The Last Ship: John Pyper-Ferguson


Image copyright TNT

If you haven't seen "Don't Look Back" yet, then I can't be responsible if you continue reading.

I never expected to be writing about The Last Ship. That's not to say that it's not worth writing about, just that I have little room to add another thing to my To Do list. I liked The Last Ship from the beginning; it's solid entertainment with great characters and an intriguing story. And the second episode ever of the series really gave me something to come back for: Ken "Tex" Nolan, a guard that the crew of the Nathan James met at Guantanamo Bay. I was immediately taken with his spirit and affability, so different from the buttoned up, by-the-book naval officer.

So, I kept coming back to the fledgling series after their perfect casting choice in John Pyper-Ferguson for Tex. It wasn't only for him, but he was a big part of it. He brought a ton of personality. Tex was the most relatable and warm character, and I started really looking forward to The Last Ship because of him. It's hard to imagine he's gone now, because I never imagined it before. Tex was charming and sincere, bold but never foolhardy, easy-going and reliable. He also had a great warmth.

I love the whole crew, but Tex is the kind of guy I gravitate towards. But when you're not the lead that means nothing is guaranteed, and sometimes the people I most look forward to seeing get killed off when I least expect. Unfortunately, this was one of those times that the biggest heart was the biggest target. On the inside I was shocked, because Tex was a valuable member of the team and the best character, and I thought he would stick around. On the outside I had a steely calm and simply said something like, "Well, of course."

In the first two seasons, Tex had been indispensable, and he proved it again in the end when he helped rescue Tom Chandler's children and then saved Chandler single-handledly. I was cheering him on. The kind of character Tex was, it didn't surprise me that he didn't think of himself, that he acted on instinct to save a friend. It did surprise me that he didn't survive the encouter.

Death always seems to come to the characters I love the most. The way the story played out, it looked like the bad guys were down and the good guys had for once come away unscathed, besides Chandler's father, who had been murdered off-screen. Then Tex collapsed, a wound in his chest where a bullet had found its mark. It caught me off guard. I assumed that he would die in the very last episode ever, to get so close to the end and be the hero one last time, just to make it hurt that much more. The way they did it, now, it turns out that hurt plenty.

It was a heroic end and a good way to go out. But he had just found his daughter after three years! Personally, I would have given him a quiet life somewhere where people aren't constantly trying to kill him. They've got to be going somewhere good with this, emotionally and by possibly opening a new storyline for Chandler to stumble across during his self-imposed exile that the crew of the Nathan James, patrolling the waters, would not have. I hope the writers don't squander the opportunity they created, whatever it may be, and that they write Chandler next season with the pain of this loss, rather than glossing over it or having let a lot of time lapse so that the wound is just a distant memory. Eric Dane did a beautiful job with the shock of it in the moment it happened. It would be fantastic to see more of that and for the loss to inform his development of Tom in the future.

The series showed this season that it can stay afloat without Tex, especially considering the caliber of Eric Dane and Adam Baldwin, who have both had their moments in the series. And there were many well-paced, tense episodes where I feared for everyone. That shouldn't change. I still love the series for many reasons, but it would have been nice if the end had turned out differently; Tex will leave an enormous hole.

It was such an affecting exit for a character, I think it could have been drawn out for a few more minutes at least to show the true impact of Tex's passing and to pay respects to John Pyper-Ferguson for his contribution to The Last Ship as a fan favorite. It surely impacted me as a viewer and I couldn't stop thinking about how much I had enjoyed him. A couple nights after the finale, I found myself starting to type a simple tweet-long sentence about my appreciation for @Johnny_Pypes and his brilliant portrayal. Then something happened...

** I'm so sorry. This was a complete accident. The tweet took on a life of its own...

For some reason you always reminded me of Captain Weaver (Will Patton) on Falling Skies. Must be the grizzled veteran look. But Weaver I expected to die in just about every episode. I was always on the edge of my seat with him. I was so relieved when he made it to the end. I don't think I took a breath for five seasons; I was really attached to him. At some point, he even developed heart problems (so that the audience would have palpitations, I guess), but the writers had him survive through it all. So many times I thought it was his end; even when nothing was happening, I just expected something horrific. Yet somehow he made it. Surprisingly, I also made it through all those spikes of adrenaline. The tension was ridiculous with that character.

But Tex I knew would be alright and didn't need my concern, only my adoration and laughter. And then he *bleeping* got shot in the chest! I really love when shows don't spoil everything in the commercial and can surprise me like that. I don't appreciate the deaths of my favorite characters, but I do appreciate how they can move a story or character in a different direction.

When it came to Tex, I somehow thought he would live least until the end. I assume all of my favorites will be heroically killed off in the end. (I'm even wary about it happening in comedies now.) That's not to say it's something that should be avoided. It might be unwelcome, as death tends to be, but when a show does it right, it can strengthen my relationship with a series; I then realize how much it made me love someone who was just words on a page, brought to vivid life by a superb actor, but still not real. I think The Last Ship did it right, because what's been lost will have and has had quite an impact already. I find myself sad about what happened, but not with the kind of anger that makes me wish I never watched in the first place. Far from that.

I would have loved more time with Tex - a guy with such heart and loyalty and determination, as that tweet from @TheLastShipTNT mentioned - but going out unexpectedly while saving a friend was a great way go. I hope you're okay with it and they gave you a lot of time to process the reality that you would be leaving far sooner than anyone would have imagined.

Sometimes character deaths can break a show for me (Chicago Hope), feeling unnecessary and pointless, like they could have just gotten another job or moved instead. Sometimes it's done in a way that can hurt like hell yet make it so much more (Serenity), knowing no one is safe, making it feel more real, like you lost a friend. I think The Last Ship belongs in the second category here. I didn't throw the remote at the TV in disgust, though if I aged backward to my younger self then I might have. ;) I'll still be watching; the actors are great and the story intriguing. And the intensity, while not quite as high as, say, The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones (and I wouldn't expect anything to be), is definitely there and certainly has its moments.

I'll miss you and Tex, as I've said already in quite an embarrassing way, as I tend to do in writing (only in writing). Praise bears repeating, though. You gave him a strong yet tender heart, and your absence will be hard for many. I hope that doesn't upset the balance or lose too many viewers. I'm sure the series will continue on and find new waters to explore, as it always does, and I will continue on with fond memories of those who didn't make it, especially Tex...but never Allison.

Yeah, so I actually didn't mean to write all this, but my fingers wouldn't shut up even though my eyes were getting all heavy. This darn thing started as a simple tweet and now it's 1:45 am! I have work in the morning. See what you made me do?

** Kind of silly the way I started the Twitlonger tweet, I know. I wanted to first apologize for the length in case John might read it, and I also wanted it to grab his attention. Because I said some things that made me blush, I got nervous and didn't want him to read it at the same time, and I didn't know how to introduce the whole thing. But look at this! He did see and read it...or maybe just skipped to the end. ;-) "Johnny Pypes" seems nice and personable. It's hard to play a good guy if you're not one, because it comes off hollow, and the heart he showed in The Last Ship was full and genuine. There I go again, embarrassing. I haven't said that to him yet and I don't see that happening.

The screenshot I used is from my favorite Tex scene. At the end of last season, the cure had been found and Tex took off to find his daughter, spreading the cure, by touch, along the way. I put a pic in the post summary that wasn't spoilery, but I had to acknowledge his importance in a simple way and have done that in the image below. I originally wanted a heroic pose or action shot from this season, but a gentle, sad one is perfectly fine with me and probably better. I couldn't get a good screenshot from one of the last two episodes of this season, because the downloads wouldn't complete.

Image copyright TNT. Edited by Reinbeast.


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