RogerBW's Blog

The Last Ship season 3 17 April 2017

2016 science fiction, 13 episodes. As the world starts to rebuild after the megaplague, some people decide they prefer it the way it is.

Season 2 went to some trouble to have a single story through its whole run, but season 3 backs off a little; rather, there's a repeated sequence of "in dealing with that problem we have learned about this other more serious problem, let's deal with that next". Particularly in later episodes, the story seems to be there to provide a bare minimum of narrative connective tissue that justifies the next action sequence.

Rhona Mitra didn't return (her character was killed off, counting, I suppose, as a late entry in the Great Female Protagonist Slaughter of 2016). Her narrative role, apart from being the scientist who comes up with answers, was to be the civilian on a military ship (helping the viewer to work out what's going on by having it explained), which makes it particularly odd that Tania Raymonde's hacker who would have been an obvious substitute is also killed off early in the proceedings. Instead, the new female lead on the ship is a completely new character, Bridget Regan's former intelligence officer, who's effectively just another expert covert operator like the ones already present in the crew. Though she does speak Chinese, which turns out to be useful.

With Tom Chandler now Chief of Naval Operations, and the ship turned over to the former XO Mike Slattery, this should have been a chance for Adam Baldwin to shine… but alas, the scripts continue to give him little to do, even when quite a few of the crew are kidnapped by bandits and he has to shift to an informal prisoner-of-war leadership style. Fay Masterson as the Chief Engineer is similarly under-used; this continues to be very much the Tom Chandler show, and it sometimes seems a bit Tom-Clancy-esque for a senior officer to be leading small-unit assaults in person. (This is particularly apparent in the final episode, when he flies half-way across the USA in a gap between scenes purely so that he can be on the spot in person.) Second lead, if anyone, is probably Marissa Neitling's Kara Green, former CIC officer, now deputy chief of staff in the rump US government, and thus in a position to observe when events pivot into the political thriller of the last half of the season. Two notable minor turns are from Hiroyuki Sanada as a pirate captain, and Dichen Lachman, always instnatly recognisable, in a small part as a freelance helicopter pilot; she's on screen so little that one suspects all her scenes were filmed in the same day or two of production, but she's very clearly a better actor than the people with whom she's sharing the shots.

As for the plot: well, things are going strange in Asia. There's a Chinese power-grab, and banditry, and plots within plots (and a reference to Kai Tak airport, which really ought to be Chek Lap Kok, unless a lot of things have changed since the plague hit). As that is gradually solved, the focus shifts to the post-collapse political situation in the USA. But what this comes down to in the end is lots of Good Guys in camouflage sneaking around with guns, making occasional comments on how the "real America" isn't about simply shooting everyone you disagree with – just before they shoot the people they disagree with. Eh, it's still not as blatant as any cop show.

There's no end-of-season cliffhanger, but the series has been renewed for ten-episode fourth and fifth seasons, to be made back-to-back (or to look at it another way, for a normal-length season to be split over two years of broadcast slots). At times this season has felt as though the writers were flailing about with what to do, particularly what to do in the post-apocalypse reconstruction that keeps a warship relevant to the plot, but I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

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