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.