Whale Wars returns tonight, and the two-hour special, “A Commander Rises,” concludes with an incredible confrontation that is more intense than most things I’ve seen on scripted shows this year. There’s also an online “episode”: Blood and Water, which is not about this season of Survivor but instead about the conflict that has fueled the series.
Where has the series been for the last year and a half, and why is it just a two-hour special? The answers are in my piece for The Atlantic Wire: the full story behind season six. Read it to learn about the new relationship between Animal Planet and Sea Shepherd.
Over its six previous seasons, including the fascinating one set in the Faroe Islands, Animal Planet has contracted with an independent production company, Lizard Trading Company, which has sent crews on board the ships. Not last year: it was filmed by crews hired by Sea Shepherd, who were supervised by a former Whale Wars cast member, who used her experience being filmed to film this season.
Tonight’s special focuses on the people who take over the vessels–including a new one named after The Simpsons co-creator who donated money so Sea Shepherd could buy a Japanese boat (brilliant!). (Sam Simon told USA TODAY that a cancer diagnosis stopped him from joining last year’s campaign, and that he loves the TV show: “the action is real and it’s spectacular.”)
Paul Watson was forced to step down as a result of legal action, so the four captains must lead, and together they are fascinating characters and case studies in leadership. Their actions range from incompetence (of course) to prudence to absolute insanity. The footage, which Sea Shepherd delivered to Animal Planet and executive producer Liz Bronstein edited into a two-hour episode, is surprisingly great.
As always, Sea Shepherd’s actions are morally and legally ambiguous–and the results are breathtakingly dramatic, far more intense than virtually anything else on television. The final confrontation in the two-hour episode is jaw-dropping, and is among the most intense things I’ve seen on television this year, reality or scripted.