'The Last Ship' Bosses Discuss the Finale and "Rebuilding America" in Season 3

"The season finale is the first real victory after having a number of losses. It’s really the beginning of something," co-showrunner Hank Steinberg tells THR.
 Courtesy of TNT

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season two finale of The Last Ship.]

The Last Ship took audiences on a wild adventure this season that included shoot-outs with rogue sects of the population immune to the Red Flu, and Crimson Tide-inspired battles with a submarine, among other things. However, the biggest twist of all came in season two’s final moments, as the woman leading the charge to find a cure, Dr. Scott (Rhona Mitra), was left wounded and fighting for her life in a hotel room after going down at the hands of a John Wilkes Booth wannabe.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunners Steve Kane and Hank Steinberg about the thought process behind that scene, as well as what’s to come in the show’s recently ordered third season.

The final scene feels like it was shot with a sense of purposeful ambiguity concerning Dr. Scott’s fate. Was that intentional?

Steven Kane: It was purposely ambiguous. … We like the idea of showing that the show’s not over, that there’re still threats out there. Otherwise, it felt like, “Well, I guess they got the cure. Why keep watching?” It’s part of the structure.

Why the allusion to the Lincoln Assassination?

Hank Steinberg: The theme of the whole season was that America’s being torn apart and is in a post-apocalyptic civil war between the immunes and us non-immunes who have been converted and who are against the immunes. From the beginning, Chandler is in the White House and he’s looking at a portrait of Lincoln, thinking about the idea that America needs to be repaired again. So that’s something that’s an important scene for us for the whole season. That’s why we really love this ending.

Will McDowell be in much of the upcoming season? Many would suspect he had something to do with the assassination attempt on Dr. Scott.

Kane: He’s our prisoner, and presumably he’s going to make a deal with us to call off the immunes, but obviously he couldn’t call off his right-hand man, Curtis, who ran away during the takeover in Memphis.

Steinberg: You don’t know whether or not that was something that was initiated by McDowell or whether or not Curtis has gone rogue on his own and was a true believer and wouldn’t give up.

When deciding where the president was going to set up shop, was there a debate where it was going to be before ultimately deciding on St. Louis?

Kane: We thought it would be really, really neat to take the Nathan James into the heart of America. We thought, how great to go up the Mississippi River? It’s very American. It’s very iconic. It’s Mark Twain. It’s all that stuff. … To spread the contagious cure, you’re better off going to the center of the country and spreading it out east and west, north and south from there. We liked the idea of St. Louis as a central place. We actually have a line in the finale where they say Washington, D.C. was a good place for the capital in the 1790s and 1800s because that’s all we had. But the Midwest is really the center of the country in many ways.

Steinberg: We really love the iconography of the arrival under the arch, the swearing in of a new president, the dawn of a new day, and the promise of a future for the company under that arch. It felt very poetic and moving to us.

Are we going to begin to see the president build up an actual administration in St. Louis next season, or will it be mostly a two-man operation between him and Chandler?

Kane: That’s the idea, that season three will be about moving forward, now attending to the task of rebuilding America and putting the world back in order. That will require a makeshift team and a makeshift government with Michener at the head.

As far as the back half of this season goes, why did you decide to deal with the subplot of the submarine in the penultimate episode and not have it as a big battle in the finale?

Kane: We like to keep the audience on their toes and not knowing what to expect. It’s a little bit of a pro-forma to have the big action set piece crescendo happen in the finale. But also, the defeat of the immunes is really the penultimate step to repairing the country. We knew what we had was a situation where, yes, you could defeat that sub, but you still have to win back the hearts and minds of America. That was the next step. We felt it was important to devote an additional episode to the idea that repair and reconstruction doesn’t come quickly. You don’t just wipe out the bad guy, snap your fingers and have it be over.

Speaking of those family reunions, both Russ and Tex got to reunite with their families in the finale. Do you see yourselves doing more of that in the future?

Steinberg: That’s the fun of this new season for us. We’re back home and it’s a question of who lost what in the fire? Some people are going to find out their families were wiped out. Some might find their relatives. Some might find a spouse. Part of the fun when you come back in season three is seeing who’s where. Did so-and-so stay with the ship? Did they go off and work in St. Louis to help build that part of the country up? Did they go back and find their families? Are they still here? Did they bring their spouses with them? All that stuff is part of the fun and the mystery that we’re discovering ourselves.

With the airdrop of the cure in Memphis and the massive gathering in St. Louis, how cured do you envision the U.S. being as we go into Season 3?

Kane: St. Louis is just the beginning. Memphis is just the beginning. Let’s say there were 200,000 people amassed in St. Louis at the arch and in the area. If all those people get the cure, run around as far as they can go and cure two people by breathing on them in the seven to eight days that they have, a lot of people can get cured.

But, it’s just the very beginning. They have to get an infrastructure. This is what Rachel says to Chandler when she last sees him in the hallway. She says, “I’m off tomorrow to three or four different cities to help spread the cure. It’s not like it’s going to do it by itself.” The mission for them is finding infrastructure, pilots, planes, ships, cars, volunteers. Instead of just needles and glassware, just give everyone the cure in their lungs [to] go out and spread. By the time we get into season three, there’s a whole country to get out of hiding and get the cure before you can even consider things like rebuilding roads, infrastructure, electricity, power, [etc]. 

Steinberg: It’s a huge country [that’s] 3,000 miles long, difficult to get from place to place and so difficult to communicate. The season finale is the first real victory after having a number of losses. It’s really the beginning of something. When we come back in season three, we’ll be coming back to very much a work in progress with lots of problems and, of course, new enemies and new issues, new complications and all those things.

As you’re going to back into the writer’s room for season three, is there anything you guys want to tease before you go?

Kane: The adventure continues. It’s a big world, and we can go anywhere. We’re actually using that as an opportunity.

Steinberg: I think the one thing we can say is season one was about staying alive and then getting home. Then, season two was about getting things started in America and starting to put [the country] right. Season three is going to expand again into the wider world, which is going to be an exciting new palette and widen the scope of the show even more.

The Last Ship returns for season three in 2016. What did you think of the finale?

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