May 15, 2014

[TV] Last Resort: Season 1

Last Resort is one of those shows that never made it past its first season. I was reminded of the show because of some old Facebook posts that resurfaced recently. It wasn't exactly an amazing show and I can totally understand why it was cancelled. But at the same time I really liked the initial premise of the show and for a time I was pretty excited to see where things would go.

There's a part of me that enjoys these political thriller stories wrapped up with military trappings - in other words, stuff that Tom Clancy would come up with. I guess it was an entertainment segment that tied into the sort of news items that I've followed ever since my debating years. It's a bit of a nerd thing.

So this show seemed right up that particular nerd niche alley. But one thing led to another and the story plotting went in weird directions and the end result was a bit of a mess. And so as the season progressed, it became more and more clear that it wasn't going to last all that long.

Synopsis: Last Resort is a US military drama series created by Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek and aired on ABC. It managed to complete its original 13-episode run but it was not picked up for a second season as announced on November 16, 2012.

The U.S.S. Colorado is an American Ohio-class submarine and is dispatched to pick up a US Navy SEAL team off the coast of Pakistan. Shortly after the team is retrieved, they receive surprise orders to launch nuclear ballistic missiles at Pakistan. However the orders came in through an old Cold War era secondary communication satellite, which is typically used in instances when Washington has been destroyed or somehow disabled.

Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) then refuses to fire on Pakistan until he receives the orders through the proper channels given it is clear that Washington is still intact. William Curry (Jay Karnes), the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, then relives Marcus of his command and puts the Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) in charge of the Colorado. But Kendal also questions the order and the Colorado is then fired upon by the U.S.S. Illinois.

The pilot episode covers all that and how the Colorado holes up at the island of Sainte Marina and threatens Washington with elimination unless they are left alone. It's quite the interesting standoff and the island choice was also strategic - it is home to a NATO communications and missile warning facility. Thus they have some resources to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It's clear to everyone that there is some sort of a conspiracy that goes all the way to Washington's primary command structure. But figuring out how to unearth those involved is the tricky bit - one that seems almost impossible from some fictional French island in the Indian Ocean. They decided to throw in the a Washington lobbyist as a character still in the US, plus the fact that she represents a weapons developer that has some experimental technology on the Colorado.

Yes, experimental technology. Apparently the submarine is able to become completely undetectable by sonar and other conventional underwater detection mechanisms. I have no idea how this might apart from magic, but it's an interesting enough addition to the show. But it has rather limited use and thus the Colorado goes in the occasional mission or two outside the exclusion zone they eventually create around the island.

But wait, there's more. Did I mention the fact that there's drug lord on the island played by Sahr Ngaujah who is not happy with the US military staying on "his" island? It's true - and one of those indicators that the writers were going a little too far in their plot twists. Throw in all the interpersonal conflicts among the crew, the folks who are still manning the NATO station and all the other sleights of hand and you have an increasingly messy narrative. And given the setting, we have a submarine that doesn't really leave the island much, and thus this isn't exactly The Hunt for the Red October.

With the ship essentially stuck on the island and a lot of the crew drama getting really annoying, the show really started to bog down. And despite how impressive Braugher is as an actor, they make him execute increasingly idiotic decisions that make less and less sense. And it's not like the whole Washington conspiracy angle is all that better with the ultimately goals of the conspirators not clear at all.

Last Resort squandered a really good premise with too much fluff and overly complicated stories. Soon the whole question of what exactly had circumvented control in Washington had to take a back seat to the drug lord trying to take over the island. Thus the show only really could manage 2 seemingly pointless SEAL missions around the island out of a possible 5.

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