Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Last Ship, Season Three, Episode Four: Devil May Care

This episode should really have been called, "The Enemy of my Enemy is My Friend", or "Once Again, White Men Save the World", because it involved an unlikely alliance between Peng and if not the U.S. government then at the very least Chandler.

Mike and the rest of the captives sent a message in the tape Takehaya forced them to make.  Instead of saying their military identity numbers, the crew gave approximate co-ordinates for their location. It was a stroke of brilliance actually and a great way of secretly subverting Takehaya's demand that Michener remove all navy ships from Asian waters. Yes, Takehaya has an axe to grind.

In his video demand, Takehaya gives the U.S. a deadline and as we know, it's always been U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists.  This incident is a public relations nightmare for Michener, who is already facing questions about his legitimacy to be president.  Leading the charge is the ever intrepid reporter Jacob Barnes.  Jacob is quick to point out to Kara that despite all of the work that Moses did, he wasn't allowed to enter the promise land, heavily implying that just because Michener brought the cure to the U.S., doesn't mean he's ready to lead.  Barnes biggest issue is a lack of transparency and feelings of abandonment stemming from how the last government dealt with the outbreak of the plague.  Kara tries to reason with Jacob but he won't be talked out of his actions.

Jacob goes as far as to track down one of the mother's of the captives to find out when she was contacted by Michener and how she feels about the president.  Obviously, a mother whose son is being held captive is not going to be neutral.  The tension elevates when Takehaya then releases video of the captives who escaped through the latrine being beaten.  This forces Michener to get in contact with the other government representatives and ask for more time, citing the fact that Tom is on the case.  Essentially, Michener's entire plan rests on Tom playing hero.  Fortunately for Michener, all of the representatives agree to have his back, even if freaking Texas has to throw in a caveat about not supporting a strong central government.

The crew of The Nathan James has figured out a search area based on the coordinates that Mike gave out on the tape.  It's a large area to search and The Nathan James doesn't even have close to enough fuel to properly search.  The only refueling station belongs to the Chinese and this presents a problem given U.S./Chinese relations and Peng's attempt to kill Tom. They decide that the best course of action is to break into Peng's private residence and hold him hostage to get the fuel they need and to figure out if there is a link between Takehaya and Peng.  At this point, I'm just going to call ridiculous American arrogance on this one.  It's nonsense. Tom does take time to let Michener know his plans and warns the president that should he fail, Michener is to claim that Tom went rogue. At this point, I firmly believe that Michener's detractors are correct about him because he's not really making decisions, he's following Tom's lead.

So Tom takes some crew members and breaks into Peng's place.  They force him to send Chinese ships away from the refueling station and allow The Nathan James to fill it's tanks.  Tom asks about his connection to Takehaya and Peng makes it clear that he is in fact no friend to the pirate.  Sasha finds a map with islands crossed off, indicating that Peng has been actively searching for Takehaya in the hope of killing him.  Sasha takes a picture because it now makes their search area that much smaller. Tom chooses to ask why Peng attempted to have him killed and Peng gives him various answers including: Tom's disrespect and Peng's jealousy where Sasha is concerned.  Once the Nathan James's tanks are filled, the incursion team attempts to leave, only to be cornered by Peng's security. Wolf faces down the MSS agent he fought at the market.  Peng orders his men to lower their weapons and then Tom does the same.  Peng then encourages Tom to get moving given that there isn't much time left on Takehaya's countdown.

On the Island, Mike is called for another blood transfusion and this time one of the captors refers to Mike as type O.  I suppose that at least I should be happy that The Last Ship hasn't completely thrown science out of the window, as Type O is considered in desperate situations to be a universal donor.  That being said, it still doesn't answer concerns about blood borne diseases like Hep C or HIV/AIDS. While Mike is having his blood taken, Takehaya explains that he kidnapped crew members of the Nathan James because the Americans lied about the cure.  Mike tries to argue that the plague must have mutated and that is what he was investigating.  Mike promises that if given the chance, the U.S. will help but Takehaya isn't interested in promises. It seems that when Takehaya took the cure it didn't work but when he got a blood transfusion from a cured person it temporarily staved off the plague, thus forcing him to continue to get blood transfusions.  At least we now know why Takehaya is doing what he is doing.

The Nathan James is approaching one of the three islands it has targeted for a search. Takehaya bursts into the captives hut and informs Mike that he re-watched the tape and now knows that he didn't give his identity but coordinates.  Takehaya is not impressed and informs Mike that he has just sent his friends to their deaths.  The Nathan James approaches the island and suddenly an explosion occurs under water.  Tom orders the ship to quickly be placed in reverse. It looks like Tom's plan to simply sneak up on Takehaya isn't going to work.

I am happy to see Sasha in the thick of the action and that Tom is dependent upon her skills.  I however don't like the suggestion that Peng tried to kill Tom out of jealousy regarding Sasha.  The racial undertones in this are extremely harmful.  Asian men are usually cast as enigmatic and rarely cast as sexually desirable.  To have Peng attempt to murder the White man he sees as sexual competition for a White woman no less only reifies this nasty racist trope.

Speaking of enigmatic Asians, we of course have Takehaya.  I know that there aren't a lot of roles for Asian men in media but I for one am sick to death of seeing Hiroyuki Sanada cast in this role repeatedly.  He is an awesome actor and I feel that he is being underused at the very least and exploited at the worst.  I suppose that I should be thankful that at least this week, The Last Ship bothered to give some minor explanation for Takehaya's actions.  That being said, the fact that the cure doesn't work, doesn't fully explain his motivations.  His actions seem more personally motivated than for the good of his people.  Other than a medical staff to do transfusions, surely it doesn't make sense to avoid scientific research.  They have got to do more with him than making him the angry Asian men that the Americans have to defeat.

I really don't like the way that the press is being framed in The Last Ship.  Kara in particular wants to make what Jacob is doing personal, suggesting that he has a vendetta against Michener when in fact, he is doing his job.  Let's all remember that Michener wasn't elected as president and lucked into the role because he just happened to be immune.  Even if Michener was duly elected, why does anyone owe him allegiance? He works for the people and is therefore to be held accountable by the people. The idea that Jacob doesn't know his place because he is questioning his president is ludicrous.  It feels like nonsense right wing propaganda to me.