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'Last Resort' Weaves a Complicated Web, But We're Willing to Untangle It

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Sep 28, 2012 | 7:39am EDT

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I'll admit it took me two viewings to get into ABC's between-a-submarine-and-a-hard place drama, Last Resort. And that's because it's not a show that can be enjoyed passively. The first time around, I allowed for distractions. My cell phone, a little email, and some Twittering. This was a mistake. Shawn Ryan's new drama is not one for the social-media-addicted. It requires its viewers to be attention until it's said what it needs to say. And for now, we're listening. 

That being said, we're listening as long as the series is willing to serve up some answers — or at least some seriously intriguing complications. The crux of the pilot is the fate of the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado. After surfacing long enough to rescue a raft full of soldiers who are suspiciously silent, Captain Marcus Chaplain (Andre Braugher) sustains a questionable command to fire on Pakistan from an auxiliary command center. With the support of his XO Sam Kendall (Scott Speedman), he questions the order and inadvertently makes his sub the target of a U.S. strike.

After a miraculous recovery, bringing the sinking sub back to the surface, the survivors seek shelter on a small island with a NATO base. The NATO commander is aware that the assault vehicle is the U.S.S. Illinois. The U.S. is firing on its own people and of course the big question is why? The plot thickens when the American media reports that the U.S.S. Colorado was sunk. Luckily, once Sam takes control of the NATO base, he and the other crew members make contact with their loved ones, spreading a tiny wave of truth through the states.

Kylie Sinclair, Washington lobbyist, reveals that her father's company's system meant to hide a ship's magnetic signature was placed on the U.S.S. Colorado. We're not quite sure what that means for the sub just yet, but it does give her a reason to demand an audience with Admiral Shepard, father to the U.S.S. Colorado's Lieutenant Grace Shepard, and accuse him of ordering the hit on the Colorado. One small problem: he didn't even know it had happened and when he asked about it, the White House told him Pakistan was the aggressor. Suddenly, this U.S. conspiracy is a little more complicated than we thought. Who is generating these violent, unwarranted orders if not the head of the Navy? Is it someone high up, or are these mysterious, angry men the Colorado rescued leading some underground guerrilla army and fooling everyone? Who is the crew going up against now that they've gone rogue in the South Pacific? And if that wasn't a big enough question mark, things get even hotter when the U.S. fires on Pakistan anyway.

By the end of the episode, the Colorado crew is divided, with dissenters crying foul over Marcus and Sam's decision to secede from the Navy in order to do what's right (here comes the "Honor is Defiance" tagline). When the U.S. sends two more missiles towards the Colorado, Marcus fires back by firing a nuclear missile into the Atlantic, not too far from D.C. as a means of sending a message. Then he broadcasts an actual message to the American people, asserting his patriotism, calling out whoever called for the attacks on both Pakistan and the Colorado, and vowing that he and his crew will not be a part of a country that fired on its own people. He declares the island a no man's land and threatens anyone who violates their perimeter with one of the many nuclear weapons they have aboard the sub. And while it seems a little like he's just fanning the flames of the nuclear war started by this unknown force by throwing another nuclear threat into the ring, he explains that the only way for their rebellion to be effective is for their capability for destruction to be known. And as Sam assures us, his speech is "just crazy enough." And yes, they're going to be on that island for a while. 

Even with all its intriguing questions and thought-provoking premise, the pilot isn't without its issues. While the crew and the dialog on the submarine itself read at an almost cable-network level of sophistication, the events back home are a little more big network friendly. It creates a little bit of a disconnect - generated largely by Kylie's first scene in which she's straddling a man in her underwear while explaining the operations of the Colorado like it's dirty talk - but hopefully, that will find its footing as the series continues. 

The main point is that Last Resort has got the goods: two solid leading men, good writing, a complex mystery, and plenty of the fun stuff to punctuate it all. As long as this mysterious plot continues to thicken without dropping so many complications it leaves us in the dust, we could be looking at one of the next great Primetime dramas. 

What did you think of Last Resort?

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

[Photo Credit: Mario Perez/ABC]

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