Last Resort recap: Should I Stay? Should I Go?
It’s been a confusing week for the crew of the Colorado. They were fired upon by their fellow Americans. Their captain took over a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. They shot a nuclear missile over the skies of our nation’s capitol. The Russians attacked. A local island kingpin killed one of their crewmates. So it’s fair to say that morale is not at an all-time high. Chaplin still insists on routine drill sessions, but there’s a definite feeling of mission drift in the lower levels of the Colorado. At one point, the COB basically had to step forward to avoid an all-out riot. Unfortunately, the COB’s whole purpose in life is to drag the entire command crew of the Colorado — not exactly the most inspiring rallying cry. Things only got worse when the government officially charged Chaplin and Kendal with treason and terrorism.
So Chaplin decided to give everyone a choice. He set up two lists down in the mess hall. One said “Stay,” and one said “Go.” The “Go” list was looking like the popular choice. Kendal was not happy about the list. But he’s a good XO. He met with Seaman Cortez and told her that her vote was very valuable. See, Cortez is in charge of the female complement onboard the Colorado — which essentially makes her a valuable lobbyist for the entire female gender. If she could get all her ladies’ names on the “Stay” list, then maybe the boys would stay. (The precise reason for this was left in the air: Would the boys be ashamed that the ladies had more brass than them? Or would they be attracted by the possibility of a season-2 love interest?) Cortez grinned and said that Chaplin would have the female vote. This, I think, is the stuff I enjoy the most about Last Resort: The idea that the little civilization on Chaplin Island is already forming up into different groups, all of them important to maintaining order.
Order quickly descended into chaos, however, when Chaplin barely survived an assassination attempt in the middle of town. One of his own sailors had fired upon him, acting on orders from “a higher authority.” A kill order had gotten through to the sailors on the Colorado straight from the desk of the Secretary of Defense. Kendal suggested that Chaplin hole up in NATO HQ, in a bullet-proof room with no windows and no doors. Chaplin announced his intention to stage the daily drill regardless, even though any member of his crew could feasibly put a bullet in his brain.
Over at the local watering hole, James has his own daily drill: Testing just how long it takes him to go from “hungover” to “blackout drunk.” This routine was interrupted when the injured SEAL in the hospital woke up in desperate need of morphine. Unfortunately, all the hospital supplies were stolen by Mayor Julian. Julian is probably my favorite character on the show at this point. He’s a man with clear motivations — power and more power — but he isn’t so driven by ambition that he can’t enjoy the simpler things in life. Fine wine. Beautiful women. A weepy video made by Kendal, intended for his Angelic Blonde Wife. Rare earth minerals, the kind used in the creation of cell phones and advances weapons systems. He sent Sophie out on a fact-finding mission in pursuit of the latter; meanwhile, he stayed back in his house with some ladyfriends and soaked in Kendal’s lovelorn tears and poured himself another champagne. At that point, James and his SEAL buddy showed up and made it clear that they wanted some morphine. At gunpoint.
Meanwhile, back in America, Christine has been living through the Kafkaesque hell of crossing the American government. Sam’s salary has been canceled on account of treason. She has no income. Her mother is ill. It’s fair to say that she’s fallen from the upper middle class straight into the lower echelon. Her skeevy, secretly-evil attorney friend gave her $270 and a hug. But Christine ran outside with a baseball bat and, in full view of the cameras, demolished the windows of a Shady Government Car that had been lurking outside. “I want the truth!” Christine announced to the media. “And you should, too!”
NEXT: What is Last Resort about?A theory: I think that Last Resort is trying to say something about America. When Christine announced to her fellow citizens that they have been lied to and demands that they take action, it’s clear that the show is on her side — and it’s equally clear that Christine’s proclamation is intended as a rallying cry. Likewise, the main standoff sequence of the episode featured lots of beloved national codephrases. Petty Officer Brannan has been going quietly crazy ever since Julian forced him to make a Sophie’s Choice. He came fully unglued when he walked on the bridge, held up a grenade, and announced that he was taking over. Chaplin cleared the bridge for a man-to-man talk. Brannan announced that he was on a suicide run: Whether he took the Colorado home or left it on the ocean floor, “Someone’s gonna call me a hero.” Chaplin offered a rejoinder rooted in American history.
One line in particular stood out: “Our country was founded in protest.” That’s a seemingly straightforward sentiment loaded with several meanings. It means that every citizen has a right — or, perhaps, a duty — to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about the affairs of our government. At times like this, Last Resort almost seems to be saying: “Never accept the easy answer.” Chaplin refused to fire a nuclear bomb on Pakistan just because someone told him to. Christine refuses to believe that Sam is a bad guy just because the government tells her he is. This whole idea of protest becomes even more complicated when you consider that Chaplin is simultaneously a protestor and the establishment: He has set himself against the government, but he also is the government on Sainte Marina Island. Brannan bringing a grenade on the bridge is essentially a microcosmic recreation of Chaplin pointing a nuclear bomb at Washington.
The problem, though, is that so far, whenever Last Resort digs underneath the easy answers, it finds…well, easy answers. Specifically, it finds a Shadowy Government Cabal. We already know that a Shadowy Government Cabal of evil men with coma-inducing drugs is behind the decision to fire a nuclear bomb at Pakistan. We don’t know why exactly they did this. There was some mumbling on television about the creation of a “Bolton Doctrine,” the idea of, essentially, launching a preventative nuclear strike; we also heard that China is engaged in naval drills off the coast of Taiwan. No one in the world seems to like the United States. Basically: The decision to start a nuclear war has quite naturally caused the world to descend into chaos. Unless the Shadowy Government Cabal has a secret moon colony, this seems like a bad idea.
So far, our only onscreen representation of the Shadowy Government Cabal is Kylie’s father, Papa Sinclair, a man who has no problem essentially telling his daughter: “Hey honey! I told your boyfriend to steal your life’s work out of your safe. Here’s some ice cream. Go to sleep!” The other Cabalist who makes regular appearances, in voice form, is SecDef Curry. When Brannan called him from the bridge and asked for his advice, Curry didn’t hesitate for a moment: “Blow it! Sink the boat!” Now, there is something interesting in the idea that the American Government has essentially set itself on a nihilistic course to total oblivion. But I’m not sure how that conflict can really sustain the show in the long-term. When Chaplin faced off against Julian in episode 3, it was interesting because the stakes were clear. When Curry tells Brannan to blow up the entire cast of the show, and thereby save or destroy the world, we’re in fantastical territory. Somewhat predictably, Brannan opted out of exploding the grenade, but not before his attack gave Chaplin the chance to give a speech on the loudspeaker encouraging everyone to stay on the ship.
(Aside: Last Resort hasn’t lit up the ratings in its first few weeks, but given the sheer expense and conceptual weight of the show, it seems likely that ABC will at least let the series finish off its initial 13-episode order. Which means that there may be time for some course-correction. I’m intrigued by some of the simmering subplots on the show right now, but I wonder if what’s really required to get some more eyeballs is a full-scale reboot. The best line in last night’s episode came when the COB explained why his name wasn’t on the “Go” list: “I’ve got front-row seats to the end of the world.” What if World War III does break out? What if the bombs start flying across six continents, leaving just Sainte Marina Island as an outpost of peace, trying to basically keep the human race going? Yes, this would just be Jericho with beautiful location photography…but hey, Jericho could have used beautiful location photography! End of Aside.)
While the Colorado was suffering from the Brannan Non-Explosion, James got into a scuffle with his fellow SEALs about the final fate of their fallen comrade, Ol’ Baldy, who you’ll recall took a piece of submarine in his forehead back in the season premiere. James did three tours with Ol’ Baldy and had promised to take care of his body. The SEALs wanted to take Baldy with them; James refused, for reasons which were complicated, to say the least. (Presumably, James still feels torn up about his role in causing What Happened In Pakistan.) James fought his SEAL buddies and buried Ol’ Baldy in full view of a beautiful beach. Then he collapsed into a heap in Tani’s bed. Tani kissed him while he was sleeping, thereby moving this particular “Will They Or Won’t They” relationship into the realm of “Just Do It Already.”
I’m being cruel to be kind here. There’s a lot to love in this show. First and foremost: The dangerous chemistry between Kendal and Sophie. Whenever the French femme locks her piercing gaze on Kendal’s big blue Speedman eyes, the show gets supercharged with energy. It’s not surprising that the final conversation between the two of them seemed to indicate some deeper storyline at play in the series. Sophie told Kendal that the island wasn’t noticed by anyone for centuries, but said: “There are things here worth more than you can ever imagine.” Is she talking about the rare earth minerals that have obsessed Julian? Some deeper, darker power? The sound of a baby’s laughter? It was an intriguingly ambiguous note to end the episode on — and a mystery much more enticing than a million Shadowy Government Cabals.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich