Tuned In

TV Tonight: Last Resort

  • Share
  • Read Later
ABC/MARIO PEREZ

A really good drama pilot is like a submarine. It’s densely packed, purposeful and efficient; there’s little wasted space or dead weight. Everything on board has to justify its existence and preferably serves multiple functions. Characters are introduced and work around one another in close quarters. Yet it manages to glide forward smoothly and seemingly without effort.

There are a lot of reasons Last Resort is one of the few new series worth getting excited about this fall, but the chief one is that the pilot never lets you forget that you are in the hands of skillful actors and producers who know how to make an hour of television. Co-producer Shawn Ryan has made shows for both cable and broadcast, from dead serious to comic (The Shield, The Unit, Terriers, The Chicago Code), and Last Resort strikes a good balance between mass popcorn entertainment and idea-driven drama.

That pilot–which you may have already seen while ABC has been previewing it online, with good reason–sets up a thrilling action premise. While on a peacetime mission to test new cloaking technology, the U.S. nuclear submarine Colorado receives an order to fire nukes against Pakistan. Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) is immediately suspicious of the order, which inexplicably comes through a secondary channel—and when he asks for explanation before firing, his sub is immediately attacked by his own country’s military. Branded a traitor, he takes the sub on the run (with many of his crew members dissenting) and finds safe harbor on a remote island, entering a nuclear standoff against his own government.

(MORE: Test Pilot: Last Resort)

That’s the plot, and there’s much more to it: the mysterious nature of the tech the Colorado was meant to test, a sinister cohort of Navy Seals who were on a mission related to the Pakistani nuclear strike and a Presidential impeachment scandal back at home. But more important to the show’s future potential as a series is how nearly every scene in the tense pilot (officially titled not “Pilot” but “Captain,” a naval play on words) pulls double duty, establishing not just the stakes and the premise but creating a sense of existing and well-defined relationships among the characters.

By far the best is the symbiosis between Marcus and his “XO,” or second-in-command, Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman). No one should be surprised by a great Braugher performance at this point, but Speedman–who gave soul and depth to what could have been a generic dreamboat character on Felicity–also shines here. When Sam joins Marcus in standing against the questionable fire order, the decision seems based in years of trust and respect, though you’ve known the characters for less than a half hour.

But as the hour plays out, you sense cracks in Sam’s certitude. Marcus explains his strategy in the standoff in terms of Cold War realpolitik; like Reagan facing the Russians, he must give the outside world the impression that he’s just crazy enough to shoot back. The first crisis plays out stirringly, sketching an idea of honor that goes beyond blind obedience. But the pilot’s end—and the second and third episodes ABC sent to critics—raises doubts among the crew that Marcus may be doing more than just playing crazy.

The other lines of conflict on board the Colorado are similarly well-drawn. Like Battlestar Galactica, the show uses the close confines and constant state of threat to heighten basic conflicts over duty, honor and ethics, as the crew is divided over Marcus’ decision to refuse orders. Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts), one of Marcus’ loyalists, has trouble commanding respect, partly because she’s a woman in a still largely sexist structure, partly because she’s the daughter of an admiral. Master Chief Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) sees Marcus as a traitor: the order may have been right or wrong, but if Marcus can’t accept his role as America’s “unflinching fist,” how can a military operate? As on BSG, one of Last Resort’s strengths is that it takes every argument seriously. And as on past ABC epics like Lost and Alias, the show is conscious of putting every firefight, every tense countdown sequence, into emotional context.

As the Colorado’s crew takes refuge on the island–for all intents and purposes now an independent country–the crew’s situation feels no less confined and agitated. U.S. warships are encircling the island, and the residents of the island itself–including an established criminal organization–see the Colorado and its crew as intruders and, potentially, a lucrative prize.

The show’s parameters begin to expand, which gives the series potential to grow, but so far the farther the show strays from the submarine’s crew members, the weaker it is. The storyline back home in Washington, key to understanding why someone wants us in a nuclear war, plays like a sillier subplot from 24, and the islander characters (including Dollhouse’s Dichen Lachman as a bartender) are thinly drawn and only nebulously connected to the story. (Also, this is superficial, but the series is shot in Hawaii, and it’s distractingly hard not to see Lost parallels everywhere once the action moves off the ship. A standoff scene in the second episode is so reminiscent of one in Lost that I half-expected to see Sam walk across the open field to negotiate with the Others.)

Still, the second episode is a decently encouraging answer to the worry I had about the strong pilot: can this idea work as a TV series, not a movie? And look: any show that manages to remind me at once of Lost, BSG and Felicity gets some mileage with me. In its early hours, Last Resort lays in enough plot and character provisions to potentially last a long, long journey.

35 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
JuanFelipeCalle
JuanFelipeCalle

This show is dumb, even taken at face value. I can understand the captain questioning shady orders, but how can the show justify the sub sending a nuke near the United States or near anywhere to save their own hides, and yet ask us to accept these officers as honorable, sane, or consistent? And please don't say that being 200 miles out makes things safe. Can the captain really predict fall-out patterns, the effect on the stability of the country (my guess is that his nuke just made the evil conspiracy very happy), the effect on the environment, and whether any ship was close enough to the blast for the people on it to be killed?

William McHugh
William McHugh

Over all, I like it.  I'm into subs but didn't really study everything they were doing on then sub with a microscope.  I mean, outside of Das Boot and perhaps Hostile Waters what submarine movie is accurate?  Almost none of them.  If you can get past this and the ridiculous notion that they could have a SSBN stealth device on board (yeah right), it's not too bad.  

I just hope they don't water this down and dwell on the island people (bad move) and the Washington stuff.

This isn't a multiple year show either.  It should last 2  years max, unless Captain Ahab Marcus is going to taxi people around the oceans like a modern version of Voyage to the bottom of the Sea!    Hopefully he will get to sink another sub before it's over.

rconaway
rconaway

This is absolutely one of the best shows I've ever watched.  The scenario is plausible enough to be realistic and could be our future.  Even my wife, the queen of real-life TV, is hooked.

Brian Rhoades
Brian Rhoades

this show is nothing more than liberal propaganda, big bad evil US attacks insentient Pakistan and a traitor military nut that refuses to execute his orders.

William McHugh
William McHugh

Well, it's more like kind of a grab from Crimson Tide.  I don't think you could have the show if the guys obeyed orders- not much drama there.

Jason Voulgaris
Jason Voulgaris

I thought it was/is a good show. TV and movies sole purpose is to entertain. To take us away from the hustle and bustle of real life. Why the heck would I want to watch about everyday life...when I have to live it? To those who say it is unrealistic...WHO CARES!?! Just watch and be happy or don't watch and be grumpy all the time.

bmatheson
bmatheson

Fortunately the Submarine Realists amount to nothing more than a drop in the bucket of viewers, and whether they watch or not will have no effect on the ratings.

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

OK this show is absolutely one of the stupidest things to hit TV.

1) Antartica Station...really come on......doesn't exist due to treaty.  Neutral Propety

2) No COB would talk to any Officer on a first name basis - especially a female - and after what has already happened.

3) No SSBN on station would EVER pick up SEALS - EVER absolutely one of the stupidest moments in the show.

4) Drinking on a US Warship underway on a Strategic Deterent Patrol - BS.  The crew would smell it on their breath and in the air......

5) Comms are not even close - TV really? Voice Comms in the control room so that all can hear? Nope......why is the idiot Officers talking into mike to the helm when they are less than 3 feet away?  Unreal.....

6) Seals are armed - NO FRICKEN WAY-EVER all weapons are safed and stowed unless there is a need for them INCLUDING SEALS.

7) No such thing as a ASW cruise missiles...period

8) After running your 18000 ton submarine into the bottom of the ocean at 18plus knots you have the following problems - No sonar Dome (it is plastic - GRP), No missiles (you may have cracked the solid propellent and that would result in a big BOOOOOOMMMM, NO PROPULSION as you just sucked tons of silt and sand into your MSW and ASW systems IF your reactor stayed up.  NO SCREW - this means no underway- especially planning up from the bottom.  NO SONAR AT ALL - you just crushed your sonar dome, your hull array and destroyed your Towed arrays......idiots.......this show is terrible.........

Look if you work for ABC understand that having some degree of technical accuracy is nesscessary to sell this show.  You even have numbers on the sail which is an operational no no......numbers go on the sail in port or during CoC..........

William McHugh
William McHugh

I thought submarine captains could no longer independently launch nukes on their own.  

How does the Pegasus clocking device shield the noise from her location and hide the sub?  Perhaps the Pegasus plays really bad rap music and the people looking for the sub can't stand it and turn off the sonar.I kind of enjoy the show but I'm not debating anything here, you're right.

CTCBill
CTCBill

  Relax  sragsdo416,  I’m a CTC from the old NAVSECGRU.  We are mostly shore based, but you can see us on DDG’s, SSN’s and what I enjoyed most, flying off a CV in a A-3 Skywarrior; actually what I enjoyed most was landing on one piece.  

 

  I watched the first episode and then turned on the second one (with a bowl of pop-corn and a couple of Scotches) to enjoy how much they can get wrong in 24 minutes. I think it’s impressive that they can cram so much inaccuracy into that space of time.

 

JJ
JJ

It's entertainment fiction you knucklehead, it isn't supposed to be realistic. 

CDRPA
CDRPA

OK so go start your own submarine reality tv show. With all due respect, you really need to get a grip. So you know your subs, but most of us here are not military or sub experts. I for one hate reality tv and watch FICTIONAL shows to get away from the realities of life. Fiction, fantasy, good ole fashion BS. It's all good. Try it, you'll like it!

Isaac Rabinovitch
Isaac Rabinovitch

I think "Antartica" was supposed to be the code name of a comm network, not a reference to a military base at the South Pole. But aside from that, thanks for the list.

I think you forgot one: ability to abort a ballistic missle strike *after* launch? Really? And if they can do it from the sub, why can't they do it from DC?

mfow3
mfow3

I couldn't stand to watch more than 10 minutes of this disaster of a submarine drama. I spent 6 years on a sub and could tell whoever made this did zero homework on how they operate and what really goes on in one.

chris o
chris o

Its a TV show and i watched it as such........its fantasy nothing more..........i like suspence drama's and this 1st episode was pretty good i liked the intrigue.......Nukes flying all over the place.....wondering why that SEAL thinks its his fault ETC whats really going on in washington..........good show overall i like it.........Network TV can't touch Cable TV though.....

Mike Yoder
Mike Yoder

I couldn't agrees more with sragsdo416... this was terrible.. awful acting with very little character development and campy dialogue. Adding to that is the fact that everyone on on this sub seems to jump at the chance to draw a gun or disobey orders.  I can't tell you how many times in this stupid show someone had an over-the-top moment of leadership crisis followed by some pithy stupid dialogue.. even the opening of the show I thought to myself.. "watch I bet it's going to open with some pretend emergency that actually ends up being a drill... and sure enough.. that's what happened.. couldn't the writers be A LITTLE creative.. I doubt this is destined for more then a season.

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

For one having seen the pilot I could not stop laughing. It was terrible. Whoever wrote this crap knows nothing about Submarines and their capabilities. It might as well be the starship enterprise. Utter nonsense. Having served on Submarines for 27.5 years I found that this show was poorly written, not fact checked with regards to technical accuracy and is a retread of previous material. I can only hope for it's early cancelation.

SteveKaKa
SteveKaKa

Travis implied I'm impressed that a stay at home mom able to profit $8138 in one month on the network. did you look  this (Click on menu Home)

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

For one having seen the pilot I could not stop laughing.  It was terrible.  Whoever wrote this crap knows nothing about Submarines and their capabilities.  It might as well be the starship enterprise.  Utter nonsense.  Having served on Submarines for 27.5 years I found that this show was poorly written, not fact checked with regards to technical accuracy and is a retread of previous material.  I can only hope for it's early cancelation.

Isaac Rabinovitch
Isaac Rabinovitch

Yeah, even I (hardly an expert) could spot a lot of silly mistakes. But I'd love it if somebody like you wrote up a list.

Keith Emerson
Keith Emerson

 Hey sragsdo416, it's a tv show!  You are not in the Navy anymore.  Go back to your Goatlocker or Stateroom and do some sweepers.

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

Hey Keith  get a clue first then come and talk to an adult wimp.  Tell you what - want to meet and discuss this in person?

MisterMiguel
MisterMiguel

The ship has a cloaking device so it would be more like a Romulan Bird-of-Prey than the starship Enterprise.

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

More BS cloaking device ROFL idiot

chris o
chris o

get a grip its TV not a documentary....

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

Get this - if you are going to deal with a topic drama or otherwise do your research and have some idea of what you are talking about.  This could have been a good show.  It is terrible.  A turd.  In the service it would be labeled a Hacker - but I would not expect anything like that in the show because all the need is Tattoo running around screaming "The Nukes The Nukes!"  Moron.

MisterMiguel
MisterMiguel

 

Get this. The scenes in the NATO station and in Washington, DC were fictionalized depictions too. Few would want to watch a show about your 27.5 years on a submarine every week, no matter how accurate its portrayal might be or how much insider terminology it used. The show is designed to appeal to the general public.

sragsd0416
sragsd0416

@lkalliance - you are comparing apples to oranges - they are using a TRIDENT Class SSBN - a known quantity that has certain capabilities. Unlike STAR TREK which was able to make stuff up as it went along, they could had a lot of license as to what they created hence why it was labeled as Science Fiction. Even in a Police Drama there is adequate research to resemble to a degree of some accuracy. Not so here. They took a shortcut and opted not to consult in order to ensure a better show - a short cut – I am calling them out on it. The show is terrible all they have is a boat load of drama queens and BS. In reality no one is running around with loaded guns and doing whatever they want to do on a Nuclear Submarine because in the end it is a very unhealthy thing to do considering the environment you are living and working in.

lkalliance
lkalliance

I think  you're overreacting. A television drama doesn't need to be consistent with "reality," it needs to be consistent within itself. The show itself sets up its own reality and its own rules, and so long as it remains faithful to the physics of its own little universe it can succeed. The starship Enterprise, as you noted, had no grounding in reality; yet Star Trek in its many incarnations was and remains a beloved TV drama.

Chris Kw.
Chris Kw.

Watched it online yesterday. My initial reaction can be found here. Overall, I loved it. Reminded me of when I watched the Homeland pilot last year. You feel like you know these characters much more than you will ever know the characters of Revolution. I've already seen a couple of critics speak of the second and third episodes in a more cautious manner. But Mo Ryan had an interview with the creators that made me feel a little better. For now, I just hope people watch tonight's premiere.

http://criticalsquare.blogspot...

--Chris Kw.

.

James Poniewozik
James Poniewozik

I'm posting an interview with the creators as well tomorrow, BTW--decided to hold it as there are a couple arguably spoilery references to the pilot. 

nycgeoff
nycgeoff

Couldn't be more excited for this tonight. I wonder how much buzz the series lost, though, by promoting the online pilot so extensively. I guess the slow-building buzz of the internet pilot outweighs the big-reveal event of the old-fashioned network premiere.