Last Resort review – 1×01: ‘Captain’

Courtesy of ABC

Early reviews have suggested that Last Resort is the best network pilot of the 2012 television season. Some have even suggested that it’s the best since LOST, which debuted back in 2004. So is it worthy of all the praise it’s getting?

Let’s bitch it out…

In short: yes. Is this the best pilot I’ve ever seen? No (that would actually be LOST, which was so out-of-the-box that I still can’t believe it ever made it on the air). Last Resort is of the same mould, though: it truly is unlike anything else on television. It’s not safe; it’s not easy. It moves at a surprisingly fast pace. In short, it is the very definition of unsafe TV because people can’t simply watch it while preparing dinner or ironing or surfing the net.

At the same time, ‘unconventional’ means that it’s more challenging to watch (and review) than other shows. At times the dialogue and action moves so swiftly that I am glad I can pause and rewind “live” television. Admittedly it’s not integral you understand every technical detail about the ‘Colorado’ that comes out of Kylie Sinclair’s (Autumn Reeser) mouth, but obviously when Andre Braugher’s Captain Marcus Chaplin makes an impassioned speech, you want to catch every.single.word. And the impassioned speech that Braugher makes at the end of the episode (the one that – in addition to his final conversation with Scott Speedman’s Sam Kendal  – essentially sets the direction for the series) is a doozy.

The majority of the episode is spent establishing the premise and three or four principal actors, including Chaplin, Kendal and Lieutenant Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) who is not only sexually harassed but is not well respected because her father is Arthur Shepard (Bruce Davison). Side Note: it’s unclear whether her status actually is responsible for her position of seniority, but I think we can assume by the way that we’re meant to side with her that these are likely unfounded accusations.

Also making a strong early impression is Robert Patrick’s Joseph Prosser, who is more or less the leader of the “mutiny” aboard the Colorado after Chaplin refuses to fire the ship’s nukes at Pakistan. There’s even a quick cameo (and subsequent death) by Glee‘s Max Adler that will surely contribute to the tension among the crew in the coming weeks.

There are a lot of unknown factors at play in the narrative, such as why exactly is the US at war with Pakistan? Why is the order sent via a secondary network in the Antarctic? How do these actions tie into the brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it news piece on Chaplin’s TV about “things going to hell” in Washington (where the President is being impeached for unknown reasons). And finally there is the question of what mysterious program the Colorado is using that Kylie is so desperate to see outfitted on the next sub out. That’s a lot of dangling threads / balls in the air (choose your metaphor) that promise to be resolved in the coming weeks. In terms of sheer “where do they go now?”, Last Resort is scores above the other more closed-ended pilots that have debuted so far this year.

Courtesy of ABC

Other Observations:

  • It’s clear from the pilot that this will be a male dominated show. Most of the women are relegated to subsidiary or even peripheral roles. Jessy Schram as Sam’s wife, Christine is the most underutilized (cry, plead, rinse, lather, repeat), but I was most disappointed with the use of Dollhouse‘s Dichen Lachman as Tani, who already seems relegated strictly to island barkeep and potential hook-up for Daniel Lissing’s mysterious James King
  • Daisy Betts looks distractingly like Anna Paquin to me. Am I alone in this?
  • Reeser’s Kylie is either fiesty fun or woefully unbelievable depending on your preferences. Her introductory scene, delivering Tom Clancy-esque exposition about the tech specs of the Colorado as foreplay is a little too West Wing for me (and the hair is nearly True Blood levels of bad weave). I’m willing to go along with her solely out of respect for her work on S4 of The O.C.
  • It’s uncertain what role the NATO employees, Sophie (Camille De Pazzis) and Nigel (Omid Abtahi) will play in the forthcoming island conflict, but I’m already not loving the tension with local crime lord Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah). This seems like an extraneous plotline added to fill-in the larger drama (since we’re unlikely to see the US military threatening to destroy the island each week). The shot of two captured Navy crew members in the back of his van immediately made me groan, so this is definitely “wait and see” plotline
  • In terms of “action filled” pilots, the sub attack is incredibly well shot by pilot director Martin Campbell. I’d expect nothing less from the director of Casino Royale and Goldeneye, but it’s rare that you see the equivalent of Crimson Tide on your TV screen. We probably shouldn’t get used to this kind of scope since the budget for future episodes will be significantly smaller
  • Finally, just a quick word about how excited I am to see this cast in action. Thus far the characters have taken a backseat to the exposition and action, but I am so looking forward to spending time with these folks as the series fleshes them and their new roles / responsibilities out. If there’s one perk to being an unconventional TV show, I hope it’s that ABC will give the show (and its ecstatic critical reception) a long leash so that we can latch onto these people and not just the high-concept, high-octane premise that surrounds them

What did you think of the pilot? Did it live up to your expectations, or were you expecting something different? Are you interested in the female characters, or do you think that they’re subsidiary to the male characters? Finally, considering the circumstances the pilot ends on, what do you think will happen next? Hit the comments below with your predictions!

Last Resort airs Thursday nights at 8pm EST on ABC

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

2 thoughts on “Last Resort review – 1×01: ‘Captain’

  1. Excellent pilot. ABC is good about giving their shows a long leash (I’m looking at you NBC) so I’m hopeful that we will see a lot more of this amazing cast. I heard about it via word of mouth, and was extremely impressed.