The format of The Last Ship makes it difficult to learn much about the multitude of sailors that populate the Nathan James. Obviously, the virus itself is an issue, limiting the amount of survivors that our main characters can keep in contact with, but the show also doesn’t have time to juggle multiple character backstories when it’s busy giving other countries the old American KO punch. Now that the Baltimore angle of the show has been settled, “It’s Not a Rumor” takes a step back from the action to meet some of the families of the major players in the show; the crew head to Norfolk, their home base, to spread some of the cure to those at home, and many of the naval officers get to touch dry land in search of their loved ones.
Surprisingly, The Last Ship handles the whole thing very well, not exactly subtle but with the right touch of hope and appropriate grief. A show like this one, with often subpar to mediocre writing, has the potential to really botch the more emotional aspects of a family reunion, but “It’s Not a Rumor” takes time to showcase each of the main characters exploring their hometowns in search of people that may or may not be dead from the virus.
In most cases, those people are okay, even doing better than they were before the viral outbreak. Kara finds her mother in a local bowling alley caring for sick people; once an alcoholic, she has now overcome that addiction for a life of sobriety that is vitally important to the community. Tom Chandler heads back to his house to rebuild, contemplating leaving his position as commander of the Nathan James in order to raise his children and help spread the cure on land. And Dr. Scott is able to reconnect with her old mentor from Yale, happy to see that he’s still alive in a world where death is more common than survival.
At the same time, it’s not all happiness and roses for some of the crew. Garnett heads home to find her husband’s vehicle missing and the place ransacked, and eventually she learns from a ledger that her family died from the virus. “It’s Not a Rumor” is fairly explicit about the whole thing, even forcing Garnett to basically explain how she feels now that she’s learned the truth about her family. Still, it’s treated carefully, and the emotional release is cathartic, something that’s not always possible for the show.
Most notable in the episode is its treatment of Chandler’s decision to stick with his ship as commander. His doubts about whether his kids can make do without him force him to contemplate giving up on his mission, but both his daughter and his father talk him into heading back to sea. His father actually refers to Chandler as Noah and the Nathan James his ark; that reference is weighty and probably far too literary for The Last Ship, though, and it all plays out a bit too melodramatic in the last half of the episode. Still, this is more development than we’ve gotten in quite a while, and “It’s Not a Rumor” is a much more nuanced hour of television than most of this series.
The Last Ship does manage to build the start of a new arc in the process, with the evil doctor guy named Niels who was part of the Russian navy. He managed to survive and made it to land, and he just happens to get wrapped up with a community of people who believe they are chosen ones because they didn’t become infected with the virus. In true Last Ship fashion, the plot kind of ignores the fact that there are many, many people who didn’t get the virus; it also fails to reason why these people would rather not have a cure and potentially get the virus anyway. Still, at least there’s a semblance of a plot for the show to continue with in coming episodes.
“It’s Not a Rumor” is one of the better episodes in The Last Ship‘s repertoire. Though it’s probably a fleeting glimpse of what could have been had the show not devolved into a bunch of American patriotic bullshit, it’s good to see that The Last Ship can have these glimmers of good storytelling. But next week will most likely be the equivalent of boiling an American flag, mixing it with Bud Light, and then injecting the solution into an arm tattooed with an eagle, so cherish this episode.