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.

The Last Ship: Alone and Unafraid (recap and review)

The Last Ship still photo
In the previous episode of The Last Ship two of the three teams had infiltrated the “Chosen” camp and met the “new” president and XO Slattery ordered the comms buoy blown up, in Alone and Unafraid Chandler has gotten himself close to the president. Green and Tex are on a convoy with Niels who is up to something and Wolf-Man is trying to keep track of it all for Slattery.

Like other excursions in this season, the action in Alone and Unafraid is pretty impressive. While it took at least one other episode to build up to this segment’s “big fight” (and at least half of this episode) the payoff was some excellent edge of the seat viewing. After Chandler, who orchestrated the whole thing with Burk and Ravit’s help, gets to guard the new president, they then set up a rescue for the country’s new commander-in-chief.

After setting up a possible threat, Ramsey’s team, and Chandler (who tells the mercenary that his name is Tommy) take the former Secretary Michener through the convention hall kitchens. As they enter Burk and Ravit strike and together with Chandler they fight a pretty spirited battle with the mercenaries. The conflict is savage and drawn out. Burk takes out one baddie with a broken mop handle through the chest and Ravit takes out another one with a couple of forks.

Chandler takes out his group with armed flair and then goes head to head with the last one standing. After winning, he then delivers the coup de grace to the wounded mercenaries who reach for their weapons. The “president” reluctantly allows himself to be escorted from the building. Outside the convention center, Wolf-Man snipes guards who get in the way and clears a path for Chandler, Burk, Ravit and Michener.

Tex, who Niels sort of recognizes (as Patient Zero queries Tex about where he may have met him, the man tells Niels to leave him alone as, “You’re kind of creeping me out, man.” In that instant, Tex and Ned are ethereal twins who share their discomfort at being around Niels.

Both men are right to be disturbed about Niels. The thing that Danny saw the man working on was a virus delivery system to be put in children’s cuddly toys. After the two men grab Niels and his deadly teddy bears and rejoin Chandler’s team and Wolf-Man, Green destroys the viral toys with fire.

Niels has been shot, during the fracas against the work detail meant to deliver the viral payload, Ned was shot in the face as well. Later, the bloodied brother of Sean will demand that his “bruv” take care of that ship.

Back on the Nathan James, XO Slattery and the crew are playing a tense game of cat and mouse where the destroyer has to find a quiet spot to release the “helo” aka, helicopter. It will need to collect Chandler and his team along with the president. The sub’s crew, between bickering and stopping just shy of fisticuffs, are trying to track the Nathan James to blow her out of the water.

Once the three teams regroup at the pick up point, a truckload of mercenaries arrives and they have to fight their way to the chopper. The Navy cuts the soldier’s for hire down pretty easily and once they board, Tex asks who the passenger is. Chandler says that Michener is the Commander and Chief and Tex’s look of disbelief says it all.

Back on the Nathan James, it is apparent that Michener is more of a “believer” (part of Ramsey’s “Chosen” schtick) and less of a presidential reality. He is escorted very much against his will deeper into the ship and Slattery also questions the man’s motives.

Back at the convention center, Ned heckles Sean and once again demands that he do something about the ship. He also makes it clear that they should just “nuke” the US, a country full of “ungrateful buggers.” *The writers are still having a hey day getting all that Brit dialogue spot on.*

Sean looks pretty irate which is not surprising since his “ace in the hole” has been snatched out right out from under this proverbial nose. Ned has always been for blowing up the Nathan James, killing the crew and turning America into a nuclear wasteland. It remains to be seen just how much Sean will take on from baby brother Ned’s suggestions.

Once again, The Last Ship gave viewers a great action filled (continuing) storyline. Producer, and star, Eric Dane keeps giving the same sturdy performance and it is plain that he was born to play this type of role. Adam Baldwin shows that he can still pack a punch into whatever performance he gives no matter how small the screen time and Ebon Moss-Bachrach should get some sort of gong, an Emmy or something, for his portrayal of Niels.

Kudos again for the writers of the show and for the two actors playing those bickering Brit’s the Ramsey brothers; Brían F. O’Byrne (Sean) and Nick Court (Ned) these two chaps are value for money and without their spot on portrayal, the mercenaries would take on a comic book air of villainy versus the real deal the actor’s help bring.

Now that Michener is on board the Nathan James and Niels has been caught (and his disgusting toys destroyed) perhaps the destroyer can sink that sub, although not too soon, yeah? Those Ramsey’s and their crew make a pretty good group of villains, bruv. The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT don’t miss it or you’ll be a muppet…Yeah?

The Last Ship: Long Day’s Journey (recap and review)

Still from The Last Ship, searching for Achilles
Last week’s episode ended with ballistic missiles being released from the HMS Achilles and destroying most if not all of the labs. This week in The Last Ship: Long Day’s Journey the Ramsey brothers are still bickering and disagreeing about everything. Including, it seems, the “chosen” bit that Sean appears to believe wholeheartedly in. Ned, is not a devotee of his brother’s philosophy and it remains to be seen just how long these two can continue to work together.

At the start of the episode, the Ramsey brothers are outside of a shopping mall watching survivors straggle into the building. Once again they argue about what should happen next. Ned wants to kill everyone on board the Nathan James and Sean says that the sub is going nowhere till the silencing is repaired.

On board the destroyer, Dr. Scott tells Chandler that they are running out of everything needed to keep making the cure. The ship commander tells Scott that the mission has changed and that now the Achilles is the main target. He wants that sub and the crew on it punished and Slattery reminds Chandler that if they continue combing the waters for the nuclear submarine they will run out of fuel.

His response is that they can refuel at Norfolk or some other naval bases. Scott angrily reminds Chandler about the cell cultures she needs. After a few tense moments she leaves. Dr. Hunter, Scott’s mentor, sent her a message from the Florida lab, he had improved the method of delivery for the vaccine and was uploading the procedure via the server. A last minute message from the doctor shows the lab under attack from Ramsey’s goon squad and Hunter is obviously killed before he could transfer the information.

Chandler takes Scott and a team, including Wolf-man and Ravit who come along for the ride, to the lab. The team search the area and find dead doctors everywhere, including Hunter. The computers in his office have been destroyed and some of the men retrieve some “hard data” from the ransacked room. Scott takes pictures of what looks to be a formula on a whiteboard. Previously Chandler stated that one part of the team would take her and the data back to the Nathan James and he would go on to find the sub.

As she takes the pictures, Scott says to Chandler, “When you find the people who did this…Kill them.”

Meanwhile Ned drinks bottled ale while he and Sean wait for Niels to return. Ned still dislikes Patient Zero, earlier at the mall he referred to their private “Typhoid Mary” as the Grim Reaper and said that Niels disturbed him. Niels cheerfully tells the Ramsey brothers about his visit to town which will result in death for most who encounter the walking plague.

Ned and Sean get into a heated discussion where little brother accuses Sean of being afraid of the Nathan James and his responsibilities. Sean grabs Ned and holding up a knife, tells him to “tell me I’m afraid again.” Ned acquiesces and things calm down, but only after he makes a joke, Niels watches the exchange with interest. Part of Ned’s problem is that he wants to be back home in England. The younger Ramsey brother has stated repeatedly that he hates being in the “swamp.”

Chandler and his Vulture team follow directions to a heat signature found by the crew on the destroyer. As the team approach the area, it looks like a safe zone until they find mercenaries from the Solace mingling with the crowd. As the team study the area, they realize that the “mercs” are talking to the sub. The Nathan James picks up the comms signal and begins to decrypt the message.

Meanwhile, Dr. Scott struggles to uncover the secret of Dr. Hunter’s improved delivery system for the vaccine. Bacon brings Scott some food and as he discusses the recipe and the intricacies of the preparation, “sifting the flour,” the doctor has an epiphany and realizes that a food base is required for the delivery system.

Tex infiltrates the safe zone group and gets clothing. Coming back with the booty, he says the group of people are having a regular “love in.” Chandler decides to blend in with the safe zone crowd as they appear to be leaving en masse. He splits his team and puts Wolf-man in charge. His half of the team put on civilian clothes, dispose of their weapons and get on the school bus. Everyone else, including Tex and Wolf-man follow. Chandler talks to the woman beside him on the bus and learns that they are on their way to meet Sean.

Meanwhile, Scott is working with a confused Bacon to perfect the formula that Hunter died for. As Vulture team head to the meeting point with Sean, XO Slattery and his team are tracking the sub’s radio signal. Learning that it is not from the sub but a buoy, the XO decides to blow it up preventing the Achilles from talking to anyone. Ned is on the radio to Ian back at the sub and directing him to find the destroyer when the missile the Nathan James fires hits the buoy and cuts of transmission. Ramsey throws the radio in frustration.

Back on the ship, Scott has discovered that the missing ingredient is cornstarch and she asks the Chief to give her a couple of machinists to manufacture a device to make the stuff work. Tex and Danny go to work while Chandler and Burk are in the big complex and the commander recognizes the Irish voice warming up the crowd before Sean’s speech in the ballroom as the man in the Hunter message.

Back on the Nathan James, Slattery is concerned about Chandler and his three teams, Vulture, Tiger and Cobra. Talking to Wolf-man, the XO tells him to get things sorted so he knows what is going on.

In the ballroom, Sean Ramsey shows he can work a crowd and Chandler recognizes Ned from the Solace. As the mercenary leader whips the group up into a patriotic fervor, he announces Secretary Michener as the new president of the United States.

In The Last Ship this week there were several stand out moments. From the Chief warning Chandler not to become an “Ahab” searching for his white whale, to the cold blooded murder of the doctors in the lab the show impressed, as usual. Once again the writers have the Brit slang coming hot and heavy from the mercenary faction. No muppets this week, but still spot on in terms of military verbiage, i.e. git.

There was even another tense and quite exciting moment where the crew send out a “bird” to take out the buoy that the Achilles is using to transmit their radio signal. The other tense moment came when Chandler recognized Ned in the ballroom and had to shift position so the other mad-as-a-hatter Ramsey brother could not spot him.

This should be rather interesting. Sean Ramsey has pumped these immune survivors almost to a frenzy. Their belief that they have been “chosen” has turned them into a further extension of his soldiers for hire. What will happen when, or if, Ned notices Chandler could turn things very deadly for him and Burk. Even if Ned does not identify the commander of the Nathan James, Niels (“creepy git” mutters Ned backstage) definitely will.

The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT. Do not miss this cracking blend of science fiction, drama and action.

The Last Ship: Achilles (recap and review)

Niels being greeted on the Achilles
Last week on Solace the Nathan James rescued the hospital ship, shot up quite a few mercenaries and captured one Spanish sailor from the organization. This week in Achilles on The Last Ship Slattery begins questioning the Special Ops Spaniard who appears to be over emphasizing his injuries. The Nathan James begins a dangerous game of hide and seek hoping to gain the advantage over the Ajax class British submarine, the HMS Achilles. It is revealed that the man who commands the sub is another zealot, like the preacher in the park, “a believer,” as he puts it and despite Niels initially being in over his head he manages to plumb new depths as the villain we love to despise.

Within moments of being on board the submarine and meeting the commander, Niels causes dissent between the brothers running the show and his reveal that Chandler defeated the legendary Russian Admiral Ruskov is met with a combination of disbelief and cheers. Slattery learns a bit more about the mercenary crew and their commander from the captured member of their crew. The XO accuses the captive of lying about the extent of his injuries.

The crew of the Nathan James learns that the submarine is the Achilles; a nuclear vessel that is being helmed by a madman, according to the Spaniard, and Chandler begins a protracted battle of wits against the sub’s commander. Both go silent while trying to pinpoint their opposition’s location. The mercenary prisoner, Juan Carlos, begs to be brought topside as he does not want to die below decks, chained to a bunk. Slattery takes him up and continues to question him.

Mason proves that he is pretty good on sonar as he finds the Achilles. Sean Ramsey and his brother Ned continue to argue and disagree at every turn and the crew on the sub veer between enthusiastic certainty and bickering. After the two vessels go silent Slattery, who is topside with Juan Carlos, decides that the captive has a beacon inside him. The Spaniard, who starts coughing up lots of blood, tells the XO that everyone on board the Achilles is like him.

Slattery then orders that the beacon be removed from their prisoner. Dr. Scott reluctantly agrees to the surgery and the British sub uncloaks and fires a salvo of torpedoes at the Nathan James. The ship returns fire and takes evasive action. Despite several “fish” being deployed both the Achilles and the Nathan James miss and no damage is taken by either vessel.

The “beacon” turns out to be a USB flash drive with all the locations of the labs on it. This was what Sean was going back for not just fellow believer and member of “The Selected” Juan Carlos. Just as Lt. Granderson deciphers the drive, the British nuclear sub deploys 26 ballistic missiles, all aimed at the lab locations. Chandler orders intercept missiles fired from the the Nathan James and only two of the Achilles rockets are taken down.

Niels discovered the lab locations via a communication from Dr. Hunter that was retrieved from the Solace. After the missiles are launched from the sub, Patient Zero gloatingly inflates his importance to the British led group of mercenaries and Ned wants to sink the Nathan James. Sean informs the crew and his brother that they will take over the US instead.

This week’s episode had something for everyone. A standoff, chess-like maneuvers on the open seas and a brief, white knuckle, battle between the nuclear sub (“That never runs out of fuel,” says Chandler.) and the Nathan James, a suspenseful medical surgery, Niels being even more despicable, and further insight into the more than slightly mad mercenaries on the Achilles.

The writing this week was exceptional, as were the performances from the two actors portraying the Ramsey brothers; Nick Court as Ned and Irish actor Brían F. O’Byrne as Sean do a brilliant job as the two British troops who took over the nuclear sub and run the group of “selected” mercenaries. The dialogue from the Brit members of the crew was spot on and include many military, and prison officer, slang terms. Real kudos to the writers of this episode for getting it right.

The cast continue to crack on with some brilliant performances but this show belonged to O’Byrne, Eric Dane and Adam Baldwin. Dane has the knack of conveying great authority with an eye crinkle and O’Byrne manages to exude mad confidence in his characterization of the mercenary leader. Special kudos to Adam Baldwin who projected his thought process with little more than a minimal facial tic or glare. Masterful and pure Baldwin. Sadly, there was not much for Rhona Mitra to do in this episode but she did manage to handle that surgical microscope with authority as well as showing Dr. Scott’s dismay at having to perform the procedure.

In the show, things have been cranked right up in terms of suspense and Juan Carlos was correct in his summation of leader Sean, he is mad as a hatter. This idiot savant running the sub has already taken over Europe and now has his sights set on the USA and presumably world domination. This was a brilliant episode that left the viewer limp with relief and ready for next week’s episode. The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT and is one of the best shows on television at the moment.

The Last Ship: Solace (recap and review)

Tex and Ravit
Last week’s episode of The Last Ship; It’s Not a Rumor had Alisha Granderson being promoted, with Commander Chandler’s old Lt. bars and Niels had managed to kill quite a number of innocents as well as winding up in a religious zealots camp. The Nathan James headed off from Norfolk to start supplying other bases with the cure and Dr. Scott is looking forward to seeing her old mentor Dr. Hunter. The Last Ship: Solace takes place immediately after and the episode begins with a number of dead people in what looks to be a submarine and two men discussing their chances. The crew members are British and considering the slang use of one of them, of a lower class background, “Cause I know bruv,” he says before the opening teaser finishes.

The Nathan James learns that the missing lab from Norfolk is on the USSN Solace with a skeleton crew of doctors and sailors. The James attempts to contact the Solace and gets no response. Chandler says they went out to wait for their cure and “We were late.” The Commander feels that what ever has happened to the crew is his fault.

The ship finds the Solace and their hails go unanswered. Chandler takes a small team to board the ship/lab to find out what is going on. Part of the search team includes two new members who were picked up back at Norfolk. An Australian special forces soldier named Wolf and his equivalent number, an Israeli named Ravit.

Wolf proves to be a valuable asses to the team when he almost singlehandedly takes out a squad of mercenaries on board the Solace, Lt. Miller nicknames the Aussie attacker “Wolf-man” and SCPO Taylor responds that he likes it. Ravit also proves her worth when dealing with two bombs left by the mercenaries.

Chandler and his troops find a lot of bodies on board, recently shot by what appears to be an international group of soldiers of fortune who are obviously trying to steal the cure and then sell it to the highest bidder. The men are cold blooded and ready to kill all who get in their way. After the boarding team find survivors on the Solace, they go to clear out the mercenaries.

What follows are some very satisfactory fire-fights between the crew of the James and the bad guys. Slattery gets a two body count via a big gun and a sniper. The “leader” of the villains on the Solace manages to escape, along with a few of his team, but one man, who may be Spanish, has been captured.

Niels pops up at the end of the show and it seems he is/was helping the mercenaries. However, due to the crew of the Nathan James showing up and spoiling their game, he looks to be in a little trouble with the big boss of the outfit. Patient Zero appears to be very nervous just before the end credits roll.

The Last Ship has opted to keep the challenges coming in its second season. From threats “within;” Baltimore, to threats “Without;” international mercenaries, the show is proving to be well worth the hour it takes to watch it. Without continued conflict the series would have fallen into a drop off the cure and defeat the local resistance formula that would pall rather quickly.

Introducing a “big bad” in what seems to be a cloaked submarine manned by some deadly, and slightly crazed, soldier’s of fortune from all over the world, the show has added a wild card that can be used to prop up the action when needed.

It is odd to see Rhona Mitra as a “non-action” character, after her other roles, Doomsday and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans to name but a couple, where she proved that she could kick butt and take names easily, but the woman can act, and her English presence is a welcome one on the “American heavy” show.

John Pyper-Ferguson as Tex just keeps getting better and better and his interest in Mitra’s Scott is still amusing and, in Solace, a little more hopeful than before.

Kudos to Bren Foster as “Wolf-man” who managed to look impressively deadly in his stand-out attack on the bad guys. Not only does the Aussie actor attack convincingly but he also kept his character likable in the process. The same can be said of his Israeli counterpart Ravit, played by Inbar Lavi. Hopefully we will be seeing more of the international crew members of the Nathan James.

The Last Ship airs Sundays on TNT and it is managing to keep the entertainment value levels high. Perhaps the only bone of contention is the continued mis-pronunciation of Norfolk. Granted, they are speaking of the American Naval Base, but it is jarring to hear Nor-folk instead of Nor-fok, which is the English pronunciation. Perhaps with the arrival of some British players in the show, that may change.