Last Resort: Pilot

I've been rooting for this show since pilot season. The premise was intriguing - a US sub disobeys orders to fire nuclear missiles and sets up its own government on a small  tropical island - but the cast really got my attention. I especially looked forward to seeing Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) and Autumn Reeser (No Ordinary Family) back on my TV screen.

An excellent promo only whet my appetite, so when ABC offered an online pilot preview, I dived right in. And was blown away.

The action starts immediately with the sub picking up a group of Navy SEALs (one of whom is badly injured) in hostile territory. There's a bit of a breather then, where you get a glimpse at how the crew interacts - the mutual respect between Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and his XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), the difficulties Lieutenant Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) faces as the daughter of an admiral, and some tension between the COB Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) and the other officers, as well as between the SEALs and the officers.


But just as the crew is celebrating crossing the equator, the ominous message comes in from a secondary command post (in Antarctica!): the Colorado is ordered to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan. Chaplin and Kendal follow procedure until the last step, when they both acknowledge that something doesn't feel right. The secondary post is only supposed to be used when Washington is under attack or similar circumstances, but according to D.C. television stations, everything's fine. Chaplin calls in and asks to speak with someone whose authority he recognizes, or at least to receive the command via normal channels before he wipes out millions of people in a country the US isn't even at war with.

He gets a call back and is relieved of his command. He passes the phone to Kendal, now acting captain, who also asks that the order come through normal channels. Shortly afterwards, an incoming missile is detected, and the sub dives, but is still hit and damaged before it collides with the bottom of the ocean. There are several casualties, including one of the SEALs.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) shares techy details about the Colorado as she romances a senator's aide, trying to get her device (which cloaks the Colorado's unique signature) onto other subs with his senator's help. A cryptic text sends her rushing to confront Admiral Shepard with what she figured out - the missile that hit the Colorado wasn't from Pakistan, like the media claims. It was from another US submarine. "You killed your own daughter," she accuses, but his shocked reaction convinces her he has no idea what's really going on. Also, uniformed officers show up at the door of Kendal's wife, Christine (played by Jessy Schram - Once Upon a Time's Cinderella).

Chaplin, with Kendal's support and despite open defiance from the COB and others, comes up with a plan. With some of their command equipment damaged, they head to a small nearly island with a NATO station and take it over. There they find out that the attack was from a US sub, and that someone else followed orders and fired nukes into Pakistan. Chaplin calls Admiral Shepard and gives the phone to Grace so she can assure her father that she's alive, and Kendal is able to call his wife.

One of the SEALs, James King (Daniel Lissing), connects with island barkeep Tani Tumrenjack (Dichen Lachman) as he requests storage for his fallen comrade's body and alcohol to drink his sorrow away. He's soon challenged by the self-proclaimed "mayor" of the island, Julian Serrat (Michael Sahr Ngaujah) and his goons. After stating in detail how he will kill each one of them if they don't quit keeping him from his drink, they leave. However, they only retreat to take a more aggressive approach toward these unwelcome "tourists," kidnapping two members of the crew.

Since now the US knows the Colorado survived (thanks to the phone calls and a betrayal from the COB and several crew who aligned with him - Lt. Shepard was forced to shoot one of them before he executed Kendal), two bombers head toward the island. Knowing they'll bomb the island even if the sub dives to avoid the attack, Chaplin issues an ultimatum - turn them back or he fires a nuke at Washington. They retreat at the last minute, and the nuke lands in the Atlantic. Chaplin declares a 200-mile no man's land around the island, and threatens to nuke anyone who breaches it.

And the final twist? The injured SEAL ranting about how they had the wrong intel, that they killed the wrong people, and the one at the bar, sobbing at the attack footage and saying all this is his fault.

It's hard to think of something I didn't like about this pilot episode. The action kept things moving, the actors fit their roles, for all the drama there were moments with the right touch of humor, and the whole episode felt as polished as a summer blockbuster.

But unlike most summer blockbusters (no matter how many unwanted sequels get made), what hit me most was the potential for future storytelling in these characters. You don't get to spend much time with most of them, but just about every character leaves you wanting to know more about their story.

If Last Resort keeps up this quality, I will be watching every episode of the show.

For more analysis and comparisons, read my review of the episode on TV Breakroom.

9 comments:

Nadim said...

I just finished watching the pilot as well (and just about to review it for my blog too) but I had to tell you Katie that I loved it too! I'd been waiting for the show for so long and I'm so glad to say that I wasn't disappointed. Between this impressive pilot and Revolution's excellent premiere, I"m really looking forward to an exciting fall with so many potentially great shows to choose from!

Anyways, I'm really intrigued to see where they'll go next and if they'll manage to keep up the quality and nail-biting suspense as the submarine parts were the most tense for me and we probably won't be seeing many of those from now on as they're settled on the island. I guess we'll find out!

Patrick said...

I loved this pilot as well, definitely more than Revolution, which looks intriguing but I can also see the potential for a suck-fest if it's not done well. With Last Resort you have a top-flight cast, nail-biting excitement, plenty of teases about revelations and explanations to come, and a guy in charge(Shawn Ryan) who's not known for playing it safe with his storytelling. I don't know how many years they can keep a story like this going, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

zob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew L said...

I agree with you Zob. I like the concept but I also wonder how long they can stretch the plotline, then again FOX turned Prison Break into several seasons even after they "escaped".

Josie Kafka said...

To be filed under "I Must Be Cursed" (right next to "It was 102 degrees today and my A/C broke--that's 38 centigrade for my non-American friends"):

I couldn't watch this until today, and then couldn't find it legally online any place but Yahoo. I watched 39 of 44 minutes and suddenly it became unavailable! Grr! I'll bet the last five minutes were important, somehow.

Anyway, what I saw was interesting, and I'm curious to see how they keep the excitement going, especially on the island. And I'm so happy Autumn Reeser has a new show. I could never stomach No Ordinary Family, but she was wonderful in The O.C..

Did anyone else recognize Daisy Betts, the admiral's daughter? She was on Persons Unknown. :-)

celticmarc said...

Jut watched. Intense, gripping, excellent cast. And I couldn't help myself grinning because being so familiar with that coastline since Lost....

Top notch pilot. But with such a storyline, very doubtful this could exceed one season. We'll see.

ChrisB said...

My favorite new show by a long shot, at least so far. Suspenseful, wonderful characters, and a premise that could be sustained long term if the quality of the writing stays this high.

Yes, there were "homages" to several submarine movies we've all seen in the past (especially The Hunt for Red October and Das Boot), but I was swept along for the ride and only gave those films a passing thought.

The last five minutes were astounding (sorry, Josie). The juxtaposition of Chaplin's speech with what is happening with everyone else; the obviously distraught SEALs; Kendal's and Lt. Shepard's realization that their situation is not going to be easily resolved were all wonderfully played.

But for me, the line where Kendal remarks to Chaplin about being just crazy enough sold the show. A wonderful way to bring the show back to the beginning, but also to plant a seed of doubt in our minds.

Between this and The Vampire Diaries, Thursday night is once again must see TV.

Jess Lynde said...

Definitely a fun pilot, but I'm also wondering how this sustains more than one season. We shall see. I've heard the second episode is a bit iffy, but that's not uncommon for shows in the transition from pilot to weekly series.

What gives me great hope is Andre Braugher as the lead, and Shawn Ryan behind the helm. Ryan is great at balancing action with character, and I'm hopeful going forward. I wonder if Dichen Lachman will ever get real dialogue.

tricksterson said...

One thing you didn't menttion is that at the beginning it's mentioned that the President is facing impeachment proceedings. I'm sure that has something to do with this whole brouhaha.