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The Last Ship - Courage - Review - I'd Like To Come Home



“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else 
is more important than fear.”--said by a guy who led a country through a war.

The Last Ship basically wraps up its season with its second-to-last episode, reiterating what the key focus of the finale will be and sweeping a couple characters off the board with very little ceremony or creativity. With an episode as mixed of a bag as this one, it almost justifies TNT's bare bones's promotion of the season. And yet there is no abandoning ship. We're all captains here. And like the man the ship was named for, we're going to be the last one on board. 

Apparently some time has passed between this episode and the last one. Presumably at least a couple months. There's a hopeful opening note showing Miller in physical therapy with Courtney Abbot at his side. (She is no longer wearing the scarf to cover up her plague scars, which I interpreted as a sweet gesture of solidarity.) Miller is excited to go visit the Nathan James, but she says the ship already left. They snuck away in the dead of night. He says that means there's hope for them to win the war. Kevin Michael Martin confirmed this is the last we'll see of Miller on the show, which implies that we won't get a reunion montage in the season finale. I don't see why his character would be absent if there is one. Miller has grown from the greenest of greenhorns to an irrepressible brave spirit, and his journey has been one of the show's best character arcs. 

For every great character, there is usually a wasted one. Talk about absolutely zero payoff for every second spent with Hector Martinez staring intently and angrily at everything going on around him. It's no cinnamon and sugar pretzel twist when he just gets bumped off by Tavos. It's just disappointing. At least there's only one episode more to endure Tavos's rantings and his wife's smugging (I'm trademarking this new word to describe a character who just stands about being smug and contributes nothing real to the plot.) 
While Tavos does his stuff, the Nathan James along with the repaired USS Jeffrey Michener (which might as well have a ghost crew because it 99% exists off-screen) heads down to Colombia to do some invading and take out Tavos's headquarters. A reporter is on board to document the mission. This is an unfortunate choice, because in this second-to-last episode spent with these characters, being separated from them by this plot device is frustrating. Burk records a message for Miller, saying he'll be back to see him soon, so he had better be doing his reps. 
“If you’re out of shape, I’m gonna kick your ass."
It is a wonderful clip, and Jocko Sims nails the awkwardness Burk would feel at first talking to his pal through a camera. And then that awkwardness dissipates, and you feel the raw emotion in his voice as he speaks to his friend and brother-in-arms. The foreshadowing though....

The best part of this season has been watching Kara in her new leadership role. She remains in command throughout this episode, the final voice on crucial decisions. Marissa Neitling generates another wave of goosebumps when Kara announces to the fleet that "We will be victorious." Hell yeah! Regardless of whatever happens in the finale, we know the world of The Last Ship is in good hands with leaders like Kara taking over. A point of agony for fans this season has been the fate of Danny and Kara's relationship. This week, Danny told her he planned for this to be his last war. He tells her he wants to come home, and Kara is very cautiously optimistic. She says they will talk when he comes back. And just when it seems like that is all we'll get....Kara breaks form just slightly.
“You just make damn sure you come back.” (They do not hug. I would have settled for an arm pat, but the huskiness in her voice will have to suffice.)

All that remains is the mission of the moment. Danny, Azima, Burk, Wolf, and Utt head embark on some recon, checking out the ominously-named Red Beach. Their goal is to determine how many enemy troops are guarding it, map out the terrain for the landing parties, and set markers for guidance. There's just darkness and dark water and danger all around. Then some sort of patrol boat cruises up. Danny and Burk are in the water, so they have to hide. But when the boat's propeller snags one of the markers, they have to board the ship to silence the men on board. Burk is very abruptly shot/speared by a little kid who is promptly shot and killed by Danny. Burk then dies in Danny's arms. It is upsetting but not startling, what with the foreshadowing and the near-dying in an earlier episode this season. It is also hard to rationalize the reasoning behind this death. While everyone can agree that war is pointless and people die in it often for the most mundane reasons, this late in the show's game it feels unnecessary to reiterate this point. Burk has been criminally wasted for most of this season, but this death does nothing to redeem this. For me, it was as if someone looked over the script and said "You know, I think people aren't going to be that emotionally invested in Hector's death, so we'd better kill off a fan favorite. And we'll have him get killed by a random kid who just happens to be out on this military boat so we can like say deep things about something something war and violence." Of course it's entirely possible also that the entire writing room had been let go by this point, and this scene was created with predictive text. We also don't get to witness his companions grieving for him, though how they filmed them arriving with his body as the happy credits of the old timey played in the background was a deep creative choice. (It is some consolation that Jocko Sims is already on an enthralling new show, playing another fantastic character. It's called New Amsterdam. All episodes so far are on Hulu, so check them out once you finish rewatching your favorite Last Ship episodes to prep for the series finale.)
Without the character deaths, there was some really fascinating, suspenseful stuff happening. (Not talking about Chandler's psychic connection with the enemy battleship. Let's call it the Red Dot Battleship. Which leads to that I must point out that last season did this whole hunted/haunted-Chandler struggling-story and resolved it, so there was no reason to carry that over into this season.) Gator and Swain broke out some mad STEM skills to help the Nathan James outwit enemy ships. Those scenes, which mostly consisted of everyone's tense faces, on the bridge were a great showcase for how the cast has this amazing wordless dialogue with each other and us the audience. We could read what each one was thinking on their tightly knitted foreheads. The strength of this show has never been its premise or even its execution of that premise....it belongs to its cast and the rich characters they have created (even when given just scraps of story to work with) that viewers love so much.

This Sunday is the last episode ever of the The Last Ship. What do you want to see? What do you think you'll see, in light of the season so far? What character death on The Last Ship up to this point has hit you the hardest? And which do you think was a mistake?




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