The Last Ship has been attempting to move into its second season arc for some time now, but “Achilles” and “Long Day’s Journey” effectively get the show to where it needs to be. The submarine crew that have been attempting to overtake the USS Nathan James have become the biggest threat to the world’s safety, and in these two episodes, Chandler and his Navy crew are tasked with rallying against the group of immunes who believe that they’re the only ones that should be living in a post-apocalyptic world.
As arcs go, I’m actually somewhat more invested in what The Last Ship is doing now than last season’s open-ended one. This time, at least, there’s a palpable threat that has a mission; though vague, it still provides enough motivation to make Chandler’s crew people to root for instead of the bad guys.
“Achilles” finds the submarine attacking the Nathan James on the open waters, led by British Naval Officer Sean. Their mission is simple: stop the Nathan James from dispersing any more of the cure, because Sean wants to lead an uprising of immune people instead of saving those that will potentially succumb to the virus. Sean’s got little to lose, so he’s willing to do nearly anything to get rid of Chandler’s crew.
But so is the Nathan James. “Achilles” is a tense episode that’s centered almost entirely on the naval battle between submarine and ship, and it’s paced quite well. When The Last Ship doesn’t have to handle anything with characterization, it’s actually not a bad show, and this episode is proof that it can be a bit more tactical in its approach to action. There are some suspenseful scenes here where the Nathan James locks down and drops to Silent II, a procedure that limits any sound so the submarine can’t pick them up on radar.
The episode also has a no-holds-barred approach; the submarine, with the help of Niels’ knowledge, takes out all of the US’ CDC labs, limiting anyplace the Nathan James could go to manufacture the cure wholesale. It’s a pretty grim ending to the episode, and it’s really what The Last Ship needs to kick the show into high gear.
Then it moves right into “Long Day’s Journey.” Though Dr. Scott’s doctor mentor is dead, she does get an idea from him that she can produce a powder form of the cure that can be spread via cropdusting. While she attempts to figure out how to powderize the cure, Chandler and some of his crew head to a compound Sean and his guys have set up for immune people.
So far, this season has done a number of good things. It has set up a longer-running arc; it has created a pretty good villain out of Sean, who is determined but not overly terrible in a cliched way; and with “Long Day’s Journey,” it has also set up higher stakes as more commoner immune people are roped into the idea of starting a world built only by people with immunity. The episode leaves it at that, with Chandler and Jeter infiltrating the compound only to find that nearly all immune Americans are swayed by Sean’s spectacular speech.
The Last Ship is making it harder for Chandler to stop Sean and the immunes without having some serious casualties, because the immunity group is amassing all over the world. This has created a much better plot for the series so far – rather than have the Nathan James sail around looking for problems, there’s one brewing that they need to stop. While I still don’t think the show can really prolong its plot line for much longer, there’s enough here to last another season; color me surprised that a couple of episodes of The Last Ship have actually impressed me.