ABC's biggest fall entrant into the television landscape is a high-octane thriller that follows the exploits of the USS Colorado, a naval submarine that has gone rogue after failing to launch a nuclear strike against Pakistan based upon some shady orders from a secondary Antarctic U.S. base that is only supposed to enact such orders in the event The White House and Pentagon are unable to or disabled.
When they eschew their orders to strike-a move that is met with much resistance within the crew's own infrastructure as well as the government, who fires upon their own ship-the Captain takes them to a remote island to declare themselves the world's smallest nuclear nation. It's a great and exciting premise, and tonight's Pilot is the best of the new fall season. Here's why...
1. The Acting is Solid
The show’s trifecta of stars, Andre Braugher—who rocked as a corrupt police detective on the underrated gem Hack—Scott Speedman (Underworld), and the always dependable Robert Patrick (T-2, The Unit) bring the thespian goods with a back and forth power struggle to maintain the dignity and lives of those on board while fighting to stay loyal to their code of conduct and command.
2. It Isn’t Just Another Network Police or Medical Procedural Copycat
A funny thing happens when your ratings are in a steady decline. Basically, you rip-off whatever you can in a desperate, nail-cracking scrape back out of the hole that was dug. In the case of Gray’s Anatomy—which follows Last Resort—you use the same plane crash scenario that worked so well for fellow ABC network stalwart LOST. Sure, Last Resort contains a few elements of LOST (see below), but we can all take solace in the fact that this show is not just another ER or Law and Order doppelganger, and original high-concept programming still counts for something in my book.
3. In Media Res
Unless you’re chasing a literary or screenwriting degree, you might not know what the aforementioned phrase means, but it literally translates to “in the middle”. That’s the optimal place you want your stories to start, because that’s where all the juice is. It’s the way to hook your audience and make them want to know not only what happens next, but also what happened at the beginning. Last Resort thrusts us right into the middle of the action with only several minutes elapsing in the episode before our own country is firing upon our protagonists. Talk about shooting out of the gates!
4. Two Words: Shawn Ryan
Sure, he’s got a head-melon like a hard-boiled egg, but this genius is responsible for one of the greatest serialized dramas of the past decade: The Shield. Boasting one of the most explosive final acts in any show I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen a lot—The Shield’s last season is something that still sticks in my mind to this day, four years after it’s final airing. One can only hope that Ryan will bring the same kind of ferocious and unforgiving storytelling that made that series an Emmy’s powerhouse. Either that, or we need at least one Vic Mackey cameo.
5. Loyalty vs Morality
It’s a theme that quite the staple in military/political dramas (think The Unit or The West Wing) and it’s certainly a thematic backbone to this program, as the USS Colorado’s defection is met with swaths of friction both from White House superiors as well as members of the ship’s crew. This constant reaffirmation and reorganization of the crew’s priorities, based on the shoddy information they’ve received thus far, is rich with strife that will only build with each episode.
6. Gripping Spurts of Action
The Shield was a program brimming with kinetic testosterone-infused moments that made even the most ardent hand models rip into their cuticles with reckless abandon. Last Resort, so far, is following that same pattern of explosive action, and show creator Ryan, knows how to properly inject these events into the narrative without losing sight of the elements that help underpin the seat-gripping moments.
7. It’s LOST meets Crimson Tide
A rouge group of U.S traitors—with nuclear capabilities—confined to their duties as a naval crew washes ashore upon an island with hostile natives underpinned by a mysterious matrix of political conspiracy. I don’t know about you, but that premise is what hooked me tonight’s Pilot episode, and I’m glad it did.
8. All the Elements of a Well Written Drama
Mysterious intrigue, internal conflict, familial struggle—all the things that make a good drama are on display here. We have several antagonists, some of whom we have yet to come across, and the series is setting up an environment in which allegiances are sure to change as the objectives of the USS Colorado will undoubtedly evolve, along with their intel of the situation.
9. Characters With Grey Hats
One of the things that makes great dramas is the honest portrayal of its characters as neither wholly good nor wholly bad. The white hat/black hat oppositional crisis is a thing of wild-west films, and it’s a dated device. If we’ve learned anything from The Shield, it’s that anti-heroes make the most intriguing characters. But, I don’t expect Last Resort to resort to the kind of devout black-hatted characterizations that made The Shield such an edgy and, at times, despicable showing (this is ABC after all). Nonetheless, it was welcoming to see Braugher’s Captain Marcus Chaplin, skirt the edges of terrorism by letting a rocket nearly miss the States instead of detonating the missile overhead.
10. It’s Candid Topicality Rings Critically
With Iran on the brink of accessing nuclear technology and our residency in Afghanistan still continuing today, this show comes at a time when nuclear fears are heating back up, and the question of whether or not countries will use these weapons of mass destruction in place of diplomatic measures is something that is at the forefront of national political dialogues. Ryan’s Last Resort is currently the fictionalized champion of these fears, which only makes the show even more socially relevant and potent.