Note: I based this review on an advanced screener that had temporary visual effects, less-than-polished edits, and fill-in music, so the broadcast version might have been a bit smoother. I only bring this up because I was confused by a few things that may have been ironed out in the final cut.
Some time during the development of Last Resort, co-creators Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek made the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado the target of a massive conspiracy, the U.S. military, and the American people and thought, "You know what? Too easy, that's not enough." In Episode 2, some badass Russians were parachuted into the island to steal the submarine, and I wouldn't be surprised if aliens and smoke monsters attack Captain Chaplin by the end of the season.
But the greatest and simplest threat comes from the island people themselves. We realized this as soon as Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah, who's quickly climbing the ladder of my favorite actors), the island's self-proclaimed despot up until Chaplin pulled his steel tube into the Sainte Marina's marina, bumped chests with James King (hunky Aussie man meat Daniel Lissing) and said [paraphrasing], "Excuse me, but umm, this is my island."
And you know what? That conflict might just be more interesting than the game of nuclear lawn darts being played; at the very least it's the perfect compliment to the claustrophobic, eye-arcing, PING!-ing, silent submarine battles that are happening a few leagues under the sea. We still don't have a face to put to the threat that lies a few thousand miles of ocean away, but Julian? Now there's a man we can look dead in the eye and say, "Sir, I am scared of you."
There are a lot of characters to like on this show—probably Last Resort's biggest strength so far—and for me, Julian's at the top. He's got swagger for dayyyyyyyyys and more importantly, he has a right to be pissed off and assume the villain role. Any time a villain is mean for more than just the sake of being mean, it's a plus. Maybe he isn't involved in the most honest work, but the island was his living room, and Chaplin kicked open the door, grabbed the remote out of his hand, and changed the channel (metaphorically, in case you're reading this without watching the show, but that would make for a pretty great scene in a future episode). Chaplin ruined the ecosystem of the island when he pushed Julian off the throne with a nuke, so I'm okay with Julian pushing back.
But he didn't just push back. He KILLED a dude after Chaplin didn't fulfill his end of the agreement to get a cargo shipment in time, and like Chaplin's nuke off the coast of D.C., he had to show he meant bidness. (It should be noted that the guy who ended up dead was named Redman, as in "redshirt," the Star Trek-based term for TV bit characters who basically exist just to be killed. I see what you did there, Shawn Ryan.) Stakes raised! Julian's pestering is more than just a mosquito buzzing in Chaplin's ear, because his presence and actions (and Chaplin's non-actions in retaliation) will bubble up in the form of discontent among Chaplin's men. That's how you hit a person in power. Chain of command is going to be a recurring theme in Last Resort, and the show's challenge will be to convince us of when it's okay to break it. In this case, Chaplin expected his men to fall in line, but this is the same guy who told them it was okay to disobey orders a few nukes ago. There's already a swell of resistance against Chaplin among his men, and his decision to let Julian go without payback, while prudent, might cause problems internally. So far, I'm really digging these questions of loyalty and duty and the way sometimes conflict with morality.
"Eight Bells" continued Last Resort's so-far trademark density, packing in a lot into one hour. So much, in fact, that my tiny brain wasn't always able to stay up to speed with what was going on. This was particularly apparent in the Tani (Dichen Lachman) and James plot where they went for nighttime picnic out in the woods or something? I'm not totally sure what was going on there other than Last Resort showing off the beauty of Hawaii. In the cut I saw, Tani simply told James, "We're going to be late," without saying where or why they were going (it was a family dinner visit, so I guess they're good friends now?). I just assume it was for flirty boat rides and nose-to-nose tropical pool water-treading, and I blame neither of them for it. If these guys aren't "doing it" by the next episode then I'M gonna get blue balls. Seal the deal, James! And after Tani's emotional chat about her mother and her father and her brother, there might even be room for love to squeeze its way in.
Off the island, weapons hottie Kylie Sinclair continued to have trouble keeping a whole outfit on, showing up in a towel and just her man's shirt, and I'm okay with that. I'm liking the dynamic between Kylie and Admiral Shepard; she's concerned with keeping her company's secrets secret, and he's interested in getting his daughter back and figuring out exactly where the order to fire on Pakistan through the Antarctic channel came from. Their goals overlap in some spots, but there's enough of a rift between them that they won't run off together and become a supersleuth team solving nuclear crimes. They are going to need each other, though, and trust will become a big issue between them. Side note: It wasn't definitively laid out, but did you get the idea that Kylie's father was the one who took the harddrive with the Perseus schematics on it?
In the final scene, Chaplin was having a drink with Cortez while his grip on command slowly slipped away. He's going to get retaliation on Julian when the time is right, but he's going to pick his fights one at a time and focus on the 1,000 tons of steel 200 miles in any direction of the island. But Julian came marching down the middle of Main Street with the funeral procession of the boy who was killed in last episode's firefight, smirking toward Chaplin as he did his part carrying the box that held a lifeless body. Julian might not have temperamental Uranium encased in missiles, but he has something that might be more important: the favor of the natives. How much longer can Chaplin put off this fight when Julian keeps poking him in the forehead? Last Resort isn't perfect, but it is doing things right by making live very hard on our hero Chaplin. So far so good through three episodes.
PING PING PING!
– I said there's no real face to the conspiracy/government threat, but I kind of lied. That was Jay Karnes (The Shield's Dutch) playing Secretary of Defense Curry, the same guy who had a showdown with Chaplin on the COMM in the sub in the pilot. Also, he's looking a little grayer than before.
– Easy-money bet: That's not drugs in those boxes Julian had Chaplin fetch.
– For once in my life I want to say, "Put him in the BRIG!" to someone other than my cats before I stuff them in a cat carrier.
– Another character to like: Cortez. She's part Starbuck, part Vasquez from Aliens. AND she'll bone an island villain to save her friend's life. She's tough and she's vulnerable. I can't wait to see more things from her.
– COB Joseph Prosser is getting some good lines. "She always moans a little at 1300. That's her G-Spot." (Saucy for an 8pm show!) "Get your blouse on, partner, it's not casual Friday around here." That's rugged Navy-man talk, right there.
– Believability tester: Sophie guiding the Colorado through underwater canyons with a stopwatch and a piece of paper. Do they have a course for "Blind Submarine Guidance" in NATO school? That seemed bogus to me. But did you see the sparks between Sam and Sophie!?!?!? That's because...
– MOST IMPORTANT THING HERE: Did you know that Scott Speedman (who plays Sam) and Camille De Pazzis (who plays sexy NATO girl Sophie) are dating IRL? I can't tell you how much I fully support this. I really hope the vice presidential candidates talk about it tonight during their debate. Now I'm waiting for the People article about Dichen Lachman and Daniel Lissing caught making out at a Hawaii bar because this show is like an actor aphrodisiac.
– One last thing: I know I wrote the pilot review and Price Peterson write the Episode 2 review and now I'm writing the Episode 3 review and that can be confusing for you guys! Sorry! We're currently trying to figure out who is going to cover this show, which airs on an already busy night for both Price and me. If ABC keeps up the advanced screeners, then we should be good, but I'm guessing they'll stop soon.