TV Review: Last Resort [SPOILERS]
Last Resort – “Captain”
Season 1, Episode 1
Far and away the best pilot of the new television season, Last Resort boasts as strong a creative team as any new series, a few terrific actors, and a few more that were surprisingly impressive in the series premiere.
The series premise might seem poorly fit for an ongoing series. Captain Marcus Chaplin (the always terrific Andre Braugher) plays the commander of a nuclear sub who, after questioning an order to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against Pakistan, is fired on by a shady near-future U.S. government. He and his executive officer, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), take their boat to a remote island with a NATO monitoring station and effectively declare themselves a no-man’s land. Their nuclear warheads serve as the deterrent that stops the rest of the American military from ending this series before the closing of the pilot.
How many years can one sub commander with questionable commitment from his own crew stand against all the might of the American military? But then again a year ago I thought there was no way Homeland’s premise could last even half a season. At the end of the day, if I trust the people involved and enjoy the ride, that’s enough.
Of all the reasons I can’t wait to see where this show goes, the biggest is the prescence of creator/producer Shawn Ryan. Even if I didn’t adore Terriers and The Chicago Code in recent years (wait a minute, I did love them), his FX series The Shield remains one of the most impressive television programs from the last decade.
Braugher has proven himself one of the most dependable actors on television. From his work on Homicide to Men of a Certain Age, he’s never failed to impress, and his closing speech informing the rest of the world of the new status quo, creating his own nuclear superpower overnight, is riveting. The cast is full of other dependable actors we’ll see more of in future weeks, including a personal favorite, Robert Patrick.
The younger, less proven actors give me more hope for how many stories this series can tell going forward. Speedman’s better than anything I’d seen him in before, and with very little build-up I cared about the emotional consequences for Kendal and fellow officer Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts). Their calls to loved ones back in the states (Jessy Schram and Bruce Davison) were an effective emotional conclusion to the hour, given how little time they had to establish the relationships.
The pilot looks terrific, as beautiful as anything I’ve seen on television since Lost went off the air. It’s nice to see that gorgeous Hawaiian coast again. Even discounting the scenery, director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) handles the action on the submarine wonderfully as well. Things are tense and exciting, and if they keep it up Last Resort could be the best action series since the early years of 24.
Unfortunately, the one notable problem is that the pilot still comes off a bit rushed. It’s been a good while since networks dedicated the programming time and expense to complete a two hour pilot, but there are few shows that could have benefited from the extended treatment as much as Last Resort.
Betts and Speedman’s concern helps us care more about Schram and Davison, but other peripheral characters would have been better served with more screen time. We’re obviously meant to empathize with the story arc for lobbyist Kylie Sinclair (The OC’s Autumn Reeser), but there’s too little there. But an extra 40 minutes could have established and sold her character and allowed us more than a passing glance at the people living on the island and the Navy SEAL characters. We might have cared about them all which would have made the final scenes of their reactions to this insane day more moving. The abrupt change from the sub being damaged on the floor of the ocean to arriving and invading the island is brushed over too quickly.
But with Ryan and Braugher leading the way, Last Resort has more potential than any other new series this year. I just hope Last Resort sticks around longer to fully explore this world and its characters. Some of Ryan’s other recent efforts were killed off before their time and it would be a shame if this series followed suit.