[This is a review of The Last Ship season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
One episode on the US Nathan James and one episode off, this seems to be the formula that The Last Ship is adhering to thus far. We saw the dangers of isolation two episodes ago last time the focus remained on the ship in, ‘We’ll Get There’, as the crew came together to try and brave through a disastrous engine failure and the resulting water shortage. However, in last night’s episode, ‘Lockdown’, that established camaraderie came undone as the plague of paranoia infected the crew.
The mission and the chain of command has given this crew a purpose and a bit of structure to help prop them up in a situation that might easily knock others down. Thing is, when one of their own (Lt. Danny Green) comes down with a mysterious illness after encountering the infected in Nicaragua (information that the Captain had volunteered to the crew in an effort to be fully honest with them), the structure starts to crumble.
Hope bolsters people in a time of duress, so we understand why the Captain would add a happier note about Dr. Scott’s work to save humanity to his message about the people they were not able to help on the island, but though it is a case of misunderstanding the Doctor more than a malicious endeavor to put a fire under her, it nonetheless backfires on him when Dr. Scott’s progress seemingly dries up, causing the ship to halt its course toward home.
Quincy has been a thoroughly uneven character, but in this episode he goes full dark side, keeping up the show’s unfortunate streak with cartoonishly evil villains – a letdown after we saw a human dimension to him and desperation as his family hung in the balance in ‘Dead Reckoning’. Quincy is clearly filled with spite and bile now, and so when the ship stops and he hears the opening hums of worry as the Captain puts the ship in lockdown, he gets to work, whispering into Bacon’s ear about the lies that the Captain is telling the crew and how they are not at all safe.
Like dominoes falling one by one, loyal sailors start questioning the Captain’s words and Dr. Scott’s assurances that Green is not infected with “the” virus that has pillaged the world as facts become blurry and fear takes hold. It doesn’t help that the Captain seems to doubt Dr. Scott, who is still pariah due to her understandable deception about the initial four month mission in the arctic.
It’s unsurprising that Dr. Scott winds up being right when it is revealed that Lt. Green has another illness that is not contagious, but by then, the damage has been done. She and the Captain have a great toe to toe in the hallway as she deftly reminds him that all of his (and the ship’s) sacrifices are not for her, but for the mission to save humanity. As I’ve said before in the reviews, this show can go for the ham-handed line sometimes, but while it often induces a groan, sometimes it’s exactly right for the situation and Scott’s words to the Captain are exactly that.
As for the rest of the crew, they don’t easily snap back into place. There are 16 crew members whose enlistments have expired, meaning that they are not technically in the Navy anymore. Spurred (from behind the curtain) by Quincy’s rabble-rousing, the crew members align and ask off the ship, something that the Captain confronts with a stirring speech that admits his missteps and ties up all of the episode’s loose ends as he more fully introduces the entire crew to Dr. Scott and lets her explain the tough road that she has in front of her to finish finding the vaccine. It’s a nice moment that allows for some growth between the Captain and Scott, easing the tensions between the fist and the brain of this vital mission. With that said, though, it’s disappointing to see those 16 crew-members assembled the next morning to re-enlist. As I said last week, this show has to start rejecting slick resolutions, specifically ones that undermine the tensions and truths expressed in an episode by allowing everyone to have a hug and a salute. It’s great to see Slattery and Jeter clash with the Captain a little and it’s nice that we don’t have an infallible lead character, but these characters won’t grow if there are never lasting consequences.
‘Lockdown’ may well be the highest point that this show has reached from a story standpoint thanks to its palpable claustrophobia and panic, as well as the twitchiness of the crew and their quick willingness to believe in fear, but it still grades out as a C+ because of that tepid end, and that’s a shameful waste of that first half and a great and thought provoking premise.
The Last Ship airs on TNT Sunday nights @9PM ET.