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Last Resort series premiere recap: Guns, nukes, and Andre Braugher

The new drama about a renegade nuclear submarine debuts with a magnificently overstuffed hour of television

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Last Resort

Last Resort

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season

It would be an understatement to say that quite a lot of things happened in the series premiere of Last Resort. The new ABC series from Shield creator Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek kicked off with a debut hour sprinkled with several mythologies’ worth of plot. Not to mention the giant cast — for the sake of our collective sanity, I’ve assembled a complete cast rundown on Page 4 (with pictures!) I’m going to try to keep the recap of the premiere as simple as possible, working under two equal but opposing assumptions:

1. If the show triumphs over long odds and lands an audience in the Thursday-at-8 death slot, we’ll have plenty of weeks ahead to tease out the long-term plot implications of the pilot’s various threads, like the mystery of the Colorado‘s anti-magnet prototype, the mystery of the SEAL Team, and the mystery of whether the bartender on the island can actually speak.

2. If the show is a flop that gets sent into Cancellation Land by mid-October, then we probably shouldn’t go too far down the rabbit hole of figuring out whether the nation of “Last Resort America” — whose President is close to impeachment, whose government appears overrun by a conspiracy of shadowy military-industrial Manchurian Candidate types, and which finishes the series premiere in a shooting war with Pakistan — is intended to be retro-future vision of Cold War America, a nightmare-nuke alternate-reality post-9/11 America, or just the America from 24 the day after Jack Bauer retired.

So let’s just dive in and see if we can keep up, shall we?

The pilot began with the crew of the USS Colorado picking up a crew of Navy SEALs in the Arabian Sea, just off the coast of Pakistan. The SEALs were coming from a mysterious mission that apparently went sour. One of their guys was bleeding profusely; the rest of the SEALs looked like their feelings got hurt. But the Bald SEAL Commander kept mum about the details of their mission, leading the crew of the Colorado to go about a typical workday.

And what a crew! What a workday! We quickly met the gang onboard and got up to speed on some simmering subplots. Captain Chaplin is the commander of the ship, a submarine lifer who is just philosophical enough to remind you why you never want philosophers to have their finger on the trigger of a nuclear bomb. (Hint: Most philosophers go crazy.) He’s joined by his devoted second-in-command, a straight-edge Riker named Sam Kendal. Also onboard: The android-like Admiral’s daughter Lieutenant Shepard, the grizzled Chief Prosser, sassy lady sailors, misogynist male sailors, and assorted sweaty dudes staring at computers. They cross the equator and pump some Ritchie Valens out of the speakers and dance around wearing sunglasses. They’re all such good friends here on the Submarine of Love! Nothing could possibly go wrong.

DING DING DING! Things start going wrong. The Colorado receives an order to fire their nukes at Pakistan — the order comes in from the Antarctic network, which is only supposed to be used in emergencies. (“Emergencies” as in: Washington D.C. is no longer a place on the map.) Chaplin and Kendal get their nuclear keys ready…and then pause. “Why the Antarctic network?” asks Kendal. “They’d only use it if DC command was gone, or was rendered inoperable.” Chief Prosser asks them why they’re waiting: They have an official order to launch. Chaplin pulls his nuclear key out and asks to see what’s broadcasting out of America. One of the guys on the bridge turns on the TV and discovers that Hannah Montana is on TV. Presumably, when the apocalypse comes, the Disney Channel will not be playing Hannah Montana. (At the very least, they’d be playing the post-apocalyptic political thriller Cory in the House.)

Meanwhile, back in Washington D.C., we’re introduced to Autumn Reeser’s Kylie Sinclair, an unavoidably sexy young weapons lobbyist who is called away from an expository-heavy hook-up session by a mysterious text message.

Chaplin gets a shady-sounding guy from higher up in the command chain on the line, and asks to speak with someone with actual authority. The Deputy Secretary of Defense gets on the line, asks Chaplin if he recognizes his voice, and instantly excommunicates Chaplin from the Navy. That makes Kendal the new Captain and Shepard his new XO. Their nuclear keys hover, ready to fire. Then Kendal demands that the order come through on the proper channels. The Deputy Secretary of Defense — Henceforth DepSecDef — hangs up. At this point, the Navy SEALs come in. There is a frank exchange of ideas, by which I mean the Bald SEAL Commander and the Badass SEAL Who Looks a Bit Like Tom Cruise point guns at everyone. At this point, a missile gets fired at the Colorado, the team takes evasive action, and the submarine winds up at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Time for a Commercial Break!

NEXT: Things go from worse to apocalyptic