One of my favorite post-apocalyptic shows is back for the summer!
Since season 5 of ‘The Walking Dead’ finished in March I’ve had no post-apocalyptic drama until TNT unveiled the two hour season 2 premiere of ‘The Last Ship’ on Sunday night. In Season 1 the crew of the USS Nathan James traveled from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, Guantanamo Bay, and the jungles of Central America gathering supplies to keep alive and materials to make the cure for a deadly virus that has wiped out over 80% of the world’s population. The ship makes it to Baltimore at the end of season to find a reasonable facsimile of civilization led by former Presidential Policy Board member Amy Granderson (the mother of one of the crew of the Nathan James).
The crew dispenses the cure to Granderson and her top aides only to find out that Granderson’s civilization is powered by the bodies of the sick that are lured into a stadium where they are promised medical attention but are instead euthanized and shipped to the power plant to be burned. While the ships’ commander Captain Thomas Chandler takes a crew to retrieve his family from the stadium (finding his children and father while learning that his wife has succumbed to the virus) Granderson’s troopers have taken control of the Nathan James at gunpoint.
I wrote last year that ‘The Last Ship’ reminds me a lot of the original ‘Star Trek’ and the season two premiere did little to change my mind. While not an alien civilization, post-apocalypse Baltimore is alien indeed. Granderson wants the cure not to dispense but to control who gets cured and cement her hold on power within the gleaming corporate headquarters of Avocet where she has set up her new society.
The people of Avocet will do anything to get their hands on the cure and are looking for the key ingredient (the primordial strain) to replicate the cure so they won’t need to negotiate with chief scientist Dr. Rachel Scott. When they think Scott’s assistant Quincy Tophet knows where the vial of primordial strain is, one of Granderson’s troopers order Quincy to be shot up with adrenaline so he can be made to talk even though Quincy has suffered a near fatal gunshot wound and is in critical condition. Tophet’s wife is held at gunpoint which convinces Quincy to rip out his stiches and bleed to death because he doesn’t know where the strain was hidden. The head Avocet scientist is undeterred and when he finds out one of the ship’s crew is pregnant has her brought to the lab in order to extract the stem cells from her fetus in order to replicate the cure.
Luckily the crew of the Nathan James find some rebel allies and with their help our heroes shut down the killing stadium, turn off the power plant, destroy Avocet, and take back their ship with the only casualties being Quincy and six other sailors who are the equivalent of the red shirted members of the USS Enterprise that typically met their demise at the beginning of Star Trek episodes. One of the high points of the premiere was Executive Officer Slattery taking control of the ship’s comm center and his glee as they eradicate the ship’s invaders. Slattery gets in some action himself as he brawls with the head of Granderson’s troopers, ending the fight when he buries an ax in his enemy’s chest. The season premiere was two hours of nearly non-stop action. The only slow spots were when Captain Chandler and crew infiltrate the power plant and Chandler’s family hides out in an abandoned house until they are forced to fight when a snitch tells some Avocet guards about them in return for some rations. Even these slow spots had a sense of anticipation of quick erupting action at any moment. The remaining 10 episodes tease battles at sea, the return of the ‘Patient Zero’ scientist that started the virus in the first place, and a group of survivors called ‘The Chosen’ that are naturally immune to the virus.
With Captain Chandler now a widower the stage is set for the reprisal of another of the staple themes of the original Star Trek which was how nearly every alien female who appeared on the show would fall in love with Captain James T. Kirk. Season one of The Last Ship was light in the romance department with a liaison between two of the ships members the only break in the otherwise regimented lifestyle of a Navy Ship but I expect that to change in Season two.
Despite my enthusiasm for the season premiere, the ratings were lower than any of last year’s episodes, which also aired on Sunday nights. Every episode of season one had an audience of at least 4 million viewers while the season 2 premiere had less than three million and even lost out to a show on the Discover network called 'Naked and Afraid'. Unless the show does well in the new 'Live Plus' metric of DVR/Netflix/Amazon/Hulu views this bodes poorly for the prospect of a season three. I’ll make sure to enjoy this season of ‘The Last Ship’ and my post-apocalyptic Sunday plate will be full for the foreseeable future with the last season of ‘Falling Skies’ starting next week and the premiere of ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ in August. I don’t know if ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ will be on Sundays but that night does seem to be the preferred day for post-apocalyptic TV in order to make us feel at least a little better about heading to work on Mondays in a non-apocalyptic world.