Season 3 of 'The Last Ship' Is Its Best Yet

Any sane person would wonder how a show like The Last Ship would be sustainable in the long run. After all, the concept - based on a William Brinkley novel of the same name - itself is pretty out there; it's a show about the crew of a Navy destroyer that finds out, after six months of silence, that the world has basically ended, falling prey to a virus they've been trying to find the cure for. There are no governments, no other ships (hence the title). They're alone, facing the desperate remains of a world ravaged by disease, greed and war, and trying to put it back together.

What sets the show apart, what helps them overcome the odds of an unsustainable concept, is that the people who make the show are unequivocally insane. They don't see themselves as bound by the way these kinds of shows normally go, or even the show's own damn concept. The show that ended its third season this Sunday is a completely different show than the one we started out with. They even go as far as to use a real Navy destroyer for filming, which is awesome.

What was once a show about a Navy ship wandering the oceans trying to find a cure for a disease, trying to understand the realities of this new world, has become in its third season one of complicated world politics, where people's most basic instincts have led them to be rules under pirates, terrorists and monsters, leaving the crew of that one ship the one and only voice of reason among the madness. The show still very much lives up to its name, but it's grown much bigger in scope, its world richer and full of more interesting characters and stories to tell.

That's what makes season 3 of The Last Ship its best yet. It went places no one would have dreamed of after the first episode or even the first season. It wasn't afraid to do big, brash, loud things when it needed to but it also knew how to step back and be more thoughtful when it needed to.

The third season picks up with a rough infrastructure of the United States back in place. The crew of the Nathan James has delivered President Michener to the new White House in St. Louis, Captain Chandler is now in charge of the armed forces and the ship is working along the Asian coast. But things quickly go south. Pirates attack the ship and take hostages, and the Chinese president may be involved. What's more, signs of a conspiracy begin to make themselves apparent back at home, leaving members of the crew to fight new battles on multiple fronts.

One of the particular joys of this season has been the villains. While The Last Ship has never disappointed in that sense before, including Hiroyuki Sanada as the brilliant pirate Takehaya, and an array of familiar character actors as the secret cabal looking to take over the country. Some of them are so ridiculously evil that it at times defies credulity, but The Last Ship has always been the kind of show to make that work.

Another benefit this season has been splitting the crew up, in certain regards, forcing many of them into situations where they shone. Chandler is great when he's up against a corner, so taking the ship away from him for large parts of the season made sense. Slattery is at his best on the ship, so making him the captain helps his character. These are signs of a show that is confident with what it is and where it wants to go.

But it's not just that the crew is doing cool things, it's that they actually seem to matter. Chandler more than anyone, of course, but still. The show carries with it a message of what it means to be part of a system like the military at a time when you might expect it to fail you. He's a symbol of hope, a symbol that matters when all else might fail. But as Sunday's finale proved, he's not without his own failings as well, and the show is definitely willing to explore that. Having the acting talents of someone like Eric Dane certainly helps to prop those ideals up.

Best of all, however, is how brazen the show is with plot progression. It's like a shortened season of 24, but on bath salts. Like I mentioned, this started off as a show merely discovering how the world had been destroyed. Now, in its third season, it's a show where the ship actively participates in coups and assassinations, and it's almost never not awesome.

After three seasons, and with two more on the way, The Last Ship is definitely a show that's found its groove. Without any spoilers, the developments of the season 3 finale also prove that there's still a lot more ground to cover, both in terms of plot and these characters.

Season 3 of The Last Ship gets 9.5 post-apocalyptic coups out of 10.