Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 Pilot Preview: "Last Resort"

Network: ABC
Premieres: Thursday, September 27 at 8:00 pm

“We have 17 more nuclear missiles aboard, and we will not hesitate to unleash fiery hell down upon you. Test us, and we will all burn together.”
-Captain Chaplin

While not associated with Tom Clancy in any way, “Last Resort,” which will officially air on ABC this coming week, very much continues in the tradition of Clancy classics like “The Hunt for Red October” and “Clear and Present Danger.” The show follows the crew of a submarine, captained by Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) who find themselves in deep trouble (as in their own fellow military try to kill them trouble) after questioning an order to fire a nuclear weapon on Pakistan. The submarine crew makes their way to an exotic island to make their stand. While hiding out in their not-so-safe oasis, they must fight large forces like the individuals in government who wanted to start the war with Pakistan and smaller forces like the drug lord who thinks he runs the island. Both seem like they’ll be equally challenging to deal with for different reasons. And I suppose, since this is television, there will be plenty of life and love along the way.

The best thing that “Last Resort” has going for it is the cast. Andre Braugher is a legend. From “Homicide: Life on the Streets” (shout out to my Baltimore!) to “Men of a Certain Age,” he has proven to be an incredibly talented and versatile actor. While this role isn’t really a stretch for him (authoritative Baltimore detective isn’t all that far removed from authoritative Navy captain), he still acquits himself exactly as well as you would expect. A scene at the end of the episode where he broadcasts a warning to any government (including the United States) that would threaten his crew is especially notable. Scott Speedman as XO Sam Kendal and Daisy Betts as Lieutenant Grace Sheppard also gave memorable performances. I think they were especially effective because we got to meet people who cared about those two characters back home- Kendal’s wife and Sheppard’s father (who happens to be an Admiral). Two other actors we like here at MTVP appearing in “Last Resort” are Autumn Reeser and Dichen Lachman. Reeser, as a no nonsense defense contractor lobbyist, is playing a very different character from bubbly, naive scientist Kate on “No Ordinary Family.” Lachman plays a bartender on the island where the submarine crew take refuge. We haven’t seen much from her yet, but her exemplary work on “Dollhouse” suggests that when she gets more material to work with, she’ll be great.

The creative team behind “Last Resort” also has a pedigree which suggests that unless you have my particular hang-ups (more on that later), “Last Resort is probably worth a watch. Veteran writer/producer Shawn Ryan is a co-creator. Shawn Ryan spent some time writing for Joss Whedon’s “Angel,” and he is also the creator of a plethora of shows, including “The Shield,” “The Unit,” “Lie to Me,” and “The Chicago Code.” With his experience on “The Shield” and “The Unit” especially (a police and a military drama respectively), Ryan seems especially well suited to helm “Last Resort.” I have never personally watched any of the shows Ryan has created (police and military stories aren’t generally my thing), but his work has generally been very critically well reviewed.

The pace of the pilot was tight and the tension was maintained throughout the episode. I suppose that when nuclear missiles are in play, it’s not too difficult to create tension. The uncertainty behind just who in the government is behind the mysterious orders that were sent to the sub and what they really want also adds to the tension and intrigue. I found it interesting that even Reeser’s defense contractor lobbyist character had no clue this sequence of events was going to happen. It’s pretty well known that in DC, top talent rotates freely between government and lobbying, so you would think she would have the inside connections to know what was going on. If that were the case, though, I guess we wouldn’t have much of a show. The hook of the show is really wondering who is trying to start a war/kill the sub crew and if they’re going to succeed. I’m a little more skeptical about the on-island drama. I feel like somebody wanting to start a war is enough drama. We don’t need for the crew to have to deal with a self-important drug lord, too. I feel like it might take too much attention away from the bigger picture. On the other hand, the military intrigue alone might not provide enough material to sustain a series. Even with the extra drama of the island drug lord, I do wonder about the longevity potential for this plot. I don’t think the writers could stretch out the answers to the central questions posed in the pilot beyond one season without running into serious difficulties.

All of these positives being said, I don’t think I will be continuing to watch (or blog) “Last Resort.” As I already said, military dramas aren’t really my thing. My dad’s inexplicable love for “JAG” couldn’t even change that. More importantly, though, the subject just hits a little too close to home as far as things that creep me out. While I think (hope) there’s nobody with a lot of power immanently planning something like this, the military/industrial complex is real and pervasive. I’ve lived in Maryland for over six years, one of those years literally across the street from DC. I live right in the heart of what the Washington Post calls “Top Secret America.” I also spent a year driving past the NSA several days a week as part of my regular commute (no, I wasn’t stalking them). So yeah, I’ll stop there because something I’ve written in this post has probably triggered the NSA itself (I’m not paranoid, I promise!). I guess you can see why I might find “Last Resort” a little disconcerting.  That's a "me" thing, though, so if you are a fan of good drama (especially military drama) and don't get freaked out by government consipiracy stuff, by all means tune in.

1 comment:

  1. This is the kind of drama that TV has been missing for years now and I hope that this show does well and sticks around. Andre Braugher does a fantastic job at being the Captain of this sub and it shows. He’s commanding, willing to take risks but still makes sure that his crew is safe. I’ve already got my Hopper set to record the show when it premieres tomorrow and I’m pretty excited. Some of my DISH co-workers will be watching as well and the anticipation of what this show will turn out to be is high. I hope that finally after years of lackluster shows that I’ll finally be entertained again.