The Sunday, June 22 series premiere of “The Last Ship,” TNT’s newest summer action drama, does a decent job of setting up what seems to be coming in the rest of the summer. A deadly virus has swept through the world, and the only hope seems to be one scientist on board a naval ship, but there are, of course, many, many obstacles in the way.
The premiere of “The Last Ship” is all about setting up the plot, so while we’re introduced to the crew and scientists on the ship, there are only a couple of moments spent trying to flesh out these characters – and “trying” is the key word there. The only character we really get a decent feel for beyond his or her post in the first episode is Chandler, and that’s via a video message from his family from days before, showing him they’re safe (at least then).
For Slattery, only a couple of lines are devoted to his loss in a blink-and-miss-it moment because once he refuses to take a break, it’s like it never happened. As for Rachel Scott, we know really next to nothing about her other than the fact that she’s humanity’s only hope for survival. And as for the rest of the crew, we only get a glimpse into the lives of one couple as they duck aside for private time and then wonder what’s waiting at home. So, like we said, we don’t really learn enough to really care about the survivors.
However, what the pilot does do well is establish just how serious this situation is. We can feel the same urgency the characters must feel, as the episode shows just how quickly the very sick become the dying and how the dying become the dead, with no hope for the infected. In the span of four months, it has gone from being a situation with thousands quarantined and hundreds dead, at phase 2, to a global pandemic, with 80 percent of the world’s population infected, at phase 6. Suddenly complaints about the cold weather are the least of their concerns. Even with the possibility of a cure, the outlook is bleak, just as we see with Benz, who becomes infected when the crew steps on board an Italian ship to collect fuel and food. Even when given a direct order from his captain, Benz chooses to take his own life rather than let the virus take it from him.
Even though the crew of the ship thinks they’re out there running drills, they soon learn that the real reason for their mission is Rachel Scott’s: to search for the primordial strain to hopefully find a cure. It’s not until Russians begin attacking Rachel, Quincy and the solders guarding them on the ice that Chandler even finds out about the virus and how serious it has become – and even then, it falls on him to decide whether or not to tell his crew. He does, and that’s only the first of the hard decisions he’ll have to make aboard the ship with regards to his crew.
When their orders from the President of the United States (who was the Speaker of the House when they left) are changed and then they can’t reach anyone to verify, Chandler’s the one to decide they’ll stay on the ship and Rachel will make the cure there and head to Gitmo for food and fuel instead of attempting to go inland to a lab and try to find their families.
Sure, some of it is also predictable, including Rachel’s revelation that the virus has an extra gene, which could have only been added with human intervention, meaning someone likely weaponized it. There’s already some disagreement in the ranks, as Slattery argues with Chandler when the captain decides to stay on the ship. Not everyone on board the ship – or in the lab, as Rachel will probably soon realize – can be trusted.
Despite its flaws, visually and as an action drama, it is a winner, and it’s a series that shows real promise to become another summer success for TNT. The network has wisely chosen to pair it with an already established hit in “Falling Skies,” making for a thrilling Sunday night of television. No one can accuse TNT of ending the weekend without a bang with this lineup.
“The Last Ship” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on TNT. What did you think of the series premiere?