A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’
LAST RESORT: Thursday 8PM on ABC
Previously… on LAST RESORT: The US submarine Colorado, commanded by Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) received an order–but mysteriously not through regular channels–to launch a nuclear missile on Pakistan. Chaplin refused, and all hell broke loose–another American vessel attacked the Colorado, and Pakistan was bombed anyway, killing over 4 million people. With the cooperation of his 2nd in command, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), and admiral’s daughter Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts), but against the wishes of old friend Master Chief Prosser (Robert Patrick), Chaplin took the Colorado to a refuge off the coast of the island of Sainte Marina, where the local bar is owned by Tani (Dichen Lachman), the local “mayor” (i.e. warlord) is Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah), and there happens to be a NATO radar base run by Sophie Girard (Camille De Pazzis). Also: the Colorado, shortly before all this happened, had rescued a Navy SEAL with ambiguous loyalties named King (Daniel Lissing), and the sub coincidentally (?) is equipped with an experimental radar-cloaking device invented by the Sinclair company, whose lobbyist Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) is an energetic DC lobbyist for the firm. At the close of the pilot, as US forces prepared to take down the Colorado, Captain Chaplin proved he wouldn’t go quietly by exploding a nuclear missile (albeit far enough off the coast of NY so that it was relatively harmless), and established a 200-mile no-fly zone around Sainte Marina.
Episode 2: It’s still far from clear how Last Resort intends to extend itself beyond mini-series length into a continuing story. The main action of tonight’s episode, written by series co-creator Karl Gajdusek and directed by Kevin Hooks, was mostly concerned with an attack launched against the Colorado crew by what turned out to be a Russian special forces unit out to steal a US nuclear sub. If this was related to whatever the larger story is, that wasn’t revealed or even particularly suggested in the episode. Also, a variety of shifty Washington security people and lawyers tried to convince Sam’s loyal wife Christine (Jessy Schram) to talk Sam into surrendering. The Colorado tried out Kylie’s new-fangled cloaking device and discovered that it worked beautifully–but back in DC, when Kylie asked a Dept. of Defense friend to get her a copy of the order that launched the attack against Pakistan, it led to a murder. And in his first moral test, King was a reluctant good guy, killing off most of the Russians before they could massacre Sam and Grace.
Last Resort was entertaining tonight, even gripping, but what is it? Every episode can’t be about an attempt to invade Sainte Marino and the Colorado that’s barely beaten back, or it’s going to get quickly repetitive, especially since the Colorado crew doesn’t have any real goal as yet, other than not to be blown up. The DC conspiracy storyline is so far of little interest–yeah, there’s a high-level government-related cabal that wants war for its own evil purposes, we’ve already seen every season of 24, what else you got? There’s only so much macho posturing that a series can handle, and some of the dialogue in tonight’s episode was awfully clunky, on the order of “One day you’re going to have to decide what you believe in,” and “She has faith and love–both of those are curable.”/”Then cure them.” Tonight’s revelation that Chaplin’s son had recently been killed in Afghanistan was sad but basically meaningless, since the show has never suggested even slightly that Chaplin could be unbalanced. With all this, the cast is very strong, and for now they’ve been able to bull us past the logical obstacles.
Last Resort opened with mixed ratings last week, skewing quite old for an ABC series (roughly 2/3 of its audience was over 50 years old), resulting in an unimpressive 2.2 in 18-49s, but a total audience of over 9 million. Both those numbers rose when 3 days of DVR viewing were calculated in, but of course these days that’s true of many shows (the networks still guard their comprehensive lists of those numbers, issuing them only when the results are to their advantage). At some point–and with those ratings, probably sooner rather than later–Last Resort is going to have to show its hand and tell viewers where it’s going once the weekly bang-bangs have subsided.
ORIGINAL VERDICT: Potential DVR Alert
PILOT + 1: Still Distinctive and Unusual, But What Is it?