"Sometimes the enemy is just the man keeping you from getting home."
The most common question anyone asked after Last Resort's fantastic first episode was, "Where will this show possibly go from here?" Its second episode, "Blue on Blue," gave us our first hint: Nowhere! And everywhere! Geographically speaking this was a very island-centric episode, but the brilliance of Last Resort is that despite keeping the bulk of our characters in a very limited space, the story still felt utterly global in scope. It's admittedly almost to Last Resort's detriment how sprawling its storylines are: Kidnapped soldiers! The Navy SEALs' mysterious mission. Sam's captured wife! Everything else! So one could be forgiven for not keeping all the plotlines straight after the pilot (I myself needed a refresher viewing). Thankfully Captain Marcus Chaplin cut through all the chatter with the quote at the top of this page, neatly summing up the singular mission our heroes must deal with. A LOT might be happening all at once, and their adversaries' uniforms might look chillingly familiar, but the simple through-line is that everyone just wants to get home alive (without being tagged a war criminal, hopefully). Everything else is just high-stakes nightmare scenarios!
We picked up more or less where the first episode left off: Everyone in a pissy mood. The naval officers were super grumpy about possibly being involved in treason; the NATO folks were mad that people were using their computers; Chaplin was trying to watch a Skype video from his son but kept getting interrupted; the world's hunkiest jungle barfly had a bad hangover. We could tell it was a bad day on the sub when XO Sam (that seems like an appropriate thing to call him RIGHT LADIES?) was laying into Chaplin about his possibly murderous intentions and Chaplin did the most passive-aggressive thing a submarine captain can do: He addressed XO Sam's concerns ON THE INTERCOM to the entire crew. But before their mutual annoyance could devolve further, the episode's first nuclear crisis began! Rival submarine the Illinois was hot on their tail (as were multiple other U.S. war ships), and it was time for the Colorado to implement that high-tech cloaking device that Kylie Sinclair had bragged about during her booty call in the pilot. Referred to as the "Perseus," the technology effectively rendered the Colorado invisible. But to further get the Illinois off his back, Chaplin fired a dummy torpedo at it just for good measure. Get out of here, the Illinois!
With that crisis resolved (for now), the bulk of the episode transpired on Sainte Marina, and it was all sparked by an ominous image: What was that mysterious 747 doing flying over the island after Chaplin had specifically threatened the entire world not to violate his airspace? All the soldiers present knew it meant one thing: A team of special-ops soldiers—presumably a Delta Force—had most likely parachuted down and would be infiltrating their jungle retreat in a matter of hours. This sent the entire team into a tailspin of military prep, despite the lingering question of whether they were simply being paranoid or not. Nobody had actually SEEN soldiers parachuting from the plane. Could they really be invading? For his part XO Sam enlisted NATO Sophie for a crash-course in island geography while Shepard was just doing her best to keep her composure despite Master Chief T-1000 barking at her from his jail cell about how she'd killed that one soldier for no reason. (Didn't anyone explain to him that it was justifiable, or was he just being an obtuse jerk about it?)
After the team headed out to a hillside clearing that looked A LOT like a location from Lost, XO Sam, Shepard, and their team came face-to-face with a chilling array of camouflaged super soldiers emerging from the jungle. Their suspicions were right: The island HAD been invaded. But in a truly surprising moment back at the NATO office, Chaplin got his frenemy from the government on the line and discovered that the U.S. hadn't sent any Delta force to steal back the sub. So who WERE these men? As it turned out—after some typical NATO-geek computer sleuthery—the super soldiers were RUSSIAN. And just when XO Sam was trying to make a rousing speech about how they are all Americans and so were on the same side, he learned that, in fact, the soldiers weren't. Awkward military moment! So obviously a shootout ensued. Then in a moment that was so over-the-top that I laughed out loud, Chaplin got the leader of the Russian military on submarine Skype and politely asked him what the deal was. When the Russian military dude started lying about his intentions, Chaplin patched in his U.S. government guy and pitted them against each other. Over Skype! Crafty move, Chaplin. Anyway, long story short, the Russian army was busted trying to STEAL the Colorado. It didn't matter that they got caught, however, because our heroes were saved by a mysterious sniper shooting from the hillside, and it was none other than James King, everybody's favorite Disney-prince-lookin' drunken Navy SEAL! (Did I mention he'd had a hilariously gratuitous shower scene earlier? I can't believe I didn't mention that yet!) He's a great character in my opinion.
Oh, but even though that particular squabble was handled, the episode still had a few more in store. For instance, two of the Russians were taken prisoner and one of the U.S. soldiers attempted to execute them on the spot. Fortunately Chaplin stepped in and put a stop to that, reminding everyone that alleged traitors or not, they're still honorable Americans and should behave accordingly. Meanwhile back home, Kylie Sinclair discovered that her patented technology aboard the Colorado would be seized by the government unless she could prove that the government had wrongfully ordered its various missile strikes in the pilot. So she enlisted her trusted government mole to retrieve the official orders, but was bummed to discover that he'd been intentionally rendered brain-dead by some nefarious faction. (She still got the pertinent info out of his pocket, however.) Also, XO Sam's wife was still being held by a government agency (CIA? HSA? The Millennium Group?), and while it appeared she was standing by her man, the agency showed her a videotape in which he admitted lying to his wife about some of his military service and it looked like her trust in him wavered a bit.
But by far the most devastating subplot involved the fate of Chaplin's army son stationed somewhere in the Middle East. In a nastily public reveal by a particularly loathsome Master Chief T-1000, we learned that Chaplin's son had been killed in action shortly before the events of the pilot. In retrospect both of these first two episodes began with Chaplin gazing at his newly deceased son's image and getting interrupted, which is both poignant and incredibly enlightening as to the mental state of someone who would so cavalierly defy orders. It was clear everyone was thinking it: Was Chaplin leading them on this go-for-broke adventure as retribution against America for getting his son killed? However, his repeated plea, "You know me," was all he really needed to say in his own defense. This was followed by a heartbreaker of scene between XO Sam and Chaplin in which the two men bonded over a shared happy memory of Chaplin's son, and Chaplin openly sobbed while XO Sam pledged his friendship and allegiance to the Captain. I cried. WHAT OF IT?
So far Last Resort is one of the rare ensemble shows where not a single plotline feels like a dud. Seriously, even on shows I love there's usually a moment when the show cuts away from a plot I REALLY care about and switches over to one that makes me groan with boredom. But in "Blue on Blue" I remained giddy with each new cutaway. "Oh, Autumn Reeser is awesome!" "Oh, the drunken Navy SEAL that looks like a Disney prince!" "Oh, Robert Patrick is still all mad!" "Oh, the bartender lady from Dollhouse!" Having so many factions and plotlines and overlaps could potentially reek of writerly desperation ("If you don't like this plotline, wait 20 seconds!"), but to me it feels like confidence. The way these scenes were all intercut with a connected musical score just amped up the tension and created this inescapable dread, like something out of a Paul Thomas Anderson film. Not trying to make Last Resort more highfalutin' than it is, but Tim Surette was very apt last week when he suggested that Last Resort is a cable series that somehow found its way onto ABC. "Blue on Blue" demonstrated an artistry and efficiency I'm just not used to seeing on network television. I still don't know what will happen next, but that's probably the biggest compliment I can give a show these days. Loved it.
... No warlord action this week, but a mention of the two missing naval officers suggests we'll be dealing with that situation soon enough.
... Cool speech by Bartender Dollhouse: The entire island is a VOLCANO, so the locals aren't too fazed by threats of armageddon. But also, that thing's gonna erupt at some point, isn't it?
... Kylie is pretty awesome, isn't she? Her knowledge of naval technology and her social cunning make her a bit of a superhero in this world, and it's a big relief that so far her interests align with those of our heroes. Plus Autumn Reeser plays the character pitch-perfectly. More please!
... The chyron on the cable news network's coverage labeled Chaplin a "Nuclear Mad Man." Fair and balanced!
... When you are trying to make a point to a superior female officer, it's always a good idea to get totally naked and take a shower in front of her. Just FYI.
... What did YOU think of Last Resort's second episode?
... So why exactly do the Navy SEALs feel guilty over sparking this whole thing?
... Will we be seeing more of the Illinois crew?
... Do YOU like to videochat with Russian military leaders?