LAST RESORT: Thursday 8PM on ABC – Potential DVR Alert
The strangest new show on any network this season may be LAST RESORT, created and written by the man behind The Shield, Shawn Ryan, with Karl Gajdusek.
The problem with trying to evaluate LAST RESORT based on its fairly riveting pilot is that the hour feels like the first half of a feature film (not coincidentally, the director is Martin Campbell, whose feature credits include the Bonds Casino Royale and Goldeneye), not so much like the template for a continuing series, and it’s not entirely clear just what the series itself intends to be. There’s certainly no shortage of things going on. We begin with the US nuclear submarine Colorado as it crosses the Equator, captained by Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher), with Executive Officer Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman). Also on the crew is Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts), who happens to be the daughter of an Admiral (Bruce Davison) based in Washington, as well as Master Chief Prosser (Robert Patrick). The Colorado rescues a group of Navy SEALS on a mysterious mission, and shortly thereafter, the Captain receives an order to fire 4 of the sub’s nuclear missiles at Pakistan–only the orders don’t come through the regular channels, and when Chaplin asks why not, he’s relieved of duty. But his loyal 2d in command has his doubts too, and he also requests confirmation. That’s when an American cruise missile is fired at the Colorado, severely damaging it.
The Colorado dashes for the tropical island of Sainte Marina, where a NATO early warning radar base is located, and which is controlled by corrupt Mayor Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah). Also likely to be a major player there is the beautiful bartender Tani (Dichen Lachman). Meanwhile, someone does launch nuclear missiles at Pakistan–it’s not clear who–and a state of war now exists between the US and that country. But is it a legitimate war, or one caused by some US conspiracy? Oh, and back in Washington, the President is being impeached, and menacing soldiers have turned up in the Admiral’s office. It also turns out that the Colorado has some nifty experimental device on board, thanks to hot lobbyist? scientist? both? Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), that renders the sub invisible to radar. All this… and then Captain Chaplin, under threat from more fighter jets, lets loose one of the sub’s nukes toward Washington DC.
So this much is evident about Last Resort: you won’t be bored. The show has macho posturing to spare, and any number of potential storylines, variously among the crew of the Colorado (Master Chief Prosser isn’t happy about the Captain’s maybe-act of treason, and what’s doing with those SEALs?), on the island, and in the US. The show’s intended focus is less clear, although one assumes that since Braugher and Speedman are the major stars, we’ll mostly be with them. Also, the series can string out the story of what’s really happening in DC for only so long, and then once we know the nature of the conspiracy, a fair amount of the mystery will be gone.
So Last Resort is far from a slam-dunk. Ryan is the man who guided The Shield through 7 brilliant seasons and even to a satisfying conclusion–but he’s also the producer behind last season’s Chicago Code, which never really got going. Braugher is one of the best actors on TV, so Resort has a strong foundation; the question will be whether the series can organize its vast possibilities and tell a coherent and compelling story. Certainly its pilot earns it some slack to show what it has in mind.
ABC’s decision to schedule Last Resort in the 8PM Thursday slot is a head-scratcher. Although it’s an hour clear of similar competition, with sitcoms on NBC and CBS, X Factor on FOX and the younger and more female-skewing Vampire Diaries on CW, the intense series, seemingly aimed at an older audience, seems as far from an 8PM drama as one can imagine. It’s also a lousy fit with the women-driven Shonda Rhimes pair of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal that follow it on the night. It would be a shame if this promising series became the victim of its own timeslot, and one hopes that if the show lives up to its creative possibilities, ABC will move it to a more inviting spot, hard as that may be to find on a network whose line-up is largely composed of sitcoms and soaps. However Last Resort plays out, it’s at the very least the first new show of the season that feels truly original.