“Solace” returns to The Last Ship‘s old tricks, and that’s not surprising based on the limited scope of the arc this season has crafted so far. There’s a side plot about Niels joining up with a group of “bad guys” that are trying to get the cure for themselves so they can sell it to other nations for money – money that, for the most part, is pretty useless in this post-apocalyptic world – but other than that, The Last Ship has done very little to forge a new path for the show to follow. In “Solace,” it feels like the show is setting something up, but ultimately it’s the same kind of story that the series explored in its first season.
Again, it all has to do with the cure, but this time the faction is a bunch of people with a submarine that hides below the surface of the water and can’t be detected by sonar or radar. The Last Ship is always forced to find a new enemy because of its admittedly limited storyline, and so “Solace” is busy attempting to introduce that threat by adding a filler episode that plays out much like the stand-alone episodes of season one.
Chandler and the crew of the last ship find another ship adrift on the sea – which kind of negates the idea of the USS Nathan James being the last ship – and despite the odd ghostliness of it being mostly empty, Chandler thinks that it could possibly provide a new place for Dr. Scott and her techs to create more cures. So they board the ship, find out it was actually targeted by mercenaries looking for a cure thinking it was actually the Nathan James, and get ambushed by those soldiers.
In true Last Ship fashion, Chandler’s not willing to interact with these mercenaries. There’s no gray area between good or bad; the Americans are good, the Others are bad, and it’s important that the Navy goes in to wipe them all out and save the hopeless people of the ship Solace. There’s little actually going on in “Solace” besides a few action sequences, and this episode in particular feels like a lot of filler added in to pad out the extended 13-episode season. It’s a useless episode that makes little headway in any area. Bad guys aren’t even introduced yet, Dr. Scott doesn’t do anything more with the cure (and in fact her character has become even less vital than it was before), and by the end of the episode, everything has pretty much gone back to normal.
It’s even apparent in the treatment of the crew’s characters, most notable with Andrea Garnett; she just lost her family last episode, and The Last Ship doesn’t even bother to bring that up except for a few crew members giving her a sympathetic eye when they see her on the ship.
There is one relationship that’s blossoming, but in a strange, forced way. Jeter is obsessed with new recruit Lt. Bivas, and, as an act of romance, he sticks around to help her disarm a bomb on Solace. The Last Ship is attempting to make this into a relationship the audience should care about, but it’s more creepy than cute. Jeter’s interest is more like an obsession, and the show has done a poor job of characterizing Bivas in general. Since she’s a woman, she’s got to be so hardened that she rebuffs any man that talks to her; she’s a real cockstomper, in short, but it’s not realistic at all. It’s more like the show doesn’t really understand how this woman can be both a badass and nice at the same time.
“It’s Not a Rumor” was at least an episode that focused on characterization instead of moving forward, but “Solace” has none of that. It’s like a boat adrift on the sea, bounced around in any direction the waves push it. Four episodes in, The Last Ship‘s second season has yet to come up with a solid angle for its plot, and that’s a problem since it always suffers from poor writing anyway.