The Last Ship

With the series having been green lit for a third season airing next summer, now seems like a good time to convert new persons to the show.  Based on the 1988 novel of the same name, the Last Ship focuses on a world where a viral outbreak has killed 80% of the world’s population. Following the crew of the USS Nathan James, an American guided missile cruiser which has avoided infection, we see attempts to develop a vaccine for the virus for survivors in the United States and the rest of the world. As far as post apocalyptic media goes, this is definitely an enjoyable show and I would recommend it. The acting is solid and the CGI, where it exists, is quite good. Those who have read the novel will immediately notice that the more modern viral outbreak has replaced the original nuclear holocaust. I don’t think the series suffers for this but I would have liked to see it tie more closely with the book. While some elements are the same (there’s a boat, almost everyone else is dead…), I think the message of the book has been lost somewhat due to the show format. As a cold war era novel you can guess who the “enemy” is, at least I hope you can, and the show has kept in that vein. Rather than humanity the savior though, we get America the savior (ooh rah). I can’t say it’s surprising considering Michael Bay is a producer but it’s still jarring when we see the main characters cruising through coastal ruins staring poignantly at the devastation all while a pristine American flag flaps in the wind.

A starboard bow view of the Soviet Kirov Class...

A starboard bow view of the Soviet Kirov Class nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser FRUNZE underway. (Soviet Military Power, 1986. published by Defense Intelligence Agency.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll take this opportunity to state that the next section will include some spoilers from the two seasons. So far we’ve had numerous villains of the week and they’ve hit all the perceived enemies of the free world; middle eastern terrorists, South American drug lords, home-grown despots, and of course a big, bad Russian Admiral with a Battleship. Season two has spiced it up a bit by throwing in southern hillbilly minions, and assorted European mercenaries backed up by a rogue British submarine.

I haven’t finished season two quite yet so I’m not fully informed but assuming this escalation continues I won’t be overly surprised if an aircraft carrier shows up as the villains’ mobile base next season. If the show continues in this way I can only imagine that it will start to suffer from contrived writing. It’s hard to stay within the bounds of the premise and assuming they want this to become a multi season epic then they’ll have to work hard to keep it interesting. I think they may fall prey to the same thing that ends up happening to other post apocalyptic media, particularly zombies and viruses. As the series progresses what was once a major threat is effectively nullified and the main focus boils down to human versus human. Not to say they can’t make this work, many shows have, but when it does end up like that I find myself losing interest rapidly.

This isn’t the best show by any means but I would recommend it all the same. If it can keep its pacing for another season or two then it should keep up interest and if nothing else it remains a good source for military porn and naval jargon if that’s your thing. Even if the show starts to lose steam I can easily see it staying afloat for that long but here’s hoping the writing stays ship-shape and on course.

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