Staff Reviews

Last Resort: Sailing into America's Post-Post-9/11 World

New series explores our current cultural dichotomy of defiance and authoritarianism.


Action-thriller 24 captured the zeitgeist of fear following Sept. 11 that we were one successful terrorist act away from destruction and that any decision that secured the survival of the United States was correct, ethics and morals be damned.

In the 11 years since 24 encapsulated certain post-9/11 debates about torture and the ends justifying the means, that fear of terrorism happening in our cities right now as we speak has dissipated significantly. A show like 24 just wouldn't sit right now. Instead, we see dramas that are more consequentialist—terrorism not just as Snidely Whiplash villainy but as a direct response to how America has dealt with the Middle East, for better or worse. 24 begat Homeland (they share two executive producers), which won several Emmys on Sunday. Homeland's approach to terrorism is as much to answer the question "why?" as it does "how?"

Keep an eye out for drones, guys

Into this new view of the world and America's unsettled place in it sails Last Resort, created by Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Karl Gajdusek (Dead Like Me).

In the pilot, the crew of the U.S. submarine Colorado, led by Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher, at his Andre Braugherest) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman, handsome but lacking much impact in the pilot) are given orders through unusual channels to fire their nuclear missiles on Pakistan. An attempt to validate the orders through proper channels leads to Chaplin's removal as captain. But when Kendal also resists carrying out the orders, the Colorado finds itself targeted for destruction by its own military and seeks refuge at a small tropical island that also has a small NATO outpost. There, Chaplin makes a stand, demanding the United States back off or eat the Colorado's warheads.

The show offers a lot more moving parts than the summary suggests, and there's enough to see how the conflict can last at least one season. There's a Navy SEAL team the Colorado rescues whose mysterious mission clearly factors into the Colorado's orders somehow. Back in Washington, D.C., several characters have connections to the Colorado (including the Navy admiral father of one of the lieutenants on the submarine) that will keep the plot from becoming Gilligan's Island with nukes. The viewers are told through early exposition that the U.S. president is in trouble and facing impeachment, but no details are provided. The island seems to have its own crime lord who is not happy at the arrival of the U.S. military. And, of course, not everybody on the crew is happy about Chaplin and Kendal's rebellion.

The show sets the stakes extremely high in the pilot. Without spoiling anything major, there are at least two "Did they really go there?" moments (and yes, they did). The United States is unabashedly portrayed as the aggressor in the pilot, though undoubtedly some nuance will develop as viewers learn more about the circumstances leading up to the mysterious nuke orders.

In interviews, Ryan said he is aware of the political sea his show is churning through, but really he's focusing on the characters:

"First of all," Ryan told The Deadbolt this week during a call, "you just start off from a creative, dramatic point of view, 'what is something I'd like to watch?' Karl [Kadjusek] and I both really considered what the political situation was in the world as of last year when we wrote this pilot. But we're really focusing on the characters in the situation, we're not focusing on a political agenda."

In the pilot, though, the characters aren't really written strongly; instead they fit into well-worn drama tropes. Chaplin is the wise older man with a few crafty tricks up his sleeve. Kendal is the man with the girl back home he wants to get back to and start a family. The admiral's daughter is trying to prove herself as a leader and a woman in a sub full of mostly men. Robert Patrick plays a crusty master chief. There's even a fiery Latina in the mix. It's going to take some work to make the characters as interesting as the show's premise and initial intrigue.

Intentional or not, Last Resort certainly hooks into where we are now as a country. The show's marketing tagline is "Honor in Defiance," a statement that could apply to a number of political movements that have grown in our post-post-9/11 society. "Honor in Defiance" could be the catch phrase for Tea Party folks wanting to scale back government regulations and deficit spending. It could apply to Occupy activists wanting to cut the crony capitalist ties between Wall Street and Washington.

And, of course, it could very easily be applied to libertarians' traditionally dim view of America's foreign policy adventures that originate from both the left and the right, not to mention the conflict between the rule of law vs. the rule of men. Will the president's administration be sending out drones to try to take out the crew in a future episode?

Last Resort premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. eastern (7 central) on ABC.

NEXT: Police Investigate Racist Pics Sent to Mia Love

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  1. It starts tomorrow night. I’m glad it sounds like it’s going some interesting places; I have high hopes since it’s Shawn Ryan. if I recall, it took a little while for him to iron out the characters in The Shield as well.

    1. I expect a report on if it’s worth it, since I tipped you off to it in the first place.

      1. Sure, no problem, I’m going to watch it Thursday night and I’ll let you know.

    2. Being the creator of “The Shield” is the exact opposite of a ringing endorsement.

      Epi has anyone ever told you that you have terrible taste in TV?

      1. What’d you watch 5 minutes of it? “The Shield” is easily one of the best shows of the last decade.

        1. All of Epi’s pop culture preferences must be denounced irregardless of the truth.

          But yeah I have never watched it. the commercials for it looked silly so I avoided it.

        2. That internal affairs cop was my favorite Forest Whitaker performance ever.

  2. I’ve been excited to see this, since I am objectively pro-traitor, and I’m stunned that a network put into production a series where the heroes are traitors.

    1. Traitors? Seems like the whole point of the show is to question the meaning of the word “traitor.”

      1. Yes, I realize that.

        But during the pitch for this there had to be a moment where these guys walked into a room and told network execs, “OK, this show is about a US nuclear sub that turns on the US government and seizes control of a tropical island.”

        1. “One man, in defiance of his actual job, bravely refuses to fight the enemies of the country he swore to defend, and courageously risks everything to nuke his own fucking country. One man, with everything on the line, finds honor in total stupidity”.

          That is how I sort of see the tagline going. This is looks so fucking stupid. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

          And, BTW, in no fucking dimension that I know of are the OWS douchophiles morally equivalent with the Tea Partiers, unless you consider sexual assault equivalent to wearing tricorn hats….

          1. the OWS douchophiles morally equivalent with the Tea Partiers

            I bet you that 95% of the OWS and tea pirates are going to vote for Obamney….that seems pretty equal to me.

            On a side note I do like the tea pirates more then OWS. But simply because tea pirates have real jobs and pick up their trash hardly rises to the level of a “morality” for even a moral equivalency comparison to be considered.

            1. But simply because tea pirates have real jobs and pick up their trash hardly rises to the level of a “morality”

              It does raise the issue of competence. I doubt I’ll learn much useful about how to run the world from OWS people who can’t manage a decent campsite.

          2. “bravely refuses to fight the enemies of the country he swore to defend”

            True. I mean given how many Americans not invading their territory or neighboring territory the Pakistanis have slaughtered, we really have no choice but deploy our nuclear arsenal and murder millions of them. And sure, we might freak other nuclear powers nearby like, say, Russia or India, and provoke a larger nuclear war that could potentially kill billions. Really, under such an obvious moral calculus, how could any American not blindly follow orders?

            At any rate, it sounds like the captain and his second were deposed for actually trying to confirm that their orders were valid and that Anonymous hadn’t compromised their nuke-launching order network in the name of Ultimate Lulz, so it sounds more like they were betrayed than betrayers.

            1. Fiction != reality.

              Lest we forget.

        2. I am going to have to agree with Fluffy on this.

          The premise of this show is flipping awesome.

          Sadly I saw the pilot on Hulu like a week ago.

          The premise is awesome on multiple levels…the actual show is garbage.

      2. Seems like the whole point of the show is to question the meaning of the word “traitor.”

        Technically George Washington was a traitor to England.

  3. I liked this better the first time I saw it, when it was Seaquest DSV. And I hated it then.

    1. Bullshit.

      Both Seaquest and the Last Resort are rip-offs of 1978 Godzilla cartoon series.

  4. The Seaquest guys launched a nuke at the US? Dude.

    1. Unbelievable…

      And I get shit for telling every one that Tyrion Lannister dies in the 4th book.

      That book came out friggin 7 years ago!

      1. They show a sea-based nuke missile launch in the ads.

        And then a missile flying over what looks like DC.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that behind it all is a shadowy corporation trying to hide some shenanigans in central Asia under a mushroom cloud.

    And that the show won’t last very long.

  6. I liked Seaquest.

    This looks tremendously stupid, even if it is ‘edgey’ or something.

    1. This looks more like “Crimson Tide: the Series” than Seaquest.

  7. I have no idea how you would sustain that premise as an open ended series over multiple seasons. A miniseries, certainly, even one as long as a full season, but real situtaion like that would be resolved rather quickly, and if it is not it kills suspension of disbelief.

    1. You can get a lot of mileage, if not entertainment, out of turning it into a soap opera.

  8. Ten bucks says the ultimate villains turns out to be some standard leftwing boogeyman, like an oil tycoon or one of the Koch brothers.

    1. Arms manufacturers who want a war to sell their wares. Of course the and-in-hand relationship between Politicians / Generals and Corporations will be overlooked. They may mention a bad general or two but god forbid they delve into the inherent problems created by massive government spending and interventionism.

      1. Except nuclear war is bad for everyone’s business including arms manufactures.

        1. Lefties tend to believe that big companies operate like Umbrella Corp.

  9. I’ve seen the pilot. A good start. Now if it doesn’t jump the shark or run out of gas. Some series start of well and then run in circles while the writers try to come up with something interesting and entertaining. And then there’s the bringing in the second string writers, etc. after a series gets rolling.

  10. Those guys ae p[retty funny when you think about it.

  11. 24 had the stilted moral dilemmas of an after school special and broke towards sympathizing with our “better natures” and making the protagonist into an anti-hero. Given that that ostensibly represented the rah-rah Team America-ism of the post-9/11 world, if this series is its opposite I expect it to celebrate disregard of authority for all the wrong reasons. Think more evil right-wingers corrupting the purity of our “shared values” encapsulated in the almighty state rather than principle anti-authoritarianism. Occupy the Navy!

  12. What is the over/under on the number of episodes before it goes ‘LOST’?

  13. I’m guessing it will turn out to be as bad as “Revolution”.

  14. You could easily box the characters into traditional roles, but contrast the Pilot for Last Resort with the Pilot for Revolution. While both Pilots have character roles we recognize (and may or may not care about/like), Last Resort actually has a decent plot and world building. Character growth and development comes with time, with arcs that stretch out over the season. Last Resort has the foundation to build upon, while Revolution looks like another choppily constructed magical-mystery-whodunit with no answers.

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