Did you know that seven million people watched the premier of The Last Ship on Sunday night? Did you know that three million of them were legally brain dead by the end?
Guys, you guys, it is so incredibly bad. I’m not saying that it’s so bad that it’s good because then I would have to use the word “good” in proximity to the show. I’m just saying that it takes itself more seriously than the last season of Battlestar Galactica and is so monumentally stupid that if you sewed this show’s mouth to its ass it would make it through six meals before it suspected something was off. As I was watching it, I realized I should have made it a real time review, because it was just made for that treatment. It is not possible to watch this show without making a sarcastic comment about nonsensical events at least twice per minute.
Let’s dissect the fetid corpse of this thing for our sadistic enjoyment, shall we?
So you’ve got Eric Dane, the late McSteamy and forever Mr. Noxzema Girl, as a Navy commander, running a destroyer that is the very last ship left in the world after a super virus goes full Captain Trips while they’re on a secret mission. The twist? They were radio silent for four months, have no idea this all happened, and their missile testing mission was actually a cover for the scientist they have on board to collect primordial samples of the virus from the arctic ice.
Because the virus mutates really fast, and so they can’t keep ahead of it, and so they have to see what the virus was originally like … no see, I don’t know much about how vaccines work, but neither do the writers, so I feel perfectly comfortable arguing from a place of logic. Their logic amounts to arguing that if an annoying fly is buzzing around the room too randomly for me to smack down, that the solution is in knowing where the fly was at yesterday.
But don’t worry, they theorize the virus emerged because of the melting permafrost at birds’ nesting grounds. So they’re digging into the snow on top of a glacier. Because the writers don’t know what permafrost is. And they’re digging six inches into the fresh fallen snow with the cute little miniature shovels that your grandma uses to plant violets every spring. Because nothing says primordial like the snow that fell on Tuesday, right?
That’s when the Russians show up in attack helicopters and start machine gunning the scientists and their four marine guards. But don’t worry, the marines drive nowhere really fast on their snowmobiles and then shoot down the helicopters with their rifles. This is exciting, because we can save a lot of money building weapons by just duct-taping marines with rifles to the bottom of our aircraft. Somehow some of the Russians survive this and then there is a firefight, which is easy to follow because the Russians are inexplicably wearing all black on a mission into a snow storm. I THINK THEY MAY BE THE BAD GUYS.
Then more helicopters attack the ship, which shoots them down pow-pow, but not before they hit it with several missiles. But don’t worry, despite the CGI explosions, there are no casualties and no evidence of any damage in subsequent scenes. Did these guys go to Storm Trooper school, or what?
McSteamy is like totes mad too. But at no point does he ask where a bunch of Russian helicopters came from in the middle of the Arctic ocean. My first thought was that they came from another ship, but you know, I don’t have television Navy training so maybe Russian helicopters just grow on pods up in the Arctic Ocean. They bring a Russian prisoner back to the ship who conveniently is dying at exactly the right rate that McSteamy can ask him a question. They’re after the cure. Which confuses McSteamy, but then the Russian dies of social horror since McSteamy addressed him with the familiar form of “you” in Russian which is totally not socially cool, even with prisoners of war.
The scientist has been wounded, but don’t worry she’s fine, and not just because she’s Rhona Mitra, but because helicopter mounted large calibre machine guns apparently bounce off her ribs. So after duct-taping the marines under the wings of our aircraft, we’ll duct-tape Rhona Mitra to the nose. Invincible and unstoppable!
McSteamy has a very serious conversation with poor man’s Beckinsale, does acting things with his face, and then goes to talk to the President, as one is wont to do. Get that scientist to the CDC the new president (because two have died during radio silence) orders McSteamy. He then has a very serious conversation with the crew about what happened back home. He gathers them on deck in the arctic instead of somewhere inside and warm. This is two scenes after it’s emphasized that it’s like negative a million outside. Maybe the sun came out, I’m sure that’s good for fifty degrees or so.
But then we come to the big problem of the episode. They don’t have enough fuel to make it back home. Because apparently they didn’t top off the tanks before leaving? But don’t worry, they have just barely enough to maybe make it to an unmanned fueling station off the coast of France. First, I’m pretty sure that unmanned fueling stations don’t exist. Second, who the fuck planned this mission in the first place? The apocalypse didn’t eat their fuel, they just didn’t bring enough to get there and back in the first place. My favorite moment though is in the latest display of writers not knowing how percentages work, when it’s declared that they only have 11% fuel remaining, which will only last them six hours. I don’t know, the other 89% lasted them four months and got them all the way to the arctic and most of the way back, so I’d think 11% would have a little more mileage to it, but then I know how to do algebra so I’m already disqualified from writing for this show.
Anyway, a nuclear missile flies over the ship. From where? They don’t know. How do they know it’s nuclear? Because. To where? Well they show a computer display with a map and show it zing over their position, over half of England and explode in five seconds. So it was going at approximately the speed of light. Everyone ducks their eyes from the EM burst and the ship is fried. I love this because the missile clearly hits something on land, and the ship is not within sight of land. Which means that wherever it hit, was out of line of sight due to the curvature of the Earth (if my half-remembered angular algebra is right, even at a height of a hundred feet, you can only see 40 miles before the Earth curves away). Now you could interpret this as a mistake, or you could interpret this as Michael Bay believing the Earth is actually flat.
Next is the greatest moment of fundamental ignorance I have ever seen. See, the fuses keep blowing when they try to mcjangle the mcguffin back to working after the EM pulse. And they only have one left. And McSteamy orders them to put it in, growling “IT WILL HOLD” when they tell him it won’t. Then he braces himself and holds the fuse in place. They flip the switch, he’s massively electrocuted, but then everything is fine. The writers think that fuses function by holding the electricity in, and that when they “blow” they literally blow out of their slot. And so all that’s needed is for someone to hold them in really hard and wrestle with the electrons until they calm down. Nevermind that even if you accept that premise, then all you have to do is duct tape down the fuse instead of having somebody get electrocuted, but I mean, this just broke me. I wouldn’t normally resort to this phrase, but guys: I CAN’T EVEN.
They find a derelict cruise ship and raid it for supplies. The Captain and the last scientist who can find a cure accompany the team, because it’s not like they’re too important to send into a hot zone or anything. Everyone is warned to keep their helmets on or they’ll die. Do you want to bet on the odds that a redshirt trips and knocks his own helmet off? Because you’d win.
Finally, they sail all the way back across the Atlantic to the coast of Florida, where they can pick up no radio signals of any kind. McSteamy takes one look at Florida and decides to hell with the president’s final order before disappearing, because the CDC is like two hundred miles inland. They’d have to fight their way through a collapsed civilization and it’s way too risky. It’s far better to have a single scientist try to save civilization with a half-assed improvised lab in the hanger of a destroyer than try to get the resources of the CDC in play. Adam Baldwin argues with him, because he’s fixing to pull a mutiny somewhere around episode six. At no point does anyone point out that it’s really not necessary to fight their way through anything since there’s sort of a helicopter sitting in the background of the shot. You know, the one that got the scientists to and from the ice in the opening scenes? I hear those things fly, and could cover that 200 miles in like an hour. But that’s probably just a rumor.
The Last Ship is the most important television show of our generation because it is a case study in how our educational system is failing us as a society. Please, watch this show and realize the depths of the problem before it is too late.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.