Last Resort review – 1×03: ‘Eight Bells’

Courtesy of ABC

With the lives of three officers on the line, the Colorado embarks on a risky plan to smuggle contraband on behalf of island warlord Julian (Sahr Ngaujah). So what does the venture cost them?

Let’s bitch it out…

Well, as it turns out, it costs them quite a bit. After finally realizing that three missing officers are not AWOL, Captain Chaplin (Andre Braugher) meets with Julian to discuss terms. And they’re steep: Julian flexes his militia muscle by demanding Chaplin smuggle his contraband materials (we don’t learn what it consists of) past the barricade or else he will execute the prisoners. Chaplin agrees, but Colorado runs into some troubles and misses Julian’s dawn deadline, which results in the death of Redman (Chad Michael Collins).

This is juicy stuff…and yet it feels underwhelming. The stakes are high, and lives are on the line, but the dramatic tension from the kidnapping doesn’t pay off. Instead ‘Eight Bells’ feels like an opportunity to take the sub out for a stretch so that the Perseus technology that allows Colorado to disappear off sonar can be re-introduced. Whenever Cortez (Jessica Camacho), Brannan (Will Rothhaar) and Redman aren’t on-screen, I completely forgot that that was the purpose of the mission.

That’s not to say that the business with the sub – including Perseus using up all their energy and the moment of panic when it craps out and they become visible to the destroyers cruising the surface – isn’t well done. These scenes are incredibly tense and well shot (which is all the more impressive since this is a stock trope of the submarine genre). The scenes of Sophie (Camille De Pazzis) using her knowledge of the waters around the island to help Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) navigate the damaged sub is masterfully edited. I particularly appreciate the way it seems as though the two of them are speaking face-to-face. (Side Note: the real life romance is evident in the chemistry between the two actors. Gossip!)

The problem is that all of this should be in service to the kidnapping of three officers, but they seem like an afterthought for the crew. Even when we do see them being tortured, it’s a reminder that despite the terrible circumstances they find themselves in, we don’t know them. Until this episode we barely knew who Cortez or Brannan were. And while the off-screen execution of Redman is startling (me: so that just happened), it carries less weigh because he’s the d-bag that abandoned Grace (Daisy Betts) to die in last week’s episode. As it stands, it’s just not as powerful when the individuals being threatened are bad or we don’t know anything about them. This piece feels like it would have been great in the eighth or ninth episode – once we got to know Cortez and Brannan more and cared whether they lived or died.

Courtesy of ABC

Other Observations:

  • Another reason the hostage negotiations doesn’t work for me: I don’t find Julian threatening. Perhaps it’s his slight build, or Ngaujah’s line delivery, but he seems more comical than violent. Even when Cortez offers herself to him in order to buy them more time, it doesn’t resonate in the way the show wants it to (possibly because there’s very little follow-up aside from Brannan thanking her. I know she’s a soldier, but she just kind of shrugs it off. Ummm…you just got raped! We better see some psychological fall-out from this in the coming episodes)
  • The best aspect of the whole kidnapping storyline is the reinforcement of how much the soldiers have lost by becoming fugitives. Not only is Red’s body not returned to them, but the penalty for not surrendering at the top of the hour is that Chaplin’s dead son’s body will not receive a military funeral. This is nicely contrasted at the end of the episode when Chaplin and Sam watch the funeral for the boy killed in their crossfire. It’s a nice reminder that they are outsiders on the island and the outside world
  • The single worst thing about the episode are the Tani (Dichen Lachman) and James (Daniel Lissing) bits. Not only is this not character development (yes, we learn about Tani, but there’s no context for why we should care) but it feels – as Alan Sepinwall suggests – like a completely different show. I like both actors, but holy boredom!
  • A lot has been made about duty, honour and the rules of the Navy, but I still feel like the decision to release Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) from the brig is a bad idea. Even though he’s sworn that he won’t sabotage Chaplin’s efforts, last week Prosser made it quite clear that he doesn’t believe in Chaplin’s authority. I think that Prosser or one of his cronies may be responsible for the Perseus cutting out during the smuggling mission (or it was tech failure and I’m completely crazy)
  • Finally, I’m curious to see what fans think of the DC storyline with Kylie (Autumn Reeser). Some people didn’t like her character back in the pilot, but now that Grace’s Admiral father, Arthur (Bruce Davison) is organizing clandestine Deep Throat meetings with her and her Perseus plans have been stolen by her father, Bennett Sinclair (the deliciously evil Michael Gaston), this conspiracy storyline is heating up, no?

Best Lines:

  • Joe (to a shirtless insubordinate in the brig with him): “Get your blouse on Parker. It’s not casual Friday.”
  • Shepard (to Kylie): “You’re a parasite who traffics in war without ever getting her hands dirty…” Meow!

What did you think of the third outing? Did you feel like the smuggling business was more of an excuse to take the sub out? Did the kidnapping angle work for you? Are you interested in learning more about who’s responsible for instigating this whole affair or is that too The Event / Flashforward conspiracy for you? And what should we do with Tani and James and their terrible B storylines? Contribute your two cents in the comments below!

Last Resort airs Thursdays 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

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