Sunday, September 6, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Last Ship' - The Nathan James Sails the Mississippi River to Deliver the Cure in 'A More Perfect Union'

TNT's The Last Ship - Episode 2.13 "A More Perfect Union"

With their mission now fully dedicated to spreading the cure, the Nathan James puts a call out to civilians to meet at pre-selected ports across the country, where all will receive the cure. However, small Immune factions remain active in their quest to fight the cure and fulfill Ramsey's dreams.

"A More Perfect Union" is a very interesting and sometimes weird finale. It gives the crew of the Nathan James one of its strongest wins so far. That victory is very infectious. But it's not as rousing as last week's adventure where the ship took on the Ramseys and their submarine. There is a lot of iconic and happy moments that happen in this finale that establish the new world order and a shift to what is possible because of the cure. But the finale also feels the need to pull a plot out of nowhere. Some moments in this concluding episode of the year seem to exist solely to give this episode a story arc.

So much of this season has focused on the Nathan James battling the immunes in order to control the country. They were two very well-organized units of people going head-to-head. It was very exciting to watch as the two battled - not only in a physical war but a psychological one as well. The season needed to have the big confrontation with the Ramseys in the penultimate episode. As great as they were this season, their defeat wouldn't have been the way to end the season. Last week's episode was a phenomenal hour purely of action that was so exciting to watch. This show is capable of producing great moments like that. It's rousing to watch. But it also wants to make sure that the narrative includes characters and a vision of the world that's worth saving. So of course, this finale needed to focus on regaining the trust of the country while spreading the contagious cure that Rachel spent so much time on this season.

This episode does have a nice structure to it that builds in a moving and inspiring way. The ship is making its way up the Mississippi River to deliver the cure to the people at the heart of the country. They are planning on making three stops - only due to the fact that they are finally running low on fuel. Delivering the cure is their main priority. They are weakened from the big fight but are still marching forward trying to bring change to the country they all love so much. The society around them is fragile though. People are still dying every day from this disease. There are still fractions of the immunes who want to continue Sean Ramsey's mission to create a better world. People don't know if they can trust the Navy and the cure they may or may not have. The Nathan James is trying to deliver hope, but that's a much more daunting prospect than one might imagine.

So much of the conflict of this finale is between the Navy and Ramsey's third-in-command on land, McDowell. He and his lackey, Curtis, are still trying to ruin Chandler and the President's plan before it even gets started. But they are much more an empty threat than anything else. The immunes aren't the reason why people don't show up at the first port. That was because the Master Chief told his family not to come across an open line. That was more devastating than anything else. But it also centered around a character who didn't really do a whole lot this season. He was a part of many of the key action pieces. But in terms of developing a personality and character depth, he wasn't really given anything - unlike last season's big speech about losing his wife. The audience had to remember that here in order for anything to pay off. It does because so many of the family reunions are genuinely earned moments on this series. But this story development largely existed in order to create conflict.

The immunes don't pose much of an organized threat anymore. McDowell and Curtis' grand plan is a much weaker version of what Sean did earlier in the year. The Navy beat them then and did so again here with very little effort. The Nathan James is able to sail to St. Louis and witness a crowd of thousands willing to be given the cure. It's a phenomenally stirring moment for the finale. The crew has worked so hard for so long. And now, their efforts are finally paying off. The world will soon be rid of this horrifying disease. It's all because of the work Rachel and the Nathan James did. That's a powerful moment that deserves celebration. The President is officially sworn into the office and the community at large welcomes the beginning of a new era.

That then leads to a grand bail where all the service members are in their best uniforms. It's another great scene that features everyone celebrating what all they've accomplished for this country - and soon the world. Rebuilding will come soon enough. The country is still in disarray. The infrastructure is completely gone. Finding and delivering the cure wasn't the end of this story - even though this episode certainly had a series finale feel to it. But tonight, the crew just wants to celebrate. They earned it too. It's an exciting moment filled with characters enjoying the luxury of victory. They sing and drink. They share stories. They even have a moment of silence for everyone they've lost during this war. Sure, the show still struggles severely with giving any of this characters names that the audience can easily remember. So that raise a glass moment is slightly lessoned by not knowing off the top of the head who the people the characters are referring to were. But they all had an impact on the narrative sometime or another. So, it is important that this moment happened.

But as rousing as that concluding third of "A More Perfect Union" was, it also felt too good to be true. The show has been renewed for a third season. So some twist was bound to happen to give a narrative hook for next year. This finale is so different from the first season's. Both episodes were good - just different. That's a good thing too. But the fear of what the concluding moments would bring was present throughout all the celebrating. And of course, something happens too. After a brief moment where Chandler and Rachel agree to find each other once their various journeys are over, Curtis emerges from the shadows and shoots Rachel in the chest. It's a cliffhanger moment that is suppose to be exciting. But it's largely just lame. She could theoretically be killed off since her entire character purpose has revolved around the cure and that's no longer needed. But she feels too important at the same time. She does have relationships that have meaning. Killing her like this would be so anti-climatic. Plus, no matter what the outcome is, it doesn't really create a good enough hook for the next season. It's largely just a weird way to end this one. A bad guy who appeared onscreen for a few brief minutes wounds up killing a major character? No thank you. But again, this was a solid season that should make things very interesting for next year as the rebuilding begins.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A More Perfect Union" was written by Anne Cofell-Saunders and directed by Jack Bender.
  • How was Niels able to continually infect people with the disease but Rachel's contagious cure was only potent for six to eight days? Probably just a way to create story and tension.
  • I'm guessing Chandler had the surgery to fix his internal injuries in between the penultimate episode and the finale. It's very unclear how much time has passed between the two.
  • Also, Tex goes out searching for his family. It's because of him that the Navy learns what McDowell and his ragtag group of men are up to. But it also leads to a reunion between Tex and his daughter. His future with the Navy is uncertain but at least he finally got his happy ending.
  • It's a very interesting discussion about setting St. Louis as the new capital for the country. The President has a very valid point about it being the center of the country now unlike Washington D.C. which was the center when the country was founded.
  • Danny and Kara also got engaged, if that's something you care about. Personally, it has always been a story the show doesn't know what to do with. In fact, I forgot about it for most of the episodes this year - basically from when she found her mom until their goodbyes last week.
  • As I mentioned above, The Last Ship has been renewed for a third season. I'm guessing the narrative will expand to curing the rest of the world and making sure the entire planet is rid of this disease. That could be a lot of fun.