Monday, June 20, 2016

The Last Ship, Season Three, Episode One: The Scott Effect

Michener is now installed in St. Louis as the president and seems to have a functional government on the go.  He makes an address to the American people about the state of their nation.  Ration cards featuring the now deceased Dr. Scott have been released to the public to ensure that everyone gets an equal share until they produce enough to meet demand.  Michener is far removed from the man Chandler rescued from Sean last season and finally looks as though he fits the job that he has been given.  I still say that it's time for an election.

As much as the American people are pulling together, there's trouble in other areas of the world.  After hearing that the virus has begun to mutate in Vietnam and that the big bad President Peng won't distribute the cure to the rest of Asia, Michener sends Tom on a diplomatic mission to make it clear that if Peng won't deliver the cure, the Americans will.

Here we go again with America saving the world and being worshiped as heroes. The Nathan James, now captained by Slattery is leaving Okinawa for Vietnam to distribute the cure. The crew of the Nathan James are viewed as heroes and there's going to be a party in their honour at a nightclub. While Chandler is in China playing the heavy and accusing Peng of not distributing the cure, the nightclub that the service members of the Nathan James are partying at gets attacked. Once the news reaches St. Louis, Chandler is ordered to leave China immediately and the Nathan James is ordered into international waters to await reinforcements, despite the fact that several members of their crew, including Slattery have been kidnapped.

On the plane home, Chandler makes the executive decision not to actually follows Michener's orders (no surprise there) and head into Vietnam on his own.  Chandler orders Valerie to wait until international water to let Michner know what he is doing. Well, at least he didn't just run off even if he did disobey direct orders.  Valerie takes off with the plane but isn't in the air long when she finally manages to decode some chatter that she has spent the episode trying to figure out.  Valerie orders the pilots to turn around and land but the plane explodes.

If you're paying attention, that means you realise that The Last Ship ended with the death of a prominent female character and began with the death of another.  This does not bode well for the role of women this season.  One of my long standing complaints with The Last Ship is its treatment of gender.  Female characters are routinely sidelined in order to trumpet the efforts of Chandler and occasionally Slattery.  Even the fight scene in the bar showed Slattery getting a few shots off before being overtaken and Garnett being quickly handled.  It's not an accident that it was Green and Burk who managed to escape capture.  The navy is a boys club but that doesn't mean that The Last Ship cannot have powerful women.  It's telling that when we were introduced to Shaw this episode that even as Chandler takes note of how tough, smart and independent she is that she is clearly being set up as his love interest.  I doubt anything substantial will come of Shaw's character beyond whatever relationship develops between her and Tom.

It seems that season three is going to be far more racially diverse than any other season thus far.  There seems to be more people of colour on the Nathan James but as we've seen in the last two seasons, with such a large cast, it's easy for them to simply slip into the background and disappear.  With Green and Burk escaping captivity and Taylor at Chandler's side, the season is already set up to have white men saving the world once again.

As I said in the beginning of the episode, China has become the problem as far as spreading the cure. It's hardly a surprise that China was targeted given the American anxiety when it comes to the Chinese. That being said, the people who blew up the night club were clearly Japanese.  What I hate about this situation is that we are going to have White American males running to the rescue of Asia and then distributing the cure for their own good because they are either too evil or backward to do it themselves. If that were not enough, unlike Michener who was duped by Sean before coming to power, Peng killed off everyone else in the government bunker and then claimed power when the cure became available.  Peng essential is framed as a vicious power hungry man which when juxtaposed to Michener's quiet all American strength just reads as racist.

I understand that the premise of this show is to celebrate both American hegemony and superiority but even given that fact, The Last Ship is laying it on pretty thick already.  The jingoism of this episode leaped off the screen and made me ill. I know that I certainly cannot take The Last Ship, as seriously as it seems to take itself.