, but he can portray deep emotion that is touching, gentle and moving. The scenes where he listens to Michener talking of murdering his daughters to save them from the horrific death they faced from the virus, were tear inducing, even before Dane’s character loosed a few tears at the presidents story.

As the tormented new US leader, Mark Moses was full of self tortured anguish and he did this so well that it came as no surprise when he tried to kill himself. A brilliant bit of acting that took him from suspicious patsy to tragic figure in one episode. The chemistry between Dane and Moses was brilliant and when Dane’s Chandler tells the grieving man that “We’ve all done things,” the viewer gets caught up in the emotions and the moment.

The clues were there, the presidents distrust and unbelieving attitude while dealing with Slattery, showed a desperate side to Michener. Sean Ramsey had become his talisman, as had the group of the “chosen” and to not follow Ramsey’s doctrine meant his family’s death had no meaning.

As Chandler points out later, why on earth would the man try to infect himself and die in the most horrible way imaginable if not as a sort of redemption. The slow reveal combined with Slattery’s lack of faith in the new president and Jeter’s calm appraisal of Chandler’s needs made this an episode with an almost perfect combination of writing, script and direction.

It says much about the writing of this series that by the end of the episode Michener was no longer a figure viewed with suspicion. Mark Moses and the writers allowed the character to become all too human and tragic. His initial allegiance with the Ramsey’s made perfect sense and the new president was no longer in the category of villain, reluctant or otherwise.

“Creepy Git” (As Ned refers to patient zero) Niels was nowhere to be seen and the only real reference made to him was in relation to those horrific pandemic teddy bears. While Chandler has stated that the next port of call for the Nathan James will be New Orleans, one can only hope that they stop along the way to blow the Achilles and the Ramsey’s crew of mercenaries out of the water.

The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT and is top notch post apocalyptic fare.