“The Last Ship” Finds a Snake in Paradise

Last week’s episode of “The Last Ship” was certainly played up enough that it could have served as a season finale. This week’s actual finale certainly started off feeling like an epilogue more than anything. That is until everything went completely wrong. The premise of the previous nine episode has typically followed a pattern of conflict brought on by need escalating to tension and despair only to end with determination and renewed hope. The finale flipped that on its head and followed that path backwards.

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I’ve talked a lot about “The Last Ship” on this blog, but that’s mainly because it has been the only consistently exciting show this summer. Each week has been packed full of intrigue and adventure and I feel like the persons making the show have gone the extra mile each of the ten hours they’ve given us this freshman year. My biggest fear would be that the narrative they set in motion would be predicated by the constant search for the cure to the deadly plague and that this would be dragged out however long the show lasted on the air. Imagine my surprise when we ended last week with said cure.

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The season finale changed all that and proved that the show is about more than the cure. The world within the story has suddenly been writ larger as, for the first time since the pilot, the crew of the Nathan James returns to mainland America and one of the last remaining vestiges of structure and society. Sure, there are barbarians at the gate threatening the last scraps of the old world, but there is hope that civility and normality can be returned to the rest of the country and, possibly, the world. But then the truths become lies and the fellow saviors are revealed to be evil.

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As has been apparent from the beginning, this show is about people, namely the crew of the Nathan James, and how they remain faithful to their duty, convictions and trust in each other now that there is no world order. All of that is tested, most especially in the final moments. Captain Tom Chandler (Eric Dane), having lead his people to safety, then faces his greatest tragedy while uncovering a horror beyond imagining. Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) has a place to create more of the cure she has sweated and bled for only to discover another horrible truth. Quincy Tophet (Sam Spruell), the one-time traitor, gets to redeem himself, but at great cost. And lovelorn Tex (John Pyper-Ferguson) decides to ride off into the great unknown at perhaps the worst possible time.

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By the end of the episode, our heroes are spread out around Baltimore, those still on the ship now basically held hostage. Hope has been taken away and the true monsters stand revealed as the ones that offered sanctuary. It’s obvious that somehow the group painted as terrorists will play a bigger part in the resolution to all this, partly because we see them revealed to be decent folk after all, but mainly because Titus Welliver plays their leader. You don’t bring in Welliver for a bit part and I hope he sticks around in a permanent role next year. And that is the silver lining to the bleak and somber finale, that the show will be back next summer for another run.

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joseph Dilworth Jr.

Joseph Dilworth Jr. has been writing ever since he could hold a pencil. Back then it was one of those big, red pencils, the Faber-Castell Goliath.  Remember those? Now, that was a pencil! He has been writing for the Internet for nearly ten years and for six years he served as founder, editor and lead writer for Pop Culture Zoo. He is currently co-host of the weekly The Flickcast podcast, is contributing two essays to the upcoming book The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes and is writing a reference book about the TV series Fringe for Hasslein Books.