'Last Resort' Review: 'Shield' Producer Presents Captivating 'What If?' Navy Drama
We live in a world gone mad. Everyday we hear on the news about unrest in the Middle East, unrest here at home and how we are always on the brink of another war. The new ABC series "Last Resort" puts itself in the middle of this current reality and sets up a "what if?" scenario that is brought off with style and realism.
ABC has released the show's first episode online, but audiences can watch it the old fashioned way at 8 p.m. EST tonight.
Shawn Ryan ("Terriers," "The Shield") produces and co-writes the first episode, and Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") takes on directing duties. Veteran actors Andre Braugher and Robert Patrick along with Scott Speedman headline the cast.
The show starts off quick enough. After being introduced to the U.S. ballistic missile submarine Colorado and the crew, including Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), we observe the quiet vessel receive an order to launch missiles at Pakistan. The men and women go through their normal duties to prepare for such a launch.
As the XO and Captain are about to turn their keys and end countless lives, they begin to ask questions. Which we know is always a bad idea in today's world of secrecy and fuzzy legalities. After questioning why the order came through secondary channels, the Colorado is fired upon by a fellow American vessel. They decide to hole up on an island and make their stand against the very nation they serve.
Back at home, the news reports that it was Pakistan that attacked the Colorado. Thus, another war commences. But, the Colorado and their Captain will not tolerate their lives being put in danger nor the endless propaganda being fed to the American people.
"Last Resort" never tries to make any big political statements that push it to the left or right. It merely tells a story that seems all too realistic when one considers the amount of secrecy in our government's foreign policy and the unconstitutional channels through which we achieve things today.
The pilot not only sets up the major conflict of the show well, but introduces some smaller moments that hint at some great television to come. Captain Marcus makes it clear he is in charge of his crew, his vessel and the nuclear weapons aboard. He makes a comment towards the end of the pilot that worries Kendel (Speedman) and may suggest the show's central idea of questioning authority will not only be prevalent in the show's conflict of serviceman vs. nation, but in serviceman vs. serviceman.
We are also introduced to a group of Navy SEALs whom the Colorado picked up at the beginning of the episode and who may have more to do with what is going on than they care to tell. Not to mention the already existing politics on the island the crew chooses to inhabit and the NATO station they take control of there.
The pilot works well when we are on board the submarine or with the crew of the Colorado. Campbell directs with great urgency and professionalism. He never puts style before story and never gets heavy handed. He simply keeps a good pace and knows how to photograph his actors so nothing comes across as too phony.
When we are away from the crew, the show tends to lose some steam. A lot is introduced outside of the crew and their situation, but never fully explained. Hopefully, later episodes change this.
Speedman, Braugher and Patrick all give great performances. They deserve for something this good to work in their favor, and it does.
Ryan clearly knows how to set up a series at this point. He's a pro after years of banging out quality series like "Terriers" and "The Shield." He knows when to give and when not to and he knows exactly how to set emotional arcs and conflicts up for a series as evidenced by this pilot here.
"Last Resort" is not for everyone. Some are for blindly following their government to the depths of God only knows where, and perhaps they should stay away (though there are characters in the pilot who express this emotion). However, "Last Resort" never makes major political speeches or major political stands in its opening act. It merely means to be a story of both patriotism and defiance and the relationship these two words have with one another.
That relationship is, essentially, at the heart of America's long and complicated history.