Sunday, June 29, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Last Ship' - Chandler and the Crew Try to Find Food and Medical Supplies in 'Welcome to Gitmo'

TNT's The Last Ship - Episode 1.02 "Welcome to Gitmo"

Chandler and his crew head to the U.S. Military base at Guantanamo Bay in hopes of collecting food, medical supplies and fuel replenishments. Three teams are dispatched to carry out these varied tasks. While there, they come under attack by escaped Gitmo prisoners and enlist the help of a grizzled private contractor who's been surviving for weeks and living off the land.

When it comes to developing characters, I would much rather see them act and those decisions inform us about who they are rather than someone else just telling us. Last week's premiere was all about the exposition and the action. Now that everything has been introduced, The Last Ship now has the opportunity to further explore its characters. And yet, even more of them are introduced this week. We get the chief engineer and the officer who seems like he's never handled a weapon before. More importantly, we get John Pyper-Ferguson as an ally at Guantanamo Bay and Maximiliano Hern√°ndez as the ship's main doctor.

Something has to be said for the show that understands what it wants to be and simply executes that well. This is not a deep story with richly faceted characters. This is an action show where every week the ship's crew has a main objective and that they will lay out a plan to then executive it. In "Welcome to Gitmo," that goal is to find food, fuel and medical supplies at Guantanamo Bay. Once the show does focus on the action sequence, it is entertaining and competent. And yet, it wants to tell this story with global stakes but only wants to paint its characters in the broadest archetypes. The Al Qaeda villains here are such stereotypical depictions. Even though the action is executed admirably, we simply don't know enough about these people to care about them as they carry out these missions. It still largely feels like the plot moving along. The crew needs to get food, fuel and supplies because realistically that is what they would need if this scenario were to actually occur.

But the show is trying to explore its characters and real honest human emotion. It's just a very small part of the hour but I can't say that an effort to improve isn't happening. The service near the beginning where several officers are praying for protection for their loved ones was actually a really great moment. But in the end, the Russians are coming to steal Dr. Scott's work. It's all because of the other doctor who is still just mysteriously the mole. They aren't much better than the Al Qaeda villains. They are evil forces simply because the show needed opposition for our heroes - but they don't want to put in the effort to make those villains multi-dimensional characters where we understand why they would be doing this for very understandable reasons. Slowly but surely those emotional depths are coming - just probably not fast enough to make this a serious drama worth caring about.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Welcome to Gitmo" was written by Hank Steinberg & Josh Schaer and directed by Jack Bender.
  • The Last Ship actually premiered really well for TNT last week. Unless it really drops off over the summer, I do expect it to be back for another summer run next year.
  • Yeah, still don't know the names of the supporting characters.
  • The hour also has a plot between Chandler and Slattery disagreeing over how much faith they should put in Dr. Scott. It never amounts to anything worth talking about but it also occurs.