The Last Ship (S04E01 & S04E02) "In Medias Res" & "The Pillars of Hercules"

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TNT Drama’s ‘The Last Ship’ made its comeback last night after the S4 premiere was pushed back later than earlier seasons. To say the episode was aptly named would be an understatement! ‘In Medias Res’, or in other words – “being thrown into the midst of the action” – was definitely an appropriate name. It was then immediately followed by episode 2, ‘The Pillars of Hercules’.

The 2 hour premiere was intense to say the least, and brought us a whole new atmosphere with the season’s new focus: the virus mutation, which reeks havoc as it infects food/staple crops. The show has experienced a time jump since the S3 finale , allowing more scope for changes and this interesting new story. No new story is complete without some new editions, and we are introduced to an array of new characters: Sgt. Azima Kandie (Jodie Smith), and James Fletcher (Johnny Howard) being just two examples. The dual, episodic narrative kept this episode interesting, as we switch between the crew as a whole, and the former NJ Captain, Tom Chandler who now finds himself in Greece.

As soon as the episode begins, the Nathan James’ crew are facing their latest mission. No rest for the wicked, eh? We are immediately reunited with much of the crew we know and love: Cooper, Miller, Green, Burk and Taylor are joined by kickass newbie Kandie, and we’re thrown straight into the action. The show successfully draws you in as we see Cooper and Fletcher undercover, attempting to uncover the location a stolen stash of seeds by negotiating with insider Mahmoud. In true ‘TLS’ style, the team are forced to snap into action when a shootout occurs, so despite the new atmosphere, there are very much the same undertones. It’s like they never left. Vulture team are rescued in the ‘helo’, where Kathleen Nolan’s presence is bittersweet; a reminder of the loss of Tex at the end of last season.

The episodic narrative becomes evident as we are taken to Greece and see Chandler now living with a new girlfriend, her family, and his children. As the premiere continues, we witness a conversation between a handful of crew members i.e. the mutation, which allows us to understand in better detail the situation of the world at the time. The rest of the 2 episode premiere continues in much the same manner, switching between the two plots. The NJ crew face a second shootout that results in multiple casualties, and continue to struggle over what action next to take in the midst of the mutation, more specifically locating the stolen stash despite the death of Mahmoud.

Meanwhile, Tom discovers that the fishing captain has taken his role and struggles between continuing to lay low as he has done for close to 1.5 years now, or standing up in his classic leader-fashion. Essentially, he becomes involved with crime boss Giorgio who stages fights: aggressive and physical brawls for the little food available. When Tom and Alex attempt to steal from Giorgio, Alex is killed and Tom fights one of Giorgios gang members. Despite only an hour previously having been introduced to Tom’s latest partner, by the end of the episode he has become involved with Giorgio’s sister Lucia. I am skeptical about Tom’s storyline/this sub-plot where I am in comparison much more interested in the central narrative of the Nathan James crew, perhaps this is purely a result of the main plot being clearer in the scale of the season’s focus itself? Whereas Tom’s storyline feels somewhat unecessary to me, I will be interested to see his inevitable return to the James.

Amongst this action, the crew head to Algeria, basing their destination on their latest intel. On their way, the ship loses power, and as Kara soon realises, this is a result of the fishing nets they formerly encountered, containing an IED. It’s exciting to see Kara back on the ship having only seen her last year amidst the Presidential element of the narrative and separated from the crew. She in my opinion brings a great deal with the team as a whole. Whilst the crew attempt to obtain enough power to shield themselves from missile encounters along the coastline, Vulture team face the opponents head to head. Cooper, Green, Wolf, Kandie and Burk attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the missile launcher in the mountain tunnels. The NJ crew successfully regain power in time to destroy the launcher, and the 5 crew members amidst the tunnel system get out the way just in time. This scene creates the second episode’s peak moment of intensity in my opinion, with the explosion so nearly taking so many of our well-known badasses from us!

All in all, I found the episodes to be interesting and true to The Last Ship’s underlying style. However; with every new season I notice a further pull away from exploration of individual character stories and personal development. Whilst I accept that this is the mood of the show now – 99% intense action scenes, I was fond of the slight deeper insight into the characters as individuals and their relationships with others beyond their jobs in previous seasons. This seems to diminish further and further every year. That being said, both Smith and Howard’s characters instantly fitted into the team as professional individuals and the allusions to a potential Kandie/Taylor relationship were very obvious (and something I can totally get behind!) I also found Fletcher/Cooper’s relationship refreshing and an interesting addition. Despite relative skepticism towards the Greece storyline, I enjoyed the premiere episodes and look forward to seeing where the following 8 episodes are going to take us!