Captain Marcus Chaplin is no stranger to danger. He knows how to handle himself. But it'd be hard to blame the guy if he sometimes feels that sinking feeling.
He commands a state-of-the-art U.S. Navy nuclear submarine that's coerced by certain members of the military brass to start an undeclared war with Pakistan. Chaplin won't fire the nukes he's ordered to fire—and is promptly fired upon by a friendly vessel topside.
It's reason enough for him to go rogue. And the fact that the president is facing impeachment, and generals and admirals are resigning en masse just make the decision a little easier.
By protocol, he should trundle to the nearest port, turn himself and his crew in and let the wheels of justice sort things out. Instead he parks the Colorado beside the tiny island of San Marina and tells his homeland that neither he nor his nukes are going anywhere until he gets some sort of satisfactory explanation—and assurances.
"We love our country," Chaplin says. "We would gladly die for what it represents. But we do not recognize or obey a government that tries to murder its own."
Last Resort takes the patriotic paranoia of 24 and spreads it across a Lost-like thematic landscape. No, there's no smoke monster here (at least not yet), but early on, we're already feeling the effects of isolation, uncertainty, unfocused threats and a horrible fear that your greatest enemies might be your best friends. Along the way, the series asks questions that demand answers from its audience: What is honor? What is duty? What happens when our own sense of integrity clashes with our loyalties to captain and country? Even the captain's last name, Chaplin (an obvious variation of chaplain), seems to echo the show's most basic query: Does he represent a higher moral authority? Or is he a crazy charlatan, leading his people astray?
In that, ABC has given us a promising moral premise here—one given flesh through competent writing and spot-on performances. Amidst a television population that typically plays dumb, this drama is smart, engaging and intense.
But just as a well-armed sub can pose a danger to the country that built her, that engaging intensity can blow up in your face.
How its questions and themes are resolved and handled over the year(s) will make all the difference in what kinds of messages Last Resort ultimately sends, of course. And since the show is, at its core, a war-based thriller, bullets will fly and people will die, sometimes in ugly, bloody fashion. It's also a political mystery, filled with intrigue and duplicity and some (already) steamy bedroom scenes. The sailors swear quite a lot.
No one's purposefully pushing envelopes here. But take the TV-14 warning seriously: If you don't, you may end up with some sinking feelings of your own.
Lies, deceptions and desperate acts dominate the plot. They come from sailors and politicians and military decision makers alike. Capt. Chaplin questions an order to bomb Pakistan and, through a rapid-fire course of events, absconds with a highly weaponized submarine—after being attacked by the USS Illinois. He launches a warhead targeting Washington, D.C., as a threat, allowing it to detonate 200 miles offshore.
A handful of people are injured or killed: One is shot in a standoff between Navy SEALs and sub officers; another dies after being struck by a speeding metal nut (which flies from the boat's hull after it crashes into the ocean floor). Two sailors are held captive by San Marina's local warlord—who is said to dabble in "drugs, guns, girls."
One couple is shown engaged in heavy foreplay, tumbling into a bed—the woman in her bra and panties, the man shirtless. Another couple kisses. Crude references are made to sex, sexual harassment and sexual body parts. Characters say "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch" a half-dozen times each, "b‑‑tard," "a‑‑" and "d‑‑n" somewhat less than that. God's name is misused. A special forces guy guzzles whiskey at a bar, saying he's going to stay there until he's "falling-down drunk."