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The virus isn't the only enemy

"We have no allies. We have no enemies. Just a world of sick, dying people."
CDR Tom Chandler, USN
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The Last Ship is a series produced by Michael Bay that aired on TNT for five seasons from 2014 to 2018. Loosely based on the William Brinkley novel of the same name, it tells the story of a captain and his crew struggling to survive after a pandemic has infected 80% of the world's population and having to deal with a new world order that doesn't necessarily want their help.

The show was an immediate ratings success and quickly renewed, including a two season pick up after its third.

Has a recap page that needs some TLC.

Also, this series has some overarching plot lines that extend through several episodes and/or an entire season, so there will be unmarked spoilers on this page.

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This series contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: The walls dividing the five nations of the former United States are only several feet tall.
  • The Ace: Captain Chandler is a respected commander, speaks fluent Russian, can go toe-to-toe with a renowned naval tactician, and is more than capable in a gun fight.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: More like "Action Series, Quiet Drama Episodes": "We'll Get There," "Lockdown," and "Trials".
  • Action Girl: Bivas, a Pintsized Powerhouse Badass Israeli who can do many nasty things to opponents much bigger than her.
  • Action Politician: Chinese President Peng in Season 3. When he and his men are attacked by Chandler whilst destroying the Japanese National Archives in Tokyo, he draws his own sidearm and fights alongside his bodyguards. Justified, as he used to be the head of MSS before deciding he really wanted to be his own boss.
  • After the End: Towards the end of Season 2, the storyline veers towards how the main characters can help rebuild society after the Red Flu Pandemic passes. As of Season 3:
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    • The United States, under the leadership of President Michener, pulls away from the coasts and focuses on reestablishing itself in the Midwest, due to its farmland and river system, with a new capital being set up in St. Louis. There is ongoing debate as to whether or not the previous state boundaries can be maintained or if entirely new regions should be created.
    • Steps are being taken to make sure that the economy has a firm base. Banks are trying to maintain the US Dollar as a viable currency and making sure that people have access to their accounts and property titles continue to be honored.
    • Television and radio broadcasts have been restored, allowing the central government to reach out to its citizens. The free press is functioning and lively.
    • Demand and production are not yet in sync so the government begins issuing ration books to make sure that everyone has guaranteed access to basic necessities with Michener stressing that communities with surpluses should share what they can with communities with shortfalls. Certain factions are chafing at this new normal, believing that it is un-American and that people should be able to take however much they please if they can afford it.
    • The U.S. begins rebuilding its military and returns to deploying units overseas to maintain American influence in world affairs.
    • There's no sign of Congress, with the U.S. instead being split up into several regions, each with an appointed leader who reports directly to the President. Congressional elections are being scheduled and, in the meantime, there is a single senator who survived the pandemic and acts as the Legislative Branch.
    • The regional leadership ultimately stages a coup against the weak federal government, dividing the country up into their own fiefdoms.
    • In Season 4, various world governments are stated to have completely collapsed while some countries' populations were seemingly wiped out due to the Red Flu. In the Mediterranean, at least, independent city states and tribalism have risen up to fill the void. Egypt and Turkey are also discussed as still being significant regional players, albeit with the implication that they're barely hanging on.
    • The UK managed to survive both the Plague and the ensuing Immune Wars and apparently still maintains a monarchy. It is severely weakened however doesn't have the resources to maintain its military assets. An MI-6 officer joins the Nathan James crew in Season 4.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: The pirates, PLA soldiers, and MSS agents the ship fights all seem to know advanced kung fu. Justified in that the Chinese PLA and MSS do train their personnel in hand-to-hand combat, and pirates being...well, pirates, it makes sense that the successful ones would know how to fight.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The ending theme for the Japanese release of the show is "Pandemic Sudden Death" by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN.
  • Anti-Mutiny: In "Scuttle", the Government Conspiracy has Chandler relieved of command and arrested by the add-ons from the destroyed USS Hayward, with Captain Weylan and XO Cobb assuming power. However, the crew of the Nathan James later retakes the ship from the Hayward sailors after Miller stages a fight with the rival sailors in which he acquires the keys to the small-arms locker and gives them to Slattery. They make sure to unload their weapons beforehand however, as despite the need to sequester the Hayward sailors to stop them interfering with their plans, the Nathan James crew has no desire to harm or kill fellow Navy personnel. Plus, they give rifles to some of Takahaya's pirates, so obviously they don't want to take a chance there.
  • Apocalypse How: Society is already almost completely broken down, and if a cure for the virus isn't found soon, it'll mean human extinction.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In "Dead Reckoning", Captain Chandler calls Tophet out for aiding the Russians instead of asking the Nathan James for help, and endangering the world and getting his family involved (and possibly dead). Tophet asked what else he was supposed to do, and asked what Chandler would have done if it was his own family. Chandler doesn't answer, and leaves so he can quietly break down into tears.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Tex, intentionally infected with the virus to test a cure, tells Dr. Scott that she makes him want to love again while delirious with fever.
  • Artifact Title:
    • The first season quickly showed that Nathan James is not the last ship on the seas. In Season 2, she's not even the last ship in the US Navy (albeit the only one known to be operational). By Season 3, she's one of several US Navy ships tasked with reestablishing American influence throughout the world.
    • The new seat of government is still referred to as the "White House," even though it's actually the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, and the president's office continues to be called the "Oval Office" despite being rectangular.
  • Artistic License – History: Amy Granderson is at best oversimplifying when she discusses the effect the Black Death had on the Dark Ages. Her timeline is wrong, for one thing, as the Black Death itself occurred in the 1300s and may well have initiated the seeds of a technological bloom owing to the labor shortage the mass deaths induced. Second, historians no longer refer to a "Dark Ages" per se, as it has since turned out that the state of scientific knowledge during the 1000s - 1600s CE was further advanced than previously assumed (e.g. it was well understood how to show that the Earth was in fact round). Then again, she's trying to justify mass-murder.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • The show depicts blood pressure readings being monitored by the rise and fall of the needle on a cuff's gauge. Blood pressure is actually measured by pumping up a cuff and releasing the pressure while listening through a stethoscope for when the turbulent blood flow starts and stops, recording at which pressure each happens. The only way you'd see the numbers tick up and down is if you're monitoring blood pressure digitally with a machine that takes measurements at set intervals.note  The only way blood pressure can be monitored in real-time is with an arterial monitoring line.
    • The show's vaccine test subjects are injected and then immediately exposed to the virus afterwards. In real life, a vaccine takes several days to take effect as the the body's immune system learns to deal with the dead/weakened virus.
  • Artistic License – Military: Many problems could be avoided by following common military procedure meant to deal with just these problems.
    • Sailors are occasionally seen saluting without a cover (hat/cap), which goes against U.S. Navy protocol. Chandler later makes a big show out of putting on a Nathan James ballcap before giving a salute as if the production team wanted to tell the audience that they heard all the nitpicking.
    • The military choppers the Russians have in the first episode are American with Russian markings. A later episode mentions that they were salvaged from an abandoned NATO installation.
      • Speaking about choppers, the one shown on the RFS Vyerni is a Mi-24 "Hind-D". Though obviously Russian, the Hind-D is a Russian Air Force gunship designed for exclusively for land warfare. In reality, the RFS Vyerni would have been carrying Ka-27 "Helix" choppers and would have deployed a "Helix-D" search-and-rescue type to fish Chandler and Tex out of the water.
      • Also, how did they helicopters get so close to the ship? In real-life, they'd have been detected on radar and shot down with missiles long before they got anywhere near the ship.
    • In the pilot, officers, chiefs, and enlisted are shown eating together in the mess. In reality, officers should be in the Wardroom, chiefs in the Chief's Mess (where even the captain needs permission to enter), with only the enlisted in the mess.
    • Chandler wants Maya to be awarded the Navy Cross, but it can only be awarded for actions in the face of the enemy. Since she went above and beyond the call of duty in a non-combat situation and not on a joint duty assignment, the highest award she could receive would be the Navy version of the Distinguished Service Medal. This could be considered Justified if one considers the virus to be the "enemy", in which case Maya volunteered to help combat it, thereby establishing the "actions in the face of" part.
      • She could also be perhaps awarded the "Navy and Marine Corps Medal", awarded for non-combat bravery.
    • Wolf is introduced as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. Such a rank doesn't exist in the Royal Australian Navy. He'd be a Warrant Officer, and referred to as such, if he was supposed to be senior to a Chief Petty Officer.
    • Season 3 has the ship's helicopter, which is referred to as a Romeo; however, it lacks the distinctive nose sensor turret of the MH-60R as well as the belly-mounted surface search radar, and more closely resembles an MH-60S Knighthawk. note 
  • Artistic License – Ships:
    • The show is generally all right with its portrayal of naval warships, but in "Two Sailors Walk into a Bar", the aft deck of what is supposed to be a Kirov-class guided missile battlecruiser has a prominent turret with three large guns. This is because, lacking a proper Kirov to film on, that scene was filmed aboard USS Iowa.
    • A more glaring example is shown with the HMS Achilles Tomahawk missile attack. While Astute-class submarines do carry Tomahawks, they lack VLS, which means the Tomahawks would have to be launched from any of the six torpedo tubes. Even so, HMS Achilles' missiles are not only shown to have emerged from the water vertically, but twenty-six of them were launched all at once. The latter is especially glaring due to the Astute-class submarine's size (97 meters); even if she had been modified with VLS, she wouldn't have been able to hold twenty-six tubes. By comparison, a Virginia-class submarine (which is 115 meters) only holds twelve VLS. There's also the issue that Tomahawks lack the range necessary to strike the targets shown.
    • Quiet levels do not actually exist as protocols for naval surface warships, and the depiction of quiet level 2 (walking around in socks and whispering) is what submarines would do, not surface ships. Such measures are superflous given the Prairie-Masker system (which Chandler orders to be activated) is a more effective stealth measure (which Arleigh Burke destroyers like Nathan James do use).
  • Asshole Victim:
    • El Toro. Sending an innocent young woman to certain death (and raping others) won't gain you a lot of sympathy.
    • Niels Sorenson gets shot while being used as a human shield. Absolutely nobody is very concerned about that.
    • Niels gets this again in "Uneasy Lies the Head", dying painfully and afraid, as Doctor Scott reverses his immunity to the virus. The crew is so happy that this happens that they shower Miller and O'Conner with gifts for their supposed involvement.
  • The Atoner: After being deprogrammed, President Michener becomes this.
    • Kara has long complained about her mother being a long-time alcoholic and bad mom. When she visits her home town, she's happy to find that the plague caused her mother to get clean and sober and she's now a dedicated worker at a local hospital. She apologizes to Kara on her failures as a mother and is intent on making up for her selfish past by helping others.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • The Royal Navy warrant officer aboard the HMS Achilles gives Commander Mike Slattery a run for his money in hand to hand combat.
    • Pretty much all the senior officers and non-commissioned officers aboard the Nathan James have the combat proficiency of a Navy SEAL.
  • Back for the Dead: Garnett is absent in Season 4 and returns in the Season 5 premiere only to get strafed by a plane and killed.
  • Badass Israeli: IDF Lt. Ravit Bivas. She was on a Joint Operation Training Program with the US Navy in Virginia when the virus broke out, leaving her stranded stateside. She, and an Australian Navy DCT operator who was in the same program, later join the crew of the "Nathan James" in Season 2.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Admiral Ruskov, big time. In "Welcome to Gitmo" when it is pointed out to him he has more men and less food, meaning a blockade poses serious risks for him, he promptly shoots one of his officers (implied to be a high ranking aide) in the head. Again in "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar", when he forcibly exposes another of his senior officers to the virus to test the vaccine. Viewers who speak Russian will have already noted that the officer is Ruskov's brother.
    • Lieutenant Commander Sean Ramsey. Even when HMS Achilles is hit and in the process of sinking, he forces his men to remain in the sub at gunpoint when they try to abandon ship.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Or better to die on your own terms than of sickness.
    • Also invoked in the fight between Peng Wu and Takehaya; Takehaya manages to run a sword through the Chinese President, upon which Peng (as a final parting shot) decides to purposely accelerate his blood-loss by using the sword to open a blood vessel.
  • Big Bad:
    • Admiral Ruskov, the Starter Villain, is this for most of the first season.
    • Amy Granderson, established at the end of the first season, becomes a Disc-One Final Boss early in the second season, and gives way to a nascent quasi-fascist movement of naturally immune survivors led by Sean Ramsey.
    • In the third season, the role falls to President Peng of China, whose plans for control of Asia put him at odds with the Nathan James crew (and by extension, the entire USA). But then "Paradise" reveals that he seems to be working with Allison Shaw, who covertly aids his goals in exchange for fulfilling their own of taking control of the US.
    • It is revealed through the fourth season that Omar, the Disc-One Final Boss, is actually working with the true enemy, Dr. Vellek, an unscrupulous genius who marries a cure for the Red Rust with a mental anaesthetic that causes docility in humans.
  • Bitch Slap: Dr. Vellek tests out his new aggression-eliminating drug by repeatedly slapping his giant, muscular test subject in the face.
  • Black Dude Dies First:
    • The first virus casualty from the ship is Frankie Benz, a black officer who trips, loses his mask, and gets exposed to the virus. Knowing that he's already screwed and will only be a danger to others, he shoots himself.
    • During the vaccine trials, the first casualty is a female black sailor named Maya, who slips quietly away while Scott and Tophet try to stabilize the delirious and convulsing CMC Jeter. Stone-faced, Chandler tells Slattery to make sure she receives the Navy Cross.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Usually averted, but a Season 5 episode shows pro-Tavo Cubans just slumping over after being hit with a burst from a Browning .50-cal at less than 100 yards. Realistically those guys should’ve turned into paint.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: The entire US Secret Service in season 3. They declare their loyalty to traitorous Chief of Staff Allison Shaw, and help her and the regional leaders to assassinate President Michener, Senator Beatty and Secretary Rivera. They then act as her personal enforcers, keeping new President Howard Oliver a prisoner in his office and threatening to kill his family if he steps out of line.
  • Bottle Episode:
    • Season 1, episode 4 "We'll Get There". The ship is becalmed with engine and generator trouble, leading to an episode that involves mostly characters staying in one place and looking tired and sweaty, no complicated stunts, minimal CGI and almost entirely takes place on the ship with a short beach scene at the end.
    • Perhaps even more so in episode 6 "Lockdown", which takes place entirely on the ship with the crew worrying about what they are doing, with no CGI, special effects or other locations at all.
    • Season 2 episode 8 "Safe Zone" also takes place entirely on the ship, and focuses primarily on Chandler attempting to reverse the brainwashing of Jeffery Michener, the de facto President of the United States, after he is rescued from the Immunes. Much of the episode is simply Chandler delivering extended monologues.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • Season 4 sees the ship's SH-60 Seahawk helicopter replaced with a UH-1 Huey. The pilot's bitching about it reveals the justification: while not as good for operating from a destroyer (Hueys can be configured for antisubmarine warfare, but this one isn't, and the US Navy has never used it for ASW; the SH-60 is better suited to that role anyway), the Huey is more reliable and easier to fix, which is why the Navy, Air Force, and Army still keep some of them around despite having officially replaced them decades agonote . Also a bit of a subversion, as the Huey remains in limited service with the Navy and is quite popular on the civilian and export markets, and is still in production sixty years after the prototype first flew.
    • Another Huey becomes important in Season 5, after the Seahawk fleet is grounded by the Colombian computer virus. The Huey’s reliability and Simple, yet Awesome nature are lampshaded by the all-female flight crew, who tell Chandler that since the plague and famine they’ve run the old bird on everything from ethanol to moonshine (with a little loving Percussive Maintenance thrown in).
    • Literally done by Slattery in Season 5. He needs a fresh uniform but doesn't have his sea bag aboard Nathan James so he grabs the cammies he'd donated to become an exhibit from their display case.
  • Breaking Speech: Ruskov attempts this in "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar". Unfortunately for him, Chandler refuses to break.
  • Broken Pedestal: Lt. Granderson is filled with shame over her mother's actions. So much so that she would rather die of her wounds than return to Nathan James to seek treatment out of fear of her shipmates' potential reactions. She returns to find that nobody holds it against her.
  • The Captain: Captain Tom Chandler. His actual rank is Commander (O-5), not Captain (O-6). As the Commanding Officer of a ship in the Navy, he holds the title of Captain, regardless of his rank.
    • Season three sees him promoted to O-6, and for that matter so is Slattery, who takes the post of Nathan James CO after Chandler is promoted to Chief of Naval Operations.
  • The Cast Show Off: Lt. Alisha Granderson, played by Christina Elmore, sings (quite well) at the end of "We'll Get There."
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Many characters have died over the course of the show. Tellingly, the "Former Characters" section of this show's character sheet is longer than the other sections combined.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Jacob Barnes has one of the sawed-off variety...
    • Captain Meylan grouses that China's guided missile destroyers are rip-offs of the American Arleigh Burke design. This serves two purposes. In the first instance, Slattery is able to quickly use a Chinese fire control station, despite not being able to read Chinese, because the layout is identical to the one aboard Nathan James. In the second, the cabal ruling the US blows up a captured Chinese destroyer thinking that it was Nathan James and contained Chandler because it looks identical from a distance.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Curtis is introduced as an especially Deep South member of an immune community in Florida. He later murders Rachel Scott in the Season 2 finale, and his jailhouse interview with Intrepid Reporter Jacob Barnes tells the entire world the secret of President Michener, which causes the shit to REALLY hit the fan.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Master Chief Jeter's throwaway lines about being able to approximately determine latitude and longitude from stellar navigation and the position of local noon become significant when he and Slattery cleverly hide the numbers when they alter their military serial numbers on Takehaya's video.
  • The Chosen Many: Sorenson comes across a group of people who believe their natural immunity to the Red Plague is a sign of their "chosenness" and are actively determined to prevent the cure/vaccine from being made and distributed.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Season one ends with The Nathan James captured by rogue police officers working for the government of Baltimore.
    • Season two ends with Rachel being shot by a surviving member of the Immunes.
  • Cool Boat: Obviously given the series' title. So far we have three: the eponymous USS Nathan James, a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, RFS Vyerni, an older model Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruiser and, as of the Season 2, HMS Achilles, an Astute-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine.
  • The Corrupter:
    • Tophet. He takes advantage of the mounting uncertainty and worry over the spread of the disease and the lack of information from the Captain to sow his own seeds of discontent, starting with his minder, "Bacon". Chandler puts a stop to it at the end of "Lockdown".
    • Sean Ramsey and other Immune "missionaries", who are spreading the idea to American Immunes that they should take ownership of the world. The movement even manages to subvert the President of the United States.
  • Corrupt Cop: Maryland State Police, in the absence of a functioning government, serve Amy Granderson as her personal Gestapo. It's implied, in the Season 2 premiere, that some of the troopers aren't even actual police but rather people with "security" backgrounds who are given uniforms, but others are explicitly confirmed to be career State Troopers. Several viewers were quick to draw parallels with real-life cases of potentially-illegal/unconstitutional actions by MSP troopers.
  • The Coup: At the end of "Paradise", Allison Shaw and the US's regional leaders forcibly reduce the Presidency to puppet status, so they can rule as an autocratic oligarchy. However, it gets worse. By the end of "Legacy", they are in the process of physically dividing the United States into the constituent regions by building walls along the new borders, and breaking down the US armed forces into four constituent armies who report to their respective regional leaders, not the President. They are successful in the latter by having the highest ranking generals in the country (who are loyal to the United States and the President) murdered, so they can be replaced with more opportunistic and less scrupulous officers supportive of the division.
  • Crapsack World: When the Nathan James returns to the United States, the devastation that the virus wrought upon civilization is readily apparent.
  • Crazy-Prepared: While investigating Niels's death, Slattery tells Rachel that the Navy has contingencies for every conceivable emergency and rattles off several procedures and the situations they address.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: [[Inverted]] completely in "Legacy". Before boarding Chinese warship PLANS Henan, both Weylan and Slattery note it's design is essentially a ripoff of the American Arleigh Burke classnote . This proves useful, as the missile launch controls are almost identical to those on Nathan James. This enables Slattery to target and launch ordinance from the Henan to destroy a second Chinese ship without needing to understand the markings, acknowledging it is "the same in every language".
  • Dead Guy Junior: In season 3, it's revealed that Kara and Danny named their kid Frankie, after Frankie Benz, who died in the first episode.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Tex makes some progress with Dr. Scott, but decides that she has more important things to do than be distracted by a suitor.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In the Season 3 finale, Chandler finally crosses it after Shaw murders his father, and he kills her in revenge, despite Tex's dying request to keep her alive to stand trial for treason, which makes him realize that he's lost the moral compass needed to get America back on track.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Chinese President Peng is killed with two episodes left in Season 3, leaving the American regional leaders (particularly Roberta Price) as the sole villains.
  • Divided States of America: In Season 3, the 48 contiguous states have been reconsolidated into five semi-autonomous territories (Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest) run from the new capital district around St. Louis. Then the regional leaders decide to officially dissolve the Union, and run their territories as their own nations. However, they have William Beatty assassinated before this takes place, and his Northwest territory is absorbed by Manuel Castillo's Southwest region. In "Resistance," President Oliver and the crew of the Nathan James arrest Castillo and take control, turning the entire west coast into The Remnant of the legitimate US government. This leaves Roberta Price, Albert Wilson, and Randall Croft in control of the South, the Midwest, and the Northeast territories, respectively, with Allison Shaw eying turning St. Louis into an independent city-state. Eventually, Wilson and Croft are also arrested, while Price and Shaw are killed, reuniting the country under Oliver's control. Whatever happened to Hawaii (earlier implied to be under naval control) and Alaska is currently unknown, but they seem to be on their own.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Happens several times at the end of Season 2. After Immune leaders Sean and Ned Ramsey are killed in the penultimate episode, their third-in-command Kevin McDowell takes over as Big Bad for the finale. After he is arrested, his second-in-command, Curtis, is the last one left and kills Dr. Scott.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The nature of the Red Flu underwent painfully obvious changes throughout the series (with the introduction of the Immunes), making the first two episodes a bit strange in hindsight: The crew came across both a large cruise ship (with presumably 1000-3000 people onboard) and Guantanamo Bay (with around 9-10,000 personnel stationed there, not counting contractors) and zero indication of any survivors among those exposed to the virus. Given the later estimate of 1-5% of the population being naturally immune, you'd expect 10-150 uninfected survivors on the cruise ship and around 100-500 at Gitmo. The cruise ship can be handwaved as those survivors having abandoned ship and/or simply being missed (the teams from the Nathan James didn't exactly do a door-to-door sweep of the ship); Gitmo is a lot harder to justify since the apparent death of everyone else on the base is given as part of the reason for letting the detainees loose, while if they'd been massacring the other survivors that would certainly have borne mentioning (and them getting the upper hand on a few hundred Marines, etc. would be much harder than them running around killing a handful of surviving guards). Granted, the ship stumbling across hundreds naturally immune survivors in episode one or two would have at least altered the tenor of the show (and moved a number of plot elements forward by an episode or two) but it's still a bit jarring considering that in season two it's stated that there are tens of thousands of such survivors forming Immune groups in Florida.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Rogue Maryland State Police Special Tactical Assault Team Element (STATE) operators, operating under the orders of Amy Granderson. They sometimes get killed off or put up a fight against Nathan James sailors.
    • The main antagonists of season 2 are former members of the Royal Navy, who have a nuclear submarine (HMS Achilles) and former soldiers from various European nations backing them up.
    • The Chinese MSS operatives in season 3. Their leader even gives Wolf a run for his money in hand to hand combat.
    • It can be argued that the US Secret Service also becomes this is season 3, when they decide to betray the President and declare their loyalty to Allison Shaw and the regional leaders.
  • Emergency Authority:
    • Alisha Granderson's mother, who was previously an unelected advisor, ends up as the highest-ranking official in the US government after the Red Flu breaks out. Naturally, the power quickly goes to her head. In season 2 it is revealed that a member of the presidential cabinet, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jeffery Michener, is now the de facto President, despite being 12th in line of succession. He was, however, indisposed and out of contact for some time.
    • In "Legacy", Allison Shaw and the regional leaders claim to the public their plan to divide the United States into self governing regions will only be a temporary measure until the regions can become strong enough to reunite under a central government. Slattery immediately acknowledges that will never happen, and it's just a cover to make the public more accepting of their decision.
  • The Empire:
    • It's disturbingly alluded that the European Immunes have taken over their continent and formed this in the Red Plague's wake. Naturally, they now aim to do the same in America. However, this is seemingly Put on a Bus in season 3, which focuses on the reconstruction of the US and conflict in Asia instead of Europe. Season 4 reveals that the Immune cults in Europe started a number of wars to try and gain the ascendant, laying waste to what was left of functioning societies there (except the UK, which managed to keep a shaky national government in place).
    • The post-plague Chinese government is trying to establish its own empire in Asia, going so far as to using biological warfare to make the Red Flu cure ineffective to cause the deaths of millions of other Asian races. They also attempt to erase the existence of a Japan, their history, and culture in "Legacy", in which Peng leads a team of soldiers to the Japanese National Archives in Tokyo to destroy its contents For the Evulz.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Lampshaded in the third season, where a Huey pilot bemoans having to fly an older helicopter as opposed to the more modern Seahawk.
  • Evil Brit: Averted with Dr. Rachel Scott, who is quite heroic. Subverted with Dr. Quincy Tophet, who only assisted the Russians because they were holding his wife and daughter hostage. Played straight-ish with Sean Ramsay and his crew, newest villains in the second season. Though multinational in composition, Ramsay, his brother, and several followers are former members of the Royal Navy. As a bonus, their own ship is an Astute-class fast-attack submarine, HMS Achilles. However, Ramsay is not so much "evil" as "traumatized into criminal insanity." Subverted and played straight-ish in Season 4, where Nathan James has an MI-6 operator, Commander James "Fletch" Fletcher, aboard to help out. Another MI-6 man, known only as Harry, comes aboard posing as a trawler captain hauling refugees, and tells Fletcher that the British government (apparently the only one in Europe that remained functional throughout the plague, and who took heavy losses in the Immune War) are cancelling the "Special Relationship with the US. The UK is starving and Vellek has given them An Offer You Can't Refuse. Fletch reluctantly obeys his new orders to steal the immune seeds, but is clearly very conflicted about it. Harry, on the other hand, has no particular issue with murdering four American Sailors.
    • A Call-Back by the President in Season 5 indicates that the USA has not let the events of Season 4 slide, and relations with the British remain tenuous three years later.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: A breakthrough in tracking down Wu Ming, a smuggler working with the Chinese government, comes from the revelation that he is absolutely devoted to his mother and would never go too far from her.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • A Spanish mercenary and ex-navy commmando captured in "Achilles" admits that he did not participate in the massacre on USNS Solace since he joined the crew to ensure his safety. Subverted in the end of the episode when he's brought to the upper deck so that he can escape in case the others have wrecked the ship.
    • Ned, the more pragmatic brother of Sean (the "Captain" of the HMS Achilles), doesn't like Niels Sorenson, especially when the Norwegian starts gloating about how easily he can spread his disease.
    Niels: I found 320 people immune to my disease. Bloody good, yeah?
    Ned: (walking away) Creepy git.
  • Everybody Lives: The appropriately titled "Safe Zone."
  • Evil Gloating: Russian Admiral Ruskov does this to his crew before he's even sure who is supposed to be coming is actually coming.
  • Evil Matriarch: Amy Granderson becomes this to her own daughter.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: In "Welcome to Gitmo", Tex admits he and some other guards let Al-Qaeda prisoners out of their cells, figuring that as the world was ending and nations were collapsing there was no reason to keep them imprisoned. The terrorists immediately turn on the guards.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Dr. Scott invokes this with Captain Chandler to fool the Russians in "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar."
  • Fallen States of America: By Season 2, All that left of United States as a political entity after the Red Flu is a collection of settlements and cities in Midwest with significantly weakened Federal government, right before it descended into collection of warlords once the said government was overthrown. Though the aid of United States Navy and the Federal loyalists put down the usurpers and managed to restore the government by the end of Season 3.
  • False Flag Operation:
    • The HMS Achilles attacks and completely destroys a civilian flotilla near New Orleans, then edits the footage to make it appear that the Nathan James destroyed it.
    • In the Season 5 premiere, agents of Gran Colombia assassinate the President of Panama right after a meeting he had with Sasha's team. This not only sours the rest of Latin America against the United States, but also serves as justification for a raid which destroys the newly rebuilt American fleet. The charade doesn’t hold up for long before everyone knows who is really responsible, but by that time Panama has already fallen.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Kara brings photos of her mother and her dog, Chief Engineer Garnett has a photo of her daughter, and Tex brings a locket containing the photo of an unknown woman (later revealed to be his daughter) into the vaccine trials. These examples are averted because they survive. It's Maya, who's seen reading old e-mails from her boyfriend, who dies quietly while everyone's focused on the delirious Master Chief Jeter.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Also counts as a Villain with Good Publicity. Amy Granderson appears to be the last hope for civilized society, the continuation of the United States, and a voice of reason in the chaos of the Red Flu. Then it turns out that her plan for society's survival puts the bloodiness of some dictatorships to shame and that the 'warlords' opposing her are really former cops trying to protect people from her death factory.
    • The immune "Captain" of Achilles, Sean Ramsey, helping an American cult leader cement his control over the naturally immune population. He works a hotel lobby crowd with warmth and humor, appearing for all the world to be their savior.
  • Finale Season: The fifth season was announced to be its last.
  • Final Solution: The Chinese engineered a chemical that renders the cure ineffective, which they use to wipe out the vast majority of surviving Japanese population. Later, they sack the Japanese national archives, smashing and burning many irreplaceable cultural artifacts. Though never explicitly stated, it's safe to say that Japan's remaining population is less than a million. They also deploy it in Vietnam, though it will probably be somewhat less devastating with Nathan James having already distributed the cure a week or two earlier. They attempt to do the same to South Korea before Nathan James sinks the destroyer carrying the anti-cure.
  • Foreshadowing: The third season finale began with Chandler being rejected by two civilians who were traumatized by their experiences with rogue military personnel before looking around a roomful of people, all desperate and scared. Later, he notes that every time he and his crew fix the country, it falls apart again. The look on his when being reassured is indicative of what happens at the end of the episode, when he quits.
    • In 4x03, an old woman stabs Omar when he learns she's been hiding the seeds, to little effect. Toward the climax of that episode, Lucia stabs Slattery, to much greater effect.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum:
    • The helicopter pops into and out of their minds as the plot demands, although the first season finale justifies its absence towards the end of the season with Chandler stating that all the aviation fuel was used in the search for Tex and himself. It becomes more important in Season 3 when a new helicopter pilot character is added.
    • The Nathan James is supposed to have a team from the Naval Mountain Warfare Unit attached to the crew (distinguished by their different uniforms), but aside from the first few episodes, Danny Green is the only member seen taking part in missions. Even their dog, which was first seen practically attached to Danny's hip, is missing for several episodes. note 
  • Frame-Up: In "Legacy", Allison Shaw and the regional leaders announce to the American public that President Oliver, along with Chandler and his men, orchestrated the death of President Michener and the capture of the Nathan James crew so they could establish a dictatorship in the United States. This lie not only covers their own asses, but makes their ulterior plan (the dismantling of the federal government and division of the United States) seem more appealing to the general public.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • Aside from the Red Flu outbreaks, the good guys need to worry about roving pirates and mercenaries seeking to plunder ships and anyone and anything worth of value.
    • In Season 4, it's revealed that the Red Flu made the leap from humans to plants and is rapidly spreading across many different crop species causing a lethal worldwide famine.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: One single police officer with a pistol manages to take an entire naval destroyer under his control in the season one finale, by holding the unarmed XO and bridge crew at gunpoint, although the season two premiere reveals that he was actually backed up by considerable firepower.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Once his family is no longer in danger, Tophet has no reason to work against the crew of the Nathan James.
    • In season 2, Chandler manages to convince Jeffery Michener, the de facto President of the United States, to join the fight against the Immunes who had brainwashed him into supporting their cause.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic:
    • Helmets are rarely ever worn by the protagonists when they go ashore to fight the bad guys.
    • Although characters are shown donning anti-flash gear they never bring the hoods up to cover their faces.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Rather than give up the location of the primordial strain Tophet rips the dressing off of his gunshot wound and pushes away all attempts to help him and bleeds to death.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Probably the most realistic example heard in movies or on television, with suppressors reducing noise down to a more subdued crack rather than the better known thwip. They're still quieter than real-life suppressors, though.
  • Hope Spot: At the beginning of season 2, the Nathan James makes contact with multiple government labs across the US and Europe who have survived the outbreak, and successfully fly planes loaded with the cure to them so large-scale production can begin. This all goes to shit when HMS Achilles, a submarine commanded by 'Immunes' leader Sean Ramsey, destroys all of them with long range missiles by the end of the episode.
  • Human Resources:
    • In the season one finale, Baltimore's coal-fired power plant has been repurposed to burn dead bodies, of which Granderson is ensuring a steady supply.
    • In "Legacy", Allison Shaw and the regional leaders defend their decision to break up the United States into smaller nations by claiming it is to prevent the country from becoming a dictatorship. However it is revealed the new nations themselves will be just as bad (if not worse), as the leaders are in the process of having massive prisons built in their jurisdictions to hold any dissenters who might oppose the coup and support constitutional government. It is since revealed that the regional leaders are all but literally treating their people like cattle to be shuffled around and worked half to death for a pittance in food.
  • Idiot Ball: In "El Toro", Chandler has evidently made his mind up ahead of time that El Toro is a bad guy, and seems to be purposefully being difficult with him and continues to be so even after El Toro has actually been more helpful than you would expect him to be. Even when asked about his purpose in being there (to get monkeys as research specimens) Chandler is evasive about it as if the monkeys are some sort of secret.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: the XO has this sort of reaction to the stew given to him at dinner being monkey meat, despite the fact that there are obviously no cows around to be seen.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Russians have Tophet's family, whom they would release if he gets them the vaccine. They are rescued in "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar".
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • The Russian Renegades can't seem to hit the broad side of a barn. In the first episode, several Russian attack helicopters turn out to be no match for a handful of lightly armed guys on snowmobiles. It's also odd the helicopters don't stop and hover - allowing them to take better aim - when their crew is firing on unarmed scientists. The latter is justified when it's revealed that one of the scientists, Quincy Tophet, is a Russian spy.
    • Averted in "No Place Like Home." The Maryland State Police are pretty accurate shots. Justified since police, unlike the military, have to make sure the first shot counts and can't usually rely upon suppressive firenote .
    • The Vyernis sailors improve on their marksmanship in "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar", with fairly effective suppression fire and fatally wounding a member of the rescue team.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Used interestingly with Kara Foster: she volunteers to be one of the test subjects for the vaccine without knowing about the pregnancy. When it starts to look like she's definitely going to die, this trope comes into play, with her imminent death being even more traumatic than everyone else's due to the pregnancy. She doesn't even find out about it until she recovers.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: Danny Green and Kara Foster play out this trope well, even endangering a mission because of their feelings. Averted: Because Dr.Scott is a civilian and a triangle arises between her, Tex, and the Captain.
  • Insane Admiral:
    • Ruskov seems to fit the bill rather nicely. He kills one of his own officers in front of Chandler just to make a point, nukes a French naval base to keep the Nathan James from resupplying, and doesn't seem to care that damaging or destroying the Nathan James will also jeopardize the very research he's trying to obtain. If he'd just let his own scientist on board share information with the Nathan James team and stop antagonizing Chandler, Ruskov would get a lot closer to his actual stated goal.
    • Sean Ramsey maybe even more so. As someone who is naturally immune to the Red Flu, he becomes convinced that he and other surviving 'Immunes' are the chosen master race destined to control the world. Because of this, he gets his people to intentionally infect and kill those who are not immune, and will stop at nothing to try and destroy the cure that Nathan James is trying to spread.
  • The Immune: Most of humanity dies out as a result of a Synthetic Plague, with the eponymous ship going on a mission to develop a cure. In the second season it becomes apparent that a lot more people have a natural immunity than previously thought (around 5% of the population). They start a cult that portrays them as the "chosen people" and set out to kill all non-immunes, led by two immune British brothers who were the only survivors of the nuclear submarine they both served in.
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • Tex is given a Maryland State Police uniform because he is a "security" specialist, with the implication that some of the troopers seen in uniform aren't actually cops but people who are deemed to be able to fill the position. Of course, Tex is actually infiltrating Avocet to rescue Dr. Scott and ends up rescuing Kara as well.
    • In the season 2 finale, a group of 'Immunes' disguise themselves as US Navy sailors with uniforms stolen from an army surplus store. They do so to try and infect a group of people awaiting on the real Navy at a college campus in Memphis.
  • It's Personal: Chandler always placed defeating Achilles high on his list of priorities. The deaths of Chung and Bivas set him off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Discussed and averted. Slattery explains to Tophet what keelhauling isnote  but also says that such techniques are ultimately counterproductive when trying to get information out of somebody. Instead, Slatterynote  calmly explains that it's in Tophet's best interest to cooperate because it would ensure better treatment and Tophet eventually starts to cooperate.
    • When interrogating Juan Carlos, Slattery uses the carrot and stick approach, giving him water and making him more comfortable when he cooperates, though this is also because the prisoner is quite badly wounded, and torture could kill him before he gave up anything useful.
    • Also averted when Slattery and Chandler interrogate President Michener. They don't threaten him, they don't use torture, they simply work on shaking his faith in Sean Ramsey and trick him into telling the truth.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • Tex has no problems using Niels as a human shield when things go south. And he's even less sympathetic when the latter is gut shot from the effort.
    • Doctor Scott figures out how Niels bonded his DNA to the virus and removes his immunity, causing him to quickly succumb and die very painfully.
  • Kill It with Fire: Danny burns all of Niels' teddy bear virus spreaders.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Rachel Scott kills Niels by unlinking his DNA from the virus he carries within him.
  • The Last Title: The title of the series.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Tom Chandler, the captain of the ship, isn't told that his real mission is to support the scientist looking for the cure. The ship is also placed on radio silence for the duration of the mission, which oddly prevents them from receiving any news from the outside.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The standard stratagem for the crew of HMS Achilles. First they attack Nathan James with four Spearfish torpedoes (thereby invoking No Kill Like Overkill as well) and then they launch a Tomahawk missile attack (twenty-six missiles in all) at the various labs the cure was being manufactured at. The latter is justified, however, due to there being multiple labs as well as to overcome Nathan James' Aegis system.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything:
    • The fact that the ship has over 200 crew is just to quote at pivotal moments. When they send a group over to the cruise liner, of course they send the captain (instead of a subordinate who would report back) and the lead scientist (who already knows what the virus look like and any medical crew from the ship could have taken a blood sample).
    • They do try to hold the lead scientist back in the next episode, realizing that she is too valuable to risk.
    • Unlike Horatio Hornblower, Chandler usually doesn't have any excuse. Then again, sometimes Hornblower didn't either, as he admitted to himself.
    • The Command Master Chief and the Captain participate in pretty much every mission away from the ship.
    • His XO seems to be a little smarter than his captain, staying on the ship when he knows he's the only commanding officer.
    • This trope is justified, however, as most of the crew on a modern Naval vessel are there to keep the ship running, not to carry out missions off the ship. Very few warships today have many extra personnel, as modern doctrine favors avoiding being hit at all rather than taking hits and surviving. Other than the Naval Mountain Warfare Unit team (which was only temporarily attached to the ship and rapidly dwindled to just Green and his dog), the rest of the Visit, Board, Search, & Seizure party are Sailors who normally have other jobs.
    • In 4x03, Slattery, who is currently the Captain of the James, joins the tac team for no explained reason. He gets wounded shortly after they find the retired Chandler, conveniently enough.
    • Subverted and lampshaded in the series finale when Tavo expects Chandler to personally lead the team assaulting Tivo's HQ and feels insulted that Chandler stayed behind on the Nathan James.
  • Manly Tears:
    • As testing for the vaccine takes a turn for the worst, Chandler and Slattery can barely hold back their tears as they watch helplessly from outside the lab.
    • Chandler once again can barely keep himself together when Dr. Scott reveals that not only do they have a vaccine, they also have a treatment for the infected. One or two leak out as they embrace.
    • Danny's eyes threaten to spill over because there's a chance Kara and their unborn child could die from the vaccine.
    • Lt. Carlton Burke is seen tearing up after Lt. Ravit Bivas is killed after the oil rig is attacked.
    • Master Chief Russell Jeter is unable to hold back tears when he is reunited with his inlaws (his only remaining family) in St. Louis in the season 2 finale.
    • Takehaya is visibly shaken up when he sees Peng's men destroying artifacts of the Japanese culture. But what a payback he later scores...
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Dr. Scott gives morphine to a dying passenger on the Italian cruise liner knowing that there is nothing she can do besides end his suffering.
    • Tophet prepares morphine injections to give to the trial volunteers when it looks as if there is no hope.
    • Subverted heartbreakingly by by then-Secretary now-President Michener who, after his son, who shouldn't even have been there, succumbed and his daughters began to show signs of the symptoms. He tried to quietly smother them with his pillow, only for one of his daughters to wake up and he was forced to overpower her. Being forced to kill his own daughters left him depressed and subsequently discovering his immunity suicidal (he exposed himself repeatedly to the Red Flu in the hopes of catching it), and open to the Ramseys' machinations.
  • Mildly Military: There are shades of characters having to be told things which are supposed to have already been drilled into every serviceman, like being told how to follow orders or how to assist a medic in first aid.
    • Many of the problems that have been faced aboard ship would have been avoided completely if appropriate watch stations were being maintained.
    • In the season one finale the first team ashore in Baltimore declares the port clear upon arrival of the motorcade when a cursory visual check of windows would have probably revealed a sniper in position.
  • Misplaced Accent: Niels Sorensen's "Norwegian" accent is unusually egregious, seeming to originate from somewhere east of the Urals by way of Holland.
  • The Mole: The end of the pilot reveals that Quincy Tophet, one of the scientists onboard, is secretly on the radio speaking in Russian about how they are not going to America.
  • Moby Schtick: Master Chief Jeter implores to Chandler, "Don't make that sub your white whale."
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate:
    • Niels Sorenson. He modified the virus that is central to the show's premise, turning a virus that normally only infected arctic birds into something hyper-infectious with no known cure that rips through the human population. Not only that, but the reason why it spread into the general population was because he injected himself with the modified virus, rendering himself immune, turning himself into a Typhoid Mary who infects everyone he comes in contact with, and never thought to step forward so that other scientists could use that information in their own research to develop a cure. And then, in season two, if that wasn't bad enough, not only does he deliberately infect survivors, he develops an aerosol delivery system for the virus. And installs it into teddy bears.
    • Dr. Hamada, of Amy Granderson's faction, is a true believer and reveals himself to be ruthless in carrying out her vision, including attempting to abort Kara's baby to try and harvest stem cells from the fetus to make his own version of the cure.
    • Dr. Vellek, already controversial for his unorthodox theories regarding genetic manipulation of human beings on a mass scale, is revealed to be orchestrating a plan to bring all humanity under mental control even as he cures a deadly plant disease called Red Rust.
  • Multinational Team: Nathan James gets reinforcements from Australian and Israeli navy personnel stranded in America due to the outbreak of the Red Flu in their respective countries. In Season 4 they get a member of an African navy to join the ground team.
  • Never Suicide: President Michener seemingly hangs himself, only for a later episode to reveal that it was staged by Shaw and the regional leaders as part of their planned coup.
  • New Meat: Miller, who is the lowest-ranked character featured, is jumpy and constantly picked on. He earns respect throughout the first season, especially when he becomes one of the vaccine's six test subjects.
    • Raymond Diaz picks up this role when he enlists in Season 3, taking over from Miller, who has made PO3.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Niels Sorensen, the doctor on the Russian ship. By injecting himself with a modified version of the killer virus, he rendered himself immune and a carrier for a weaponized version of the disease, a disease that didn't affect humans until he screwed with it.
  • No Endor Holocaust: The Russian Renegades score several direct hits on the ship. In the end it's none the worse for wear and no word on casualties.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine:
    • El Toro takes the crew of the Nathan James prisoner and promptly feeds them. Admiral Ruskov later does the same on the Russian battlecruiser.
    • The pirates in Season 3 feed the crew well, but in the form of filet mignon and apricots. It is revealed that they are fed foods rich in iron so they can be utilized as a blood bank for the pirates.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • The show is called "The Last Ship", like "the last operational ship operating under a flag", but it is not what seems to be implied: "the only ship". There are other ships and boats out there that it encounters or it would probably be a really boring show.
    • In Season 2, when Nathan James arrives at Norfolk there are several US Navy warships docked pierside, and at least one hospital ship is still afloat and operationalnote .
    • The Kirov-class battlecruiser RFS Vyerni, on the other hand, is the Last Ship of the Russian Federation Navy.
    • Tex is actually from Reno, Nevada.
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: Danny wears a tactical uniform in desert camouflage rather than a Naval Working Uniform when he's aboard Nathan James. Bacon and the rest of the galley staff also stand out because they wear red polo shirts emblazoned with the ship's crest. Commander Garnett and the Engineering division also wear coveralls instead of NWUs.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • One detonates near Nathan James as she approaches France, later revealed to have been a nuclear missile deliberately fired by Ruskov to prevent the ship from refueling at a French naval base.
    • A news report says that China nuked one of their own heavily infected cities.
  • Number Two: Commander Mike Slattery.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Sean Ramsey takes Sorenson's news that Nathan James neutralized Admiral Ruskov and sent Vyerni to the Davey Jones' Locker with visible relief, implying that Ruskov had pursued Achilles as well at an earlier point and that Achilles was lucky to survive.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The end of episode 7, "SOS". Chandler is hoisted up by a helicopter rescuing him... which turns out to be staffed with Russians.
    • The season one finale. Nathan James makes contact with a remnant of the U.S. government operating out of the city of Baltimore which has laboratory facilities capable of mass producing the cure for the virus. Unfortunately, this remnant intends only for the 'right' people to survive and is actively killing off anyone who doesn't meet its criteria. The surviving Maryland State Police (or elements thereof) are working with this rump government and manage to seize control of the Nathan James while Chandler and Jeter are separated from the rest of the crew. Chandler finds his family amid a killing field and saves his father and children, although he is too late to save his wife. And then he discovers what the remnant government is really up to...
    • In season two Chandler learns that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development survived and is one of the Immune. As he is a legitimate successor to the Presidency, this means that the President of the United States is either a puppet or a willing participant in the plan to eliminate the cure and all those who are not Immune.
  • Omniglot: Chandler demonstrates that he's fluent enough in Russian to read untranslated books and converse with native speakers. He also understands Italian well enough to understand native speakers talking at full speed. He then learns Greek in Season 4, to the suprise of the rest of the crew.
    • Sasha outdoes Chandler by demonstrating fluency in Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Korean with the implication that she is conversant in many more languages.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Tex hangs around with the crew during season one, is involved in most major missions, but his name is unknown until the season two finale. It's Ken.
    • Lieutenant Mejia, the ship's navigation officer, is exclusively referred to as "Gator" (short for "navigator") by his fellow officers.
  • Overranked Soldier:
    • General Bradley, the head of Castillo's military, was given his rank as an incentive to side with the terriorial leaders. Slattery scoffs at seeing how Bradley is now a four star general as the "California" military is nowhere near large enough to justify someone having such a high rank.
    • In Season 5, Chandler, Slattery, and Meylan are four star admirals despite the Navy not being large enough to justify all three of them holding that rank. No one begrudges them their rank, however, due to the promotions being in recognition of all they've done in the wake of the Red Flu.
  • Pan and Scan: The president sends out a message filmed in widescreen, but everyone is seen watching it on their cellphones held in the vertical position.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: In "Legacy", Allison Shaw and the regional leaders publicly defend their decision to break up the United States into smaller nations by claiming it is to prevent the country from becoming a dictatorship. However it is revealed the new nations themselves will be just as bad (if not worse), as the leaders are in the process of having massive prisons built in their jurisdictions to imprison dissenters who disagree with the coup and support the federal government.
  • The Plague: The Red Flu virus which is central to the show's premise.
  • President Evil: President Peng of China, who is intent on conquering all of Asia by deploying a chemical weapon that renders those infected with the Red Flu incapable of receiving the cure.
  • Private Military Contractors: In a rare sympathetic example, a sole survivor is rescued from Guantanamo and joins the main cast.
  • The Purge: In "Legacy", after Peng is neutralized and President Oliver is freed from their influence, Allison Shaw and the regional leaders dissolve the federal government and kill all senior military leadership in a Night of the Long Knives-style massacre, securing control of the military for themselves.
  • Rank Up:
    • A fair number of the Nathan James crew are promoted over the Time Skip between Seasons 2 and 3:
      • Chandler is promoted to Captain and is serving as Chief of Naval Operations while also acting as the de facto Secretary of Defense.
      • Slattery is promoted to Captain and is now Commanding Officer of Nathan James.
      • Garnett is promoted to Commander and is now Executive Officer of Nathan James.
      • Doc Rios has been promoted to Ensign from Chief Hospital Corpsman.
      • Seaman Miller is now Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Miller.
    • Season 5 sees further promotions for the cast. Chandler, Slattery, and Meyland are all promoted to Four-Star Admirals. Meanwhile, Kara is promoted to Commander and assumes command of Nathan James and Garnett takes command of the newly-commissioned Jeffrey Michener.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Chandler gives one to Admiral Ruskov for shooting one of his own men, and mentions how he used to be a great man before the pandemic.
  • Real Person Cameo: Two of these are seen in the season 2 episode "Safe Zone".
    • Raymond Mabus, the real-life Secretary of the Navy, is seen in a recorded message salvaged from the remains of the White House Situation Room.
    • When Chandler is looking through paperwork salvaged from the White House, a Freezeframe Bonus on a printed online news article shows President Barack Obama meeting with Michener in the Oval Office after his appointment as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Contagion on a warship. Alternately, it's Crusade on present day Earth.
  • Renegade Russians: In light of the collapse of the Russian Federation, a portion of the Russian military has broken away from the remaining command and gone rogue.
  • Red Shirt: The NMWU sailor whose mask falls off on the ship.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Chandler gives one at the end of the pilot. And then again in "Lockdown", along with Dr. Scott.
    • Commander Slattery tries to give one in "Two Sailors walk into a Bar." It's a pretty crap speech, but it gets the job done, as the crew knows that Slattery is better with deeds than words.
  • Rule of Drama: In the pilot, one would assume in reality the captain would be in at least partially on what the scientists were doing or that the mainland would break the silence and step in when the world is really starting to go to hell. However sensible procedures don't make for good drama.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: As season 2 goes on, much is made of New Orleans, which has a large amount of infrastructure set up to provide for a good After the End center of operations (solar power generators, sea walls to prevent further flooding, etc.), as well as a flotilla of hundreds of boats and ships carrying about 10,000 civilians. As soon as Nathan James arrives, the entire flotilla is destroyed by ''Achilles''. What's worse, the footage of this is cut together with footage of Nathan James deploying countermeasures to a torpedo launch to make it look like they were the ones who destroyed it.
  • Master Chief Petty Officer Rock/Father Neptune: Command Master Chief Hugh Jeter, the senior enlisted sailor aboard the Nathan James. He volunteers for the vaccine trials knowing that a leadership figure has to set an example for the rest of the crew. Chandler and Slattery protest, saying that he is just as valuable, if not more so, to the ship as they arenote . He simply says that the decision has been made and that there isn't anything his two commanding officers can do about it. It helps that he fits one of the patient profiles Dr. Scott needed to complete her trial.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • In "Solace", Ned Ramsey talks about not getting in touch with Faslanenote , which is the location of HMNB Clyde, the home base for British nuclear submarines.
    • In "Achilles", one of the captured mercenaries admit to being an ex-operator with the Naval Special Warfare Force or Fuerza de Guerra Naval Especial.
    • In "In The Dark", the three ships pursuing the Nathan James are identified as Luyang III-class, which is the NATO designation for China's Type 052D guided missile destroyer.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Tex realizes that Danny and Kara are truly in love and takes pleasure in trying to needle Danny into doing something about it, rules or no rules.
    • In Season 4, pretty much the entire crew ships Ray Diaz and Kathleen Nolan.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Such a special kind of evil that in "El Toro" it is worth causing trouble even when you have been given what you need to save the rest of the world and clearance to leave the bad guys with all of your equipment returned - and even after having your guns confiscated for meddling going back and taking El Toro's camp unarmed without even first dropping off the monkeys (the actual mission objective) and picking up some weapons to assist in the assault. Of course, the logical ways of handling this situation would not have made for compelling TV.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    "My name is Thomas Chandler. Commander, United States Navy."
    • In "Unreal City", Amy Granderson tries to get Alisha to convince the crew of the Nathan James to surrender and join forces with her. Alisha's reply is succinct and to the point:
    "As a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, I am qualified to accept your surrender."
    • In the Season 3 finale, as a captured Allison Shaw is monologuing how her defeat means nothing, because America as a whole as failed anyway, Chandler shuts her up by shooting her mid-sentence.
  • Starter Villain: Admiral Ruskov turned out to be this. Ruskov is merely homicidally insane. Amy Granderson on the other hand is homicidal, but quite sane...
  • State Sec: Elements of the Maryland State Police act as the muscle for Granderson's faction. Granderson herself hopes to incorporate Nathan James crew into her scheme, hence her sounding her daughter out over whether or not Chandler will play ball.
    • Agents of the Chinese Ministry of State Security pursue the heroes throughout Season 3.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: This being a Michael Bay production, the pilot naturally features several explosions, including a nuclear one.
  • Submarine Pirates: The dynamic of the immunes aboard HMS Achilles. Whereas Nathan James functions as any professional naval ship, their opposition act as ragtag pirates who are loud and openly squabble with one another at any given moment. Besides the Rule of Cool, especially when the European accents come into play, it's justified with the crew being multi-national in originnote , their having been rough and rowdy types even before the plague hit and that there were no former officers amongst their numbernote .
  • Suddenly Significant City:
    • At the end of Season 2, St. Louis is declared the new US capital, due to its surviving infrastructure and centralized location.
    • Season 3 reveals that Hong Kong has become the new capital of China.
    • In Season 3, as part of division of America into semi-autonomous regions reporting to St. Louis, we see that New York, Des Moines, Texarkana, and Los Angeles become the regional capitals of the Northeast, Midwest, South, and Southwest, respectfully. (The capital of the Northwest is never mentioned.)
  • Suicide Pact: It is revealed that the Chinese Navy has a standing order to sink any ships that fall into enemy hands. Or that they suspect have.
  • Survivor Guilt:
    • President Jeffrey Michener, who was naturally immune to the virus, is suicidally guilty over surviving as his family died around him.
    • Takehaya delivered the cure to his people, but unbeknownst to him Peng had already exposed them to chemicals that blocked the cure from working. His guilt upon learning the truth becomes the catalyst for his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The Russian ship can have a boat pull up and park right alongside it and sit there completely unnoticed while on high alert. Their watch stations leave a lot to be desired as well, given that four escaped prisoners and their rescue party can move about the ship almost at will, only being challenged as they're being extracted. If the ship was grossly undermanned, which wouldn't be out of the ordinary given the Red Plague's effects on Russia and Ruskov's habit of killing his subordinates on a whim, then the relative lack of personnel is more realistic.
  • Tagalong Kid:
    • The crew of the Nathan James picks up Bertrice, a Jamaican girl, off of a fishing boat. They realize that she's naturally immune to the virus and her blood becomes a vital component in the experimental vaccine. She also demonstrates that she can stay cool in highly-stressed situations and is willing to sacrifice herself if it means saving the world. In other words, she fits right in with the crew.
    • The crew later picks up Ava, Tophet's daughter. She has much less of role aboard the Nathan James than Bertrice, other than to provide commentary about the failing state of her parents' marriage. Ruskov does mention that Ava made herself as big of a nuisance as possible while a captive aboard the Vyerni.
  • Take a Third Option: In the Season 2 premiere, Tophet's given the option of telling the police where the primordial strain is or watch his wife get shot. He decides to do neither.
  • That's an Order!: This is a regular feature. Not surprising, since it is a military show.
  • Time-Passage Beard: In Season 4, Chandler, Green, Burk, and Miller all sport bushy beards to try and disguise their faces. The beards also serve to show how much time passed between the Season 3 finale and Season 4 premiere.
  • Time Skip: Season 5 takes place three years after Season 4.
  • Tragic Mistake: Jeffrey Michener broke CDC protocol and had his son (at college up north) transported down to Florida so he could be with his family while the US government coordinated aid in that state. However, his son was infected and caused the otherwise safe-zone in Florida to become overrun with the virus.
  • Twenty-Fifth Amendment:
    • At the start of the series, the Speaker of the House is in charge of what remains of the American government since the President had died from the disease two months before and the Vice President succumbed a week later. It's soon clear that the Speaker is dead, too.
    • In season two, we learn that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development survived the virus. As the twelfth in the line of succession, he is thus legally the President of the United States. Unfortunately, it turns out he has fallen in with the Immune cult.
    • In season three, after President Michener is found dead of apparent suicide (later revealed to be assassination), Vice President Howard Oliver (who was previously the Mayor of St. Louis) is sworn in as President on his way back from a diplomatic visit to Panama.
  • Twofer Token Minority: One of the officers is a black lesbian.
  • Training Montage: The initial scenes of "Welcome to Gitmo".
  • Unexpected Successor: Jeffrey Michener, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Despite being 12th in line of succession, he ascends to the role of President in season 2, having survived due to natural immunity.
  • Uriah Gambit: In the first-season finale, it's mentioned that Alisha Granderson's girlfriend was deployed to a hot zone... by Chairman Granderson, who never really approved of her daughter's "lifestyle choice".
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • Amy Granderson believes that mass murder in the service of filtering out the "deserving" from the "undeserving" is justified to create a post-Flu ideal society.
    • Dr. Vellek believes that by chemically suppressing aggression in humans, a perfect society can develop.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: "Patient Zero", the doctor from the Russian battlecruiser, can be seen leaving the ship in Russian uniform - probably in disguise - before it explodes.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In "Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar", Admiral Ruskov begins to suffer this a bit. Understandable, given that all his prisoners are escaping and his ship's blowing up.
  • Visionary Villain:
    • The commander of the Russian Renegades, Admiral Ruskov.
    • Amy Granderson, who leads Avocet, the quasi-corporate/governmental overseer of Baltimore.
    • Sean Ramsey, the leader of a cult of naturally-immune survivors.
  • Wait Here: The scientist Rachel Scott is told to stay on the ship at Gitmo, so of course she leaves at the first possible chance.
  • Was Actually Friendly: "Warlord" Thorwald is set up as a villain, complete with creepy music, a raggedy group of supporters, and is given an introduction where he guns down an infected woman and appears to be consolidating his territory. It turns out that the apparent villain is actually a resistance fighter and former Baltimore Police detective who opposes Amy Granderson's plan to save only those those she considers worthy of the new world and is trying to set up a refuge for those who'd be cast out of Baltimore to die from the Red Flu.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "No Place Like Home." Nathan James does return home, only to find that the government and society have completely collapsed, the streets are filled with dead and infected people, and the only law and order comes from brutal militias. Chandler finds his family, but he's too late to save his wife. And the only government figure to be found is formulating a plan to rebuild society in her image while committing mass murder in order to achieve it.
    • "Sea Change" reveals that President Peng purposely sabotaged the cure in order to "clear the field" for a takeover of Asia.
    • "Paradise" reveals that Chief of Staff Shaw has been conspiring to undermine Michener and his successor to seize power for herself and the regional bosses.
    • "Scuttle." Kara Green discovers the regional leaders were planning to carve up the United States among themselves, leaving a rump central government around St. Louis proper. Additionally, they are planning mass incarcerations (or worse) of people who don't fall in line with their manipulation of the now-decontrolled food distribution network.
    • "Don't Look Back." Alison Shaw assassinates Price after cleverly drawing her to St. Louis to arm a drone first. She then kidnaps Chandler's children. Chandler and Tex, meanwhile, nearly successsfully take out her minions on the plane, except Tex has been gutshot and is bleeding out badly. Chandler's Heroic BSoD, combined with Shaw's nasty "The Reason You Suck" Speech, causes him to shoot her out of hand. He decides to leave the Navy.
  • Wham Line: "The virus doesn't discriminate. That unfortunate task falls to me."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Bertrise, whose presence brought about major developments throughout Season 1 suddenly disappears in Season 2 despite the fact that the Season 2 premiere picks up directly after the Season 1 finale. She pops back up 4 episodes later with no explanation, though it's implied she's become Doctor Scott's assistant. She is Put on a Bus in Season 3, presumably having left the ship and reentered civilian society.
    • Admiral Halsey, the Naval Mountain Warfare Unit's dog, is supposed to be practically attached to Danny's hip but the pooch comes and goes as the plot demands with no explanation as to who's taking care of him when Danny's otherwise engaged.
    • All of Europe is said to have been taken over by the Immunes. After their high command attempts to conquer America and is wiped out in Season 2, no mention is made of the status of the continent in Season 3.
      • Season 4 is set mostly in Greece, where it's revealed that Europe has turned into small city states with only the United Kingdom government surviving in continuity.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Chandler is not pleased when he finds out that his crew have been running a fake mission so that nobody on the ship would find out that the rest of the world's been going to hell. And when he finds out that Rachel murdered Niels without consulting him first, he is absolutely furious.
  • The Worf Effect: Wolf Taylor, an expert martial artist who is muscle-bound and lightning-quick, fights opponents who handily hand him his ass surprisingly often.
  • Working the Same Case: In Season 4, the James crew and the retired Chandler turn out to be investigating from different directions. Each didn't even know the other side of the "case" existed before they stumbled across each other.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • The Season 2 premiere shows a family being expelled from Avocet because none of the family members serve a purpose within Mrs. Granderson's planned society.
    • In Season 3, Secretary Rivera and President Oliver are pushed out of the way to make room for the coup by the regional leaders.
    • Shaw having Price killed at the end of Season 3.
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