‘The Last Ship’ Series Premiere Review

Published 10 months ago by

the last ship dane bridge The Last Ship Series Premiere Review

[This is a review of The Last Ship season 1, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]

TNT’s The Last Ship is everything that a summer blockbuster should be – and one or two things that it shouldn’t. Overall, though, producer Michael Bay delivers an enjoyable, visually stunning and high octane hour of television that accomplishes its main goal: it makes us want to see more.

Based on William Brinkley’s cold-war era novel of the same name, the television adaptation of The Last Ship is handled by showrunners Hank Steinberg (Without a Trace, 61*) and Steven Kane (The Closer), who lead the tale in a slightly different direction – in that this story deals with the threat posed by a global pandemic and not, exclusively, nuclear fallout.

Stationed in the arctic for a four month mission that requires radio silence, the crew of the USS Nathan James find themselves nearing the end of their isolated mission. However, as the crew begins to allow themselves a chance to think about going home, that hope is ripped away from them after a sneak attack leads to revelations about the true nature of their mission – and the horrifying realities about what has happened on land in their time at sea.

The helicopter attack, which mostly takes place over the icy terrain where Doctor Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra, playing things detached and mission focused) and her assistant are working, is a rare (for television) and fantastic demonstration of visual firepower that is orchestrated by pilot episode director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571). Explosions rock the icy ground and fill the sky and we are pulled into the action as we watch Dr. Scott scramble to save her vital samples, all while two Navy Officers (and their German Shepherd) fend off the invading choppers and then engage the enemy soldiers (who spectacularly jump out of the helicopters onto the frozen terrain) on the ground.

the last ship destroyer1 The Last Ship Series Premiere Review

The Nathan James also gets in on the action with extreme closeups of its glorious weaponry as it fires upon the enemy. In real life, The Nathan James does not exist, but the ship is “created” with the help of  of two active destroyers that were used extensively during filming – with the cooperation of the US Navy – to add an impressive level of authenticity that really gives the show another gear.

Following the battle, the smart cinematography continues as the urgency of the ship captain, Commander Tom Chandler (Eric Dane, stoic and impressive in the square jawed hero role), is conveyed to us with a quick bit of handheld camerawork as he interrogates one of the wounded rival soldiers on the ship deck, translating his last words as “The cure”.

Face to face with Doctor Scott following that exchange, Chandler grills the scientist for answers only to discover the true purpose of their mission: the discovery of a cure to a global pandemic that has infected 80% of the world’s population in the four months that The Nathan James has been cut off from the world.

the last ship mitra The Last Ship Series Premiere Review

From this point to the episode’s end, there is barely a moment for the crew (or the audience) to catch their breaths as the world’s declining state is further made clear to Chandler and his second in command, Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin) – who finds out that his son has fallen victim to the sickness and died. Of the 216 crew members, only four (ostensibly including Slattery) have made contact with home, only to hear mostly bad news. Before this can all sink in, though, a missile strike is detected – a nuke that is headed for the coast of France, where the ship is headed in an effort to re-fuel for their trip to a safe research facility. Far enough off-shore to avoid any direct physical damage from the nuclear attack (which has been fired off by who, exactly?), The Nathan James is still stuck in the dark thanks to the EMP from the blast and prone to the coming radiation cloud.

It’s here where The Last Ship is at its cheesiest as Chandler demonstrates his dedication to the safety of his crew by holding a fuse in place as the engine’s are flipped on, taking a jolt that is big enough to toss him through the air, but not enough to phase him once he gets back up. It’s obvious that this is an effort to paint Chandler as a tough guy and as someone who is heroic, but that’s already been made clear by his handling of the situation and his (and his crew’s) focus on the task at hand – when most people would be on their knees crying about their personal losses and the uncertainty that awaits them.

Once back in motion, The Nathan James heads to an Italian cruise liner in search of supplies and it is here that we see the real contrast between what it means to be stuck at sea inside the “hot zone” and outside of it – as we observe a refrigerator filled with dead bodies and a grand hall that is now filled with the same. It’s a sight so shocking that it pushes one officer to take his own life when he stumbles and lands on the body of one of the infected, losing his bio-hazard helmet in the process. It’s a tense moment as both the Captain and SEAL team member Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle) unsuccessfully urge the officer to put down his sidearm, but it further demonstrates the willingness to put mission above all, in that the officer refuses to go back to the ship and endanger anyone else’s life.

the last ship dane baldwin The Last Ship Series Premiere Review

From the cruise ship to the shores of the US, the mission home gets more complicated as The Nathan James receives a delayed message diverting them away from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida and one from Captain Chandler’s wife and kids telling him that they are safe. It’s hard to say how much the latter has to do with the Captain’s decision to ignore his latest marching orders, but with no communication between the ship and the land, Chandler decides to stay at sea, taxing Doctor Scott’s efforts and Slattery’s patience.

The tension between Chandler and Slattery – who wants to stick with the plan and head for Jacksonville, if only to head “home” – seems to indicate that the two will clash in a deeper way as this now self-directed mission inevitably gets more complicated. However, it is the panicked and sinister phone call made by Doctor Scott’s assistant, Quincy Tophet (Sam Spruell), the splintered Russian forces that are seemingly in pursuit and the ticking clock on this pandemic, that the Captain should be really worried about.

Is this all too much for one episode, though? Bay and Steinberg do throw a lot at the screen in the pilot as the crew is faced with one challenge after another in short order (with few opportunities to get to know the characters), but with that said, future episodes will likely slow down as the story and these characters are fleshed out and we’re told why we should care about them – besides, you know, their efforts to save humanity. If things don’t mature in that way, however, at least we know that we can count on The Last Ship for some big screen level popcorn fun. The bottom line is, this ambitious show can be more than that and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get there after such a strong debut.


The Last Ship airs Sundays @9PM ET on TNT.

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
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  1. Will this be a miniseries or an open-ended one (which it probably literally will be after getting cancelled without a proper conclusion, when they run out of ideas fast ;))

  2. I really Loved the Series Premiere I also am looking forward to watching Legends Coming to TNT and The Falling Skies Season Four Premiere was Great to I loved how Falling Skies is going back to it’s roots like Season One :)

  3. I liked it because I went in wanting exactly what I got – lots of explosions and action. The only part that made me roll my eyes was the cliche where the Captain’s family was fine while everyone else had lost at least one immediate family member. I mean I was totally expecting it, but I just had a tiny shred of hope they might not let it play out that way. Oh well, ready to see how it plays out.

  4. I love Rhona Mitra… Gonna have to check this out.

  5. I like this show, but I didnt like the use of the trope ‘The black guy die first’.

    • but he didn’t die first :)

    • Funny, because I looked at is as the “trope” Black guy is heroic, same with the officer on bridge who was stoic and first to salute the Capt after his command at the end of the episode. Like they wanted to show the black guys as the most heroic and loyal. Just sayin

      • That was the stupidest part of the movie. Being a Navy vet, no one would EVER salute their captain for making an announcement like that while inside the ship. The Navy has traditions and one of them is that you don’t salute in doors. At the most, when a captain enters the room, someone is to shout, “ATTENTION ON DECK!!” and every stands at attention but that is about it. I know this is just a tv show but it’s more comedy seeing how unreal the show is portraying the Navy to be.

        • I have to agree Robert. It was all humming along rather nicely and looking at least partially well vetted until that scene. “Officer of the Deck, Request permission to salute the Commanding Officer!” “Permission granted Master Chief!” I not only almost threw up in my mouth, I literally spewed across the room. When my gut-shaking laughter subsided I thought to myself…well, so much for the “Military Advisor” to the Director. My “suspended disbelief” was irrecovacably shattered. I’m surprised several youtube parody videos from Fleet Sailors haven’t made their rounds on the internets yet. Did you also notice in the opening scene that Norfolk Naval Base had a mountain range in what could have only been the “east” of the base, ostensibly where Virginia Beach and the Atlantic Ocean should have been? Comical!

          • The saluting scene was for dramatic effect. MC was expressing respect fo the CO’s actions. It was not implied that this was routine. My only issue is the CO. I haven’t known any that were the body-builder hero type. More often you see career-obsessed politicos.

            Every military show or movie has zealots picking it apart. This show is about as accurate a representation as I have seen. A show that was entirely accurate would be unbearably boring. Who wants to watch people foing PMS checks and holding safety training for an hour every week?

    • Remember… 80%+ of the world and all of Egypt died before that black guy did.

  6. Is this show anything like Last Resort, that was on ABC that got cancelled?

    • It’s better.

      • By the description that is what I thought of, also. I did kind of like The Last Resort. bet this movie drew at least a little inspiration from that one. I have not watched the premiere episode yet, but will on the website ASAP. Sounds like this series could have potential!

  7. I really liked it though I don’t see how they can possibly turn it into a full on series, but so far so good. Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra are good in their respective roles.

  8. Rhona Mitra….I do not remember anything else.

    • She’s so hot, she’s distracting. She needs to find the cure while dressed in a bikini, not a hazmat suit.

      • pretty much this ^^^

  9. I liked it but not as a multi-season show, this should run for a single season and that is it.

  10. most show’s that try the apocalypse setting turn out to be Garbage

    we don’t need to care about the crew we just want to watch them “survive”

  11. This is Michael Bay, why does the author think he is going to “flesh out the characters”? He never does, its what he sucks at . Then again, a lot of the producer label is just to give the show some Gravitas, like Steven Spielberg has his name on a lot of shows, wonder how much input on a day to day he actually has , after collecting their checks?

  12. have it recorded, gonna watch it tonight as well as falling skies…with this plot i think even if the show does good i dont see them having much story to tell after about 2 seasons, they either use the cure on all the remaining survivors or the cure doesnt work then you have an infected post apocalyptic world then the plot changes to basically surviving like the walking dead, they can drag the story out a little bit and up the dose on the action to givr it a few seasons to work with but even then its evetually gonna end very good or very bad

  13. Loved the premier episode but I found the combat on the Arctic ice to be the worst party of the show. With that much fire-power pouring down (missiles and machine-gun fire) on only two running sailors on ice-sleds something should have hit at least one of them. In addition, with the number of choppers in the air it was very surprising that they didn’t envelop the running sailors in cross-fire.

    For those who wonder who Rhona Mitra is, she starred in the latter part of “The Practice” as a legal assistant.

    This being said, if Bay can make this show work on a level beyond sheer action and tough-guy icons then we are all in for quite a thrill-ride this summer…

  14. Military, action and sci-fi are some of my favorite genres for TV and movies, so I was excited when TNT began promoting THE LAST SHIP.

    The show lived up to its pre-launch hype but there was still a lot to find fault including a super-human captain impervious to electrical shock, a battle ship that took several direct hits from missiles and rockets yet seemed to suffer no damage or any casualties after the attack.

    Throw in the floating brothel theme with enlisted persons making out while on duty and a lesbian in command of the bridge, and you begin to see the Hollywood liberal push – not to mention the Hillary Clinton woman president character to get us prepped for her 2016 coronation.

    And you can cut the sexual tension between the captain and the hot scientist babe. It’s only a matter of an episode or two before they are caught hot bunking it in the captain’s quarters.

    None-the-less, the action scenes featuring helicopter attacks and gun battles were exciting and it’s great to see a naval based series. Despite some of the incredulous aspects of the show, I plan to tune in weekly with popcorn in hand right after watching FALLING SKIES each Sunday night.

    • Except we had Cherry Jones playing a female US President for seasons 7 and 8 of 24 years ago so…

    • I really liked your assessment. I laughed out loud when I read your takes on the liberal push – mirrored my thoughts exactly! And I, like you, will be eagerly awaiting each new episode. Cheers!

  15. This show is okay. But being a Navy vet, I’m actually just laughing at all the stupid stuff that the show is portraying the Navy to be. When the Captain returned a salute without wearing a cover or saluting for an announcement that the captain made was pretty ridiculous, seeing helicoptors on the radar where the radarman is oblivious to not seeing it in time.

    I did wonder however if being on a ship with men and women, does relationships happen like that where you could almost have sex in the fanroom? I was on an all male ship so I wouldn’t know. That is the only part of the show that I was wondering if stuff like that really happens. Oh but on a foot note, women in the Navy aren’t as hot as the women on the ship are. That must be 4 months at sea to the point where any girl is hot I’m sure!!

    • Though I have not served in the US Armed Forces, I am a military historian so I can agree with a lot about what you are saying about the depiction of US sailors while on shipboard.

      However, we have to remember how such shows are conjured up, which in this case is to promote recruitment by American youth into the military.

    • The women in the British military (army, navy, air force) can be incredibly attractive but I haven’t heard of any of them having relations with any of their male colleagues because they’re there to do a job. The only time you hear of it happening is when a woman commits suicide because she was bullied into sexual relationships or raped by fellow officers and those in varying levels of command but those usually take place in training.

    • Robert, having served on multiple “mix gendered” ships I can absolutely testify that there was “friggin’ in the riggin'”. In fact, come deployment time we often had to leave a large percentage of famale sailors behind due to pregnancy. Fanrooms? You betcha!

  16. I liked it.

    During the action scenes, especially the slow-mos of the ship weaponry, I was thinking that the production value was pretty high for a TV show… I forgot that Bay was the producer.

    I like that the story moved fast and that’s what a premiere needs, we can character build during the season.

    Implausible arctic action aside, my only other complaint is not seeing more ships on their way to France and then America. You would think that while this pandemic is occurring, people would flock to the ocean. How lucky to come across an Italian cruise ship with exactly what they needed, gas and food (did someone get some extra fuses too?).

  17. i thought premiere was good. i will give it a few episodes before i decide if it will be worth watching.

  18. Really enjoyed the premiere. Question- Wasn’t Adam Baldwin on the X=Files many moons ago? Can’t think of the name of his character.

    • Wyngate: I remember he played a super soldier kind of character, 5 or 6 episodes maybe?

      • Thanks Pirate-
        If I remember right, his name was Krichek. And he was on for several seasons in different capacities. Good actor.

        • You are all wrong…

          Krichek on the “X Files” was not played by Adam Baldwin but a relatively unknown actor who’s seemingly twin appeared recently on “Fairly Legal” and several others shows. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the actor’s name who played Krichek. He played the part of a Human turned alien from the black-goo…

          • Krycek on X-Files was played by Canadian actor Nicholas Lea. Adam Baldwin was in Firefly and Chuck, amongst many others. He also had a small recurring role in the last season of The X-Files.

  19. there is no destroyer with a 3 number hull the master chief of the command is realistic, an officer and enlisted would not be kissing on board, not on my watch. where is the BMOW on the bridge?

    • the navy does not salute uncovered or indoors. yes love affairs do happen on board but are you kidding. change the bridge watch once in a while. its just a tv show but lets portray the navy the way the navy is 28yr vet BMCS (SW)

        First of all i have been in the navy for 6 years, been deployed and done all of those crazy shenanigans and i can assure that all of that happens ! i have seen more humping than what you people get with your right hand , officers-enlisted, low enlisted with high enlisted, even civilians onboard with service members !!!!
        Fan rooms, cabin rooms , mess decks anywhere and anything goes.
        Some navy girls do look like sea creatures but a lot are actually very attractive.
        I think they did a great job with how they showed the navy to be,because you will see a lot of hooking up, homosexual relations, fighting,professionalism , sarcasm and most of all “honor, courage and commitment” Hoyaah Michael Bay !

  20. Sorry, but this is entertainment for the morons, reality does not enter into any part of this. Scientists and so;diers out in the artic at -50 degrees below zero. I have been at -80 below. Any exposed skin freezes within seconds, nothing works. Snowmobiles do not start and turbine helicopter engines do not function, M4’s working at 50 deg below? Maybe! And this is just the start of the problems with this show. A nuclear weapon detonation and no shock wave? EMP that just blows a fuse, What? This could have been such a good movie had it had any realism involved, maybe even some basic logistics. About the only thing based in any fact about this show was that the Captain had four months worth of hair gel on the ship!

    • I think you are being overly harsh on this show. It is just fast moving entertainment with a lot of the details quite wrong. “Helix” another very enjoyable show, did the same thing when people went out in the freezing cold of the Arctic weather where in this case they had no facial protection. I doubt they would have lasted 60 seconds like that.

      Especially with “Helix” I found this detail quite annoying every time I saw it but it didn’t detract from the over all enjoyment of the show.

      “The Last Ship” is just fluff. That is primarily what Michael Bay makes. Enjoy it for it is…

      • I kind of agree with you, but should we really be encouraging Michael Bay? Just because something has a lot of action in it is not excuse for it to be completely dumb. Same goes for Helix. There’s only so far I’m willing to suspend disbelief.

  21. Paragraph nine: “engine’s” does not need an apostrophe; the engine does not own anything in that sentence. It’s plural. Remove the apostrophe. Also, it’s “faze,” not “phase,” in that same paragraph.

    I’ve never seen Adam Baldwin look more uncomfortable or bad at acting than in this show. And he’s the main reason I wanted to see it. Michael Bay and his ham-fisted interpretations of Navy life (not to mention the book itself’s message of surviving when there’s no hope being completely eliminated) can be overlooked for entertainment purposes, but the framework he builds around the bad acting in this flawed gem of a show is rotten and decrepit. The content within is just as bad, for many reasons already stated here. It’s entertainment for morons that don’t know any better. If you REALLY want to understand why this sucks, go read the book, then you might get why they screwed this up so badly.

  22. Its amazing that some people liked this show,there were so many plot holes, inconsistencies and logical errors, i stopped watching this show after 30 min and yes it was that bad

  23. [“Remember… 80%+ of the world and all of Egypt died before that black guy did.”]

    The series DID use the “black guy dies first” trope and the above excuse doesn’t seem to wash it away for me.

  24. I like this show! he is not only instructive, but also a way to draw attention to Russia! RUSSIA and CHINA TOGETHER! It is a threat that can not be permitted, and which the world would not survive!!

  25. i was a bit sceptical about the show at first, but after watching the first season i really like it. It has a few plot holes here and there, but is generally a great show to watch. The only thing that really bothers me after having watched season 1 (minus the last episode) is the fact that the show progresses so fast. And from this point forward there will be some spoilers so stop reading now if you haven’t watched until the above mentioned episode. So far there has been numerous attacks on the ship and it’s crew, we found out quincy was a rat, they made a vaccine/cure, a few crew members have died and characters have been introduced, fought off, killed and defeated in a single episode. It is like half a season in a single episode, which bothers me alot. The show is called “the last ship”, but with them returning home with a cure already begs the question, what is going to happen in season 2???

    • You missed the last episode? It was the best of them all. The only episode I thought was a little squirrelly was the first one but it definitely improved from then. Seriously, watch the last episode, it is BY FAR the best of them.

  26. This is exactly what I’d expect from Michael Bay, that is, a load of garbage. A good premise is wasted in favour of stereotypical characters and gung-ho over the top heroics that are frankly embarrassing to watch. The sequence at the end “permission to salute the captain” had me reaching for the bucket.

    What a waste.