The Last Ship: Trust in Me

Episode 1.02: Welcome to Gitmo
Written by:  Hank Steinberg and Steven Kane
Directed by:  Jack Bender
Original airdate: June 29, 2014

TheLastShipWith the first regular episode out of the gate, my resolve to blog about this series is already tested.  What an overblown testosterone-fest this series is only two episodes in.  Mind you, I expected it to be that, but I was hoping it would play funnier than it has so far.  At best, it’s just outdated 1980s charmless machismo.  At worst, it’s smug and condescending.

The crew of the USS Nathan James is still on the hunt for supplies and answers, and head to Gitmo for much needed food, fuel, and medical supplies. Quincy is still up to stuff, including talking in Russian on a secret phone and attempting to flood engineering with deadly Halon gas because his stateroom is too cold. Nobody seems to have any issues with this. But it’s precisely this kind of thing that is so stupid. Why?  Because the theme of this episode is trust. Does the XO trust the captain? Can the captain trust his XO?  Can the crew all trust each other to get the job done? Does anyone trust Dr. Scott? Meanwhile, throughout all of these trust issues nobody questions Quincy as he skulks around deadly gas canisters.

Speaking of the theme of trust, this was the most annoying thing for me about this entire episode. There is an early scene where the officers are briefed by Dr. Scott about the virus. Slattery, the XO, is openly critical and disdainful of her while Chandler observes silently. After the meeting breaks up, Chandler and Slattery discuss what just happened, and Chandler points out that the XO undermined her in front of the other officers. That’s the extent of their conversation about that, because they have more important things to talk about. Dr. Scott is not allowed to be a part of this conversation. Instead, we are treated to another clue that things are not sitting well with the XO, which is being clearly set up as a mutiny plot down the line. Or a defection of some sort. Either way, it’s predictable. The point is, the two men get to have a long conversation, man to man, in which they sort out where they stand with each other. By itself, this would not be a problem, because you would expect high-ranking officers to communicate and work together, especially in circumstances such as these. But when you couple it with the smugly condescending way Chandler, and by extension his crew, treats Dr. Scott, a huge problem begins to emerge. At the close of the episode, Chandler pulls Dr. Scott aside and tells her, in a gently paternalistic but firm fashion, that she does not have anything to prove. This, after the culture of his ship that he commands created exactly that expectation of her despite the fact that she was following orders just like everyone else on the crew. It was infuriating to watch.

Scott is never given an opportunity to explain herself, but instead has to posture amid accusation and innuendo from the highest levels of command.  And then, because that’s clearly not enough, she has to put her life in danger to prove something to the crew that it should never have been necessary for her to prove, something that the captain himself could’ve put an immediate stop to early in the episode. So the writers basically tried to have it both ways.  They set it up so that she did need to prove herself to the crew, and then tried to suggest it was all her own fault and unnecessary by having Chandler berate her for doing it.  Open acknowledgement of the trust issues, and Chandler’s role in not really fixing them, would have been a better way to go, but would not have been as flattering to Chandler. So, instead, they simply pretend it’s all in Scott’s head even though it isn’t. It said a lot more about Chandler than about Scott, and not in a good way.

Another side-plot is Danny, whose friend and bunkmate, Frankie, was offed in the pilot. Danny can’t quite get over the death of his friend and, well, the whole world. So he suffers through the episode, and spends a lot of it sulking about his manpain and being reckless. I guess this is meant to put a human face on the scope of the disaster, but it was just pathetic. In the episode, he’s in charge of the mission to get the medical supplies, and takes a lot of unnecessary risks for plot. And he is never called out on it; the only one who does is Dr. Scott, and nobody trusts her so it doesn’t matter.  Oh, and he gets to yell at her, too, and tell her how to do her job.

The rest of the episode is all about how macho and perfect Commander Chandler is, and how seamlessly he and his crew work together. Because trust is important, yo. He manages to defuse a hostage situation, pick up a mercenary that I’m just going to call Beard (crewmember 217) though his name is Tex (I’m going to ship Beard and Chandler, too, just because), and communicate in code to his XO telling him exactly where to shoot so as to kill all the terrorists in the building but not harm a hair on the rest of the crew.

Did I like anything at all about the episode? I did.  The one scene I liked was when Chandler informed Scott and Quincy that they were too valuable to allow off the ship. When Scott throws that back at Chander he tells her that the ship will be fine under the command of his XO. While this was all setup for Scott actually going ashore to save Danny’s teammate and a way to further showcase Chandler’s awesome aweseomeness, I did find the scene genuine. The truth is Chandler is a cog in a military machine, and can be replaced; Scott is the only thing standing between humanity and the virus, and I felt it was the only moment in the episode that was truthful and real. I also kind of liked the chief engineer (a woman) and we got to see a little more of Lt. Uhura (that’s what I’m going to call her until I figure out what her name is since she seems to be in charge of communications, a nice womanly job on a ship). But we’ll see–I doubt either of them will get much in the way of genuine character development.

Cringeworthy dialog:

CHANDLER: Revenge is best served cold.
BEARD: Let’s eat.

SLATTERY: Stay frosty. (Do people in the military really say this? Did they get it from Aliens, or did Aliens get it from the military ? It’s so 80s…)

I like to think I can keep watching this (so you don’t have to) and maybe at some point I’ll find the humor in it again.  The overall plot is decently put together, but the characters are so cliche and bland I have a hard time caring about any one of them or what they’re doing at any given moment.  I also think there are too many characters, but that’s a problem easily solved.  And, it’s not like they’re going to really develop many of them, anyway.

Next week, we at least get some Russians.    Hopefully that’ll make for some fun over-the-top 1980s cold war scenery chewing.

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