The Last Ship Season 1 Review “Phase Six”

The Last Ship

“The Last Ship” is the latest from director/producer Michael Bay, the much-ballyhooed filmmaker behind the “Transformers” franchise and the likes of “Armageddon” and “Bad Boys.” People understandably hate on the guy, but every now and then he does something tolerable, almost by default, such as the surprisingly watchable “Pain & Gain” and “The Island,” though I may in the minority on those films.

I also enjoyed “The Purge,” which he produced, and the new installment looks to be even better than the original, so I decided to give the man the benefit of the doubt this time around. Especially since I found out I didn’t have to review the latest “Transformers” film, for which I am eternally grateful enough that I was happy to give this a shot by default, with no strings attached to continue to do so if I didn’t want to keep watching it. So, you know, total low stakes for me, all things considered.

I’m happy to say that “The Last Ship” was among the latter group of films I mentioned in the Michael Bay-related oeuvre- which is to say, it didn’t totally suck. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it remains to be seen whether or not the premise will maintain my interest for nine more episodes, but the pilot was fairly decent, with some good action and clearly impressive production values. This is not a cheap-looking show, some occasionally-blatant CGI explosions notwithstanding, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

However, with the premise now established, we’ll just have to see where things go from here. In this episode, we saw the initial outbreak of a deadly virus in Cairo, Egypt, where Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra, of “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”) takes a sample of one of its dying victims. Four months later, in Virginia, she hitches a ride with a battleship with a mobile lab to the location she believes is the origin point of the original virus, which is avian in nature, if I understood correctly.

Meanwhile, the battleship does some weapons testing in the area, maintaining radio silence as they do so, which leaves them essentially off the grid for a chunk of time. When the government orders them to stay put, they’re put off, but cooperative. Little do they know that the virus, which has possibly been weaponized, has spread globally, wiping out some 80% of the population while they’ve been at sea all this time. The exception being, of course, Dr. Scott, who has been attempting to find a cure using the samples she has obtained, so far unsuccessfully. But her getting a hold of the original virus changes that, and leaves open the possibility of finally cracking the code.

Unfortunately, a series of attacks intercedes, and the ship must hightail it out of there, when a Russian splinter group comes at them full-force and a battle ensues, which the ship wins handily. Then someone fires off a nuclear bomb that passes over the ship, but does cause the electronics to go down. Thankfully, they are able to reboot and evade the fallout just barely, and what limited contact they have with the mainland leads the Captain, Tom Chandler (Eric Dane, of “Grey’s Anatomy”) to opt not to go ashore, lest they risk the States’ only lead to a cure to chaos and who knows what.

Of course, this means that the denizens of the battleship will have to fend for themselves, scrounging food and gas where they can as they attempt to stay afloat long enough to find a cure. Whether they succeed or not is obviously the storyline of the rest of the limited-run series, which runs for eight more episodes. Will they be able to sustain the premise for the entire run of the show? Only time will tell, but this was a reasonably entertaining starting point.

Whatever you think of the central premise, the show was pretty action-packed, with what looked like largely practical effects, save the occasional aforementioned CGI stunts, like the helicopter explosions and the like. I liked and appreciated that, given how over-reliant some shows and movies can be on such things. The snowmobiles vs. the helicopters hunting down the doctor reminded me a bit of John Carpenter’s classic version of “The Thing”- a canine even made an appearance in the sequence, as with that film, where the dog was the one being hunted- and though this was nowhere near that good, it was fairly entertaining, given the Bay connection, which doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence.

The question is, if you spend a lot of your money on the pilot and make it a point to make it so action-packed, can the series proper maintain that level of quality for the rest of the show? If anything, it seems like, from here on out, there’s not likely to be as much action, at least not in the league of the premiere. As such, do you take the chance to keep going as a viewer? Hard to say.

In the end, I’d say the pilot was just strong enough to give the show another episode or two, just to see if it maintains one’s interest, but I don’t know that I expect too terribly much. The plus side of that is, if it does prove to be not half bad, then I could be pleasantly surprised, and that’s a good thing, especially in the low-stakes world of summer TV viewing.

Frankly, I’m just glad that summer is no longer the wasteland of reruns and reality TV it typically was in the past. We have choices now, in terms of what we watch, and that’s a good thing. It may not all be great, but at least it’s original. As such, the competition may be stiff on Sunday nights in particular, but that’s what a DVR is for, isn’t it? The question is, do I want the show to occupy space on it or not?

In the short term, I’m going to say yes, if only because some of my shows haven’t started yet on Sundays (inc. “The Strain,” which may well tread similar ground, from the looks of it; and “Masters of Sex,” which is fantastic), so there’s a brief period in which I only have a few shows on that might lend itself to some short-term viewing, like a limited-run show of this nature. The pilot of “The Last Ship” was just good enough to warrant taking that chance, if only for a few more weeks, as both of the other shows I mentioned start on July 13th. Until then, I’m in.

What did you think of “The Last Ship”? Were you instantly grabbed by the premise, or do you also need an episode or two more to determine whether you keep watching or not? What did you think of the cast? Were you fans of any of them from their previous work? How do you feel about Michael Bay’s stuff? Sound off below, and I’ll likely see you this Sunday for episode two!