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Last Ship on TNT: Subtlety held at Bay

The Last Ship

Adam Baldwin and Eric Dane (from left) star as the top-ranking officers aboard ‘The Last Ship,’ a summer thriller premiering tonight on TNT.

I can tell you nearly everything you need to know about The Last Ship, a TNT summer series premiering tonight, in four words: executive producer Michael Bay. The mastermind – I’m using the term very loosely here – behind the big-screen Tranformers movie franchise has earned a reputation for making movies in which bombastic action routinely trumps nuance and character development. While other directors focus on exploring the subtle emotional hues of a drama, Bay prefers to use crayons.
While he didn’t co-write or direct The Last Ship, this big, noisy action thriller is very much in keeping with Bay’s preferred style. The story opens about four months ago, as Cmdr. Tom Chandler (Eric Dane, Grey’s Anatomy) and his second-in-command, Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin, Chuck), embark with their crew of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James for what they believe to be a four-month top-secret series of weapons tests in the Arctic. Also aboard the vessel is Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra), a paleomicrobiologist (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing, either), who tells Chandler she’s tagging along to look for bird-borne microbes in the polar ice.
After the four months are up, however, Chandler is surprised when he receives orders for the ship to stay put until further notice. He becomes far more suspicious when Rachel, while collecting ice samples, and her party are attacked by a squadron of Russian military helicopters. Once everyone is back aboard the ship, Rachel reluctantly tells Chandler the whole truth: She’s desperately seeking the “primordial strain” of a mystery virus that has caused a devastating pandemic. While deaths had been limited to cluster groups in Africa and Asia when their ship departed four months ago, in the interim billions have died, and an estimated 80 percent of Earth’s population is infected.
With millions more dying by the day, world order has collapsed. The president of the United States is dead. No one is answering the phones at the Pentagon. Governments have fallen. As one politician tells Chandler by videophone, civilization no longer is made up of allies and enemies, just desperate individuals willing to do anything to survive.
Rachel is mankind’s best hope, if she can devise a vaccine against the mystery plague. But she knows the virus may be mutating, so if she does come up with a serum, will it already be obsolete? There’s no one she can reach in the medical community to give her updates.
As central premises go, this one is a doozy: These people are trying to save the world, yet exactly what kind of world are they saving? If The Last Ship had been willing to explore some of the myriad moral and ethical ambiguities the story invites, especially as considered by characters of some real depth and complexity, this series might have been something very special.
Unfortunately, we’re left with cardboard heroes trying to outfox stock cartoon villains: al-Qaeda terrorists! Those damn Russkies! Velociraptors! (OK, I made up that last one, but then, I’ve only seen the first three episodes).
The Last Ship is what it is, a handsome, deafening, fast-paced video game, where characters we care little or nothing about get thrust into one deadly situation after another, usually while grabbing one another by the shoulders and screaming, “YOU DON’T GET TO PLAY GOD!” or something like that. Taken on those terms, it’s definitely not boring, and John Pyper-Ferguson even manages to interject some critically needed quirkiness into the poker-faced proceedings as a former Guantanamo guard who joins the team in episode two. His name is Tex. As, of course, it would be.
If The Last Ship were a meal, it would be a bloody steak and a tall glass of scotch. If that’s what you’re in the mood for on a hot summer night, it must might hit the spot.
The Last Ship

Travis Van Winkle (‘Hart of Dixie’ ) co-stars as heroic Lt. Danny Green in TNT’s new summer series ‘The Last Ship.’

CW’s new The 100 is Lost in space

'The 100' premieres tonight on The CW.

Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Thomas McDonell, Eliza Taylor and Eli Goree (from left) are among ‘The 100,’ which premieres tonight.

In its basic setting and tone, The CW’s new sci-fi adventure series The 100, which premieres tonight, may remind some viewers of ABC’s Lost, with a dash of Lord of the Flies for good measure.
The series takes place in the relatively near future, 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse rendered Earth uninhabitable. Survivors were forced to live on space stations orbiting the planet, and now, only one of those stations – known as the Ark – remains functional.
Although the science team suspects Earth won’t be safe for another 100 years, oxygen and other supplies aboard the Ark are dwindling fast, so the ruling council makes a drastic decision: They’ll send 100 youthful offenders down to the planet and monitor their vital signs via wrist devices to see whether they can survive.
Among them is Clarke (newcomer Eliza Taylor), the level-headed teenage daughter of the Ark’s medical officer, Abby (Paige Turco). Clarke, we learn, had been arrested and slapped in solitary after she and her now-dead father had defied the Ark’s council members and tried to alert the ship’s population to their imminent danger.
Although their shuttle landing goes badly, cutting off all communication with the Ark except their wrist monitors, most of the 100 teenagers emerge onto the “new” Earth ready to shake off what they perceive as years of mistreatment by their elders and adopt “whatever the hell we want” as their new mantra. After Clarke and a small group of volunteers – which includes the obligatory sensitive hunk, Finn (Thomas McDonell) – set off in search of a cache of supplies, the rest of the teens party hearty and defiantly destroy their wrist bands so the grown-ups on the Ark will think they died on a still-hostile Earth.
Ironically, the young rebels don’t realize they’re not that far from the truth. While Earth may look like a pristine paradise, it’s teeming with mutant life forms, some of them deadly, including the show’s own variant on “the Others” from Lost.
Meanwhile, back on the Ark, scheming second-in-command Kane (Lost alumnus Henry Ian Cusick) is staging a coup against Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington, Grey’s Anatomy) as part of his ruthless plan to radically downsize the Ark’s population to ensure that he and his own loyalists will survive.
Clearly, The 100 isn’t exactly weak when it comes to story, although this being the CW, I suspect the grown-ups in space are quickly going to be marginalized in favor of the kids on the ground and, at least in the pilot, most of those kids fall into tired teen stereotypes all too easily. Given that pilot episodes are forced to paint characters very broadly, there’s hope that, in time, the survivors among “the 100” will emerge as individuals instead of a horny teenage blur.
Production elements in tonight’s premiere are very good, and the densely packed story line delivers some genuine “OMG!” surprises. All in all, The 100 is among this spring’s more satisfying series premieres, especially for sci-fi fans.
Although beautiful, the future Earth also teems with mutant menace in 'The 100' tonight on The CW.

Although beautiful, the future Earth also teems with mutant menace in ‘The 100′ tonight on The CW.