RogerBW's Blog

The Last Ship season 2 26 March 2016

2015 science fiction, 13 episodes. The crew of the destroyer USS Nathan James works to distribute the cure for the plague that killed most of the world's population. But not everyone thinks that's a good idea.

There's not a great deal of recapping here, but also not much need for it: there's been a plague that largely destroyed civilisation, the ship is carrying some scientists who found the cure, and that's all you really need. The first three episodes deal with the wrapping-up of the situation discovered at the end of season 1, and then it's off to new adventures.

This season is rather less bitty than the first, with a consistent plot running through the remaining ten episodes: there are people out there with a natural immunity to the plague, and some of them have decided that it's just fine if they rule over the survivors. They control an attack submarine, but more significantly they have started an effective cult among the survivors in the American South-East, and they're doing a rather better job of fighting a propaganda war than our heroes are set up for. So we get a mixture of intelligence gathering on land and sneaky naval action, which I found quite satisfactory even though as always it was simplified for a general TV audience. (Yeah, all right, an Arleigh Burke against a well-handled Astute should pretty much be no contest, but the sub crew aren't the best and this isn't a straight fight.)

You could certainly find themes here if you looked for them: heroic self-sacrifice is a big one, and motivational dead wives feature prominently. But I don't think anyone's trying to send a message here other than, perhaps, "military people are generally good people even if they do have their problems like everyone else", which is hardly a particularly controversial thing to say even outside the USA. And it's certainly the case that not every military person we meet here is a good guy.

There's less character development here than before, which is a pity, and in particular less of Adam Baldwin as the XO, though Rhona Mitra as the chief scientist does well with a more dramatic and less "stand in lab coat and frown at Petri dish" role, in particular dealing with some fairly extreme questions of medical ethics. Fay Masterson as the Chief Engineer and theoretical third in command, and Tania Raymonde as a newcomer in the last three episodes, have essentially nothing to do but stand around and agree with the important characters. The season ends with most of the regulars in good places and a hopeful outlook; the attempt to make us worry over whether one of the principals has been killed seems rather by-the-numbers.

This still isn't great TV, but it's pretty decent; great TV doesn't come along very often, and this will do until it does. The series has been renewed for a third season, expected in the summer of 2016.

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  1. Posted by rory at 02:09pm on 24 April 2016

    Didn't see much of the Second season, but found some aspects of the first season intriguing, but the naval combat I remember was rather like a shoot-em-up. Correct me if I am mistaken but I recall one or two Russian helos attacking the Arleigh Burke from point blank range and a bunch of missed shots traded back and forth; the whole sequence was preposterous unless multiple ship systems were down, but I don't recall that being the case.

    As for the Astute you mention in season II I assume you mean it would passively detect the Burke from miles away and sneak in for a torpedo kill, while the un-alerted ship would hear nothing on passive sonar and have no reason to be actively pingingh, let alone sending a helo on ASW missions, which makes me wonder if it is even carrying a helo at all, let-alone an ASW capable helo... only really possible if it were a flight IIA IIRC.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:39am on 25 April 2016

    They have a helo but it isn't used for ASW. Yeah, this is very much a drama series with a military setting rather than a series about naval warfare, and they always simplify these things for a general TV audience anyway. (See also Last Resort from 2014, which wanted to put people into a high-pressure situation without really considering the sort of people who'd be on a boomer crew in the first place.)

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