You know, there have been a lot of times I’ve mocked and made fun of The Last Ship in this column, and really I don’t know why I’m still covering it for DEADtime TV because it’s morphed from a show about disease to a military action-adventure. It’s not really fitting into the concept of horror television anymore, but since I started it I might as well finish. And since I’m forcing myself to watch The Last Ship anyway, at least “Alone and Unafraid” and “Safe Zone” allow me to have some fun with the show.
Season 2 has expanded the scope of what The Last Ship‘s trying to do. It has taken the emphasis off of finding a cure, because Dr. Scott has already accomplished that, and instead follows an arc about a group attempting to sway the rest of the living world into thinking that those who survived were the Chosen Ones. While the entire idea seems kind of silly, it does have interesting real-world implications: namely religion, because that’s basically what the show is mimicking in a nutshell.
Those nuts that believe the Chosen One story conveniently disprove that a cure exists, and they’ve also got the American president backing them. The Last Ship is all about jingoism, and “Alone and Unafraid” throws it at the viewer again and again. The entire episode is based around the American people believing whatever a president says just because, even if the guy’s only in office because everyone else died, and that president happens to be Jeff Michener, deeply enjoying the fifteen minutes of fame that Sean and Ned have afforded him.
“Alone and Unafraid” finds Chandler infiltrating the cult and kidnapping the president, and it’s about as action-packed as one might expect. There are explosions, bomb scares, and shoot-outs galore, all in the name of saving one guy who they believe can turn the minds of the American people. The Last Ship generally works on the premise of good and evil, and “Alone and Unafraid” never fails to paint Niels and Sean as awful people – they even want to give teddy bears full of the disease to little kids, effectively spreading the sickness again just to prove that the Chosen One thing does exist.
The episode is fun specifically because the viewer gets to watch Chandler and crew attempt to extricate the President from a mass of army men. They’re way overpowered, and yet they do it because The Last Ship needs them to, and it’s fun in a mindless self-indulgent way. Same thing goes for the USS Nathan James inexplicably (but tensely) avoiding torpedoes from a submarine by sliding behind an island. It’s all ridiculous, but it’s fun.
Then comes “Safe Zone”, an episode that works surprisingly well on its own thanks to a well-written set of scenes between Chandler and President Michener. Both men know the other has little chance of cracking; Michener believes Sean’s Chosen One vitriol because he has to believe in something fated instead of the horrible ravages of the disease, and Chandler has to believe that he’s doing something right or else leaving his kids behind is for nothing. “Safe Zone” finds both of them discussing these fears, and it’s a heartfelt situation that is often lacking in The Last Ship.
The episode ably handles Michener’s past grief, a grim story about killing his children instead of letting them get sick. More than that, though, Michener knows he was a big cause of the outbreak because he introduced the sickness to others via his son. He carries a lot of baggage, and that makes his belief in something fated like Chosen One status a bit more believable.
The Last Ship really does handle this gingerly, and I was pleasantly surprised by the episode. It takes a step back from the more action-oriented stuff to delve into some characterization, both for Michener (a new character) and Chandler. While the whole concept of one dude quelling a whole nation of their fears is kind of far-fetched, at least this season is making some headway in pivotal departments. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here, because Sean and his cult will definitely be out for blood now.