The only fate worse than cancellation for a television series is cancellation without the ability to give the series any sort of conclusion. It happens time and time again, and honestly, it not only destroys almost all replayability and any reason to buy said series on DVD or Blu-ray, but it’s also a slap in the face to fans who invested time out of their lives into the stories being told only to see it all come to an end with no resolution.
Now some cases see shows on the bubble that are hoping to be renewed and can’t begin to sum up their storylines without risking the integrity of the show moving forward in the unlikely event of a last minute renewal. Unfortunately for fans of Last Resort, that bubble burst early on; though on the plus side, it allowed the co-creators Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) to wrap things up as best they could. The real question is: does that mean the series is worth checking out on DVD for newcomers, or owning for fans?
Last Resort stars Andre Braugher as Captain Marcus Chaplin and Scott Speedman as XO Sam Kendal, both the high-ranking officers aboard the USS Colorado, a submarine out on a mission to test new technology. Also on board the submarine are over 100 crewmembers, as well as 17 nuclear warheads. While out on the training mission, they receive a distress call from a group of Navy SEALs, and shorty after picking them up in the middle of the ocean, orders come in to fire nukes at Pakistan. But the orders come from a secondary source only to be used if DC has been taken off the map completely.
Both Chaplin and Kendal question why the orders didn’t come from DC, and when they ask for the order to come directly from the top, they’re fired upon by an American ship and forced to retreat or be destroyed. They take refuge on a small island that has a communication center run by NATO. They commandeer the building – and the island along with it – and immediately begin seeking out why their own country attacked them, and where the orders of a nuclear attack came from. How do they do this without the island just being bombed into oblivion? By targeting the United States with the warheads on board their submarine and threatening to destroy the very land they signed up to protect.
Last Resort is the type of show that likely would’ve had a good run for a few seasons before it overstayed its welcome. While that may be, there are times during this abbreviated run that it still feels a little convoluted, and it’s hard to tell if that’s because the showrunners knew the writing was on the wall and wanted to get as much of their story told as possible, or if there’s just so much they had to work with that given more time it all would’ve felt a little less crammed together.
The characters in the show are interesting, though there are times when some characters vanish for a few episodes only to abruptly return with little explanation as to where they’d been. Most times you can read between the lines to understand without having it spelled out for you; however, the passing of time is a problem the show faces.
For instance, at one point a secondary character leaves for a while and when he returns someone mentions how they’ve only been gone a week. Now, during this time a few episodes have passed and so much has happened that it feels like a few weeks would’ve gone by; though, when it’s all added up, the entire season seems like it’s wrapped up in under a month in the world of the show.
Granted, it’s a high-paced, action oriented show for the most part, and things would happen quite fast given the circumstances; however, it’s the character arcs that come off as a bit more unbelievable given the short time in which everything takes place. According to interviews with Ryan, the show would have continued along the same path had it been picked up for a full season (nine more episodes) and opened up more heading into season 2. Of course, that didn’t happen, but it makes it clear that the pacing of the character arcs were written as intended whether renewed or not.
It’s mainly the off-island storyline and characters that suffer from this. There’s Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), a second generation weapons dealer who created the prototype that the USS Colorado was testing. Kylie gets mixed up in trying to solve the conspiracy about who sent the orders to start a war with Pakistan alongside Admiral Arthur Shepard (Bruce Davison). Kylie quickly becomes friends with XO Kendal’s wife Christine (Jessy Schram), who also becomes an integral piece of solving the conspiracy puzzle.
The reason this storyline suffers – which in turn somewhat hurts the overall plot – is because those involved in the conspiracy are often confusing in their motives. The main face of the conspirators is Shield-alumni Jay Karnes, who plays the newly appointed Secretary of Defense, William Curry. Curry comes off as a smug suit, and is instantly dislikable – which is perfect for the character and makes it that much more unfortunate that he’s barely ever on screen. With this conspiracy being the driving force in the show, there are times when it feels like the series would’ve benefited more from actually having scenes with the “bad guys” talking to one another, instead of having it play out like a fairly obvious mystery as to who’s involved.
On the island, there’s some great stuff that takes place, and that’s where the show really shines. Right from the start various crewmembers – the highest ranking being Master Chief Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) – voice their displeasure with how their captain disobeyed orders, and has now placed them in a position where they’re viewed as traitors to their country. It’s a solid, realistic story that rears its head for the entirety of the 13 episodes; however, comes off best during the first handful of shows.
There’s also the island Kingpin Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) that Chaplin and Kendal have to deal with. Serrat is a guy who runs things on the island, and has men and weapons to back him up. Serrat is a hugely unlikable character (maybe even more so than Curry) and the shortened series definitely hurts any storylines his character was involved with.
The same can be said about Camille De Pazzis’ character, Sophie Girard, a French NATO worker who helps Chaplin and Kendal when it comes to monitoring the events unfolding in the sea around the island. It’s clear from the start that Sophie is there as a romantic interest for Kendal on the island, while his wife is back at home. The “relationship” that blossoms between Kendal and Sophie isn’t unnatural, and doesn’t feel forced; though it does come off as rushed at times, which hurts its overall believability.
Finally, there’s the main outsider to the submarine crew, Navy SEAL James King (Daniel Lissing). He’s content to just get drunk at the bar on the island and wait for his eventual chance to go back home, while chatting it up with Tani (Dichen Lachman), the bartender, and owner of the bar. These two are both really interesting characters, and the actors have great chemistry; though their story is also one that’s unfortunately hindered due to the shortened season.
Now without spoilers I’ll go into whether or not the show concludes in a way that makes spending roughly 13 hours with this crew worthwhile. I’ll admit, for the final episode I was curious as to how things would wrap up – as I knew going in that Ryan and Gajdusek had actually concluded things as best they could. So about every ten minutes for the entire 43-minute final episode, I kept checking how much time was left, and it always felt as though it’d be impossible to end things in a satisfying way.
To save viewers this incessant checking of the clock, I’ll let you know that everything is wrapped up as best it can be within the final five minutes of the show. This will allow you to just enjoy the action-packed finale without constantly thinking, “They’re running out of time! No way this can be good!” That said, the final moments do cap things off in decent fashion; though in no way does it live up to what the show’s initial premise and structure promised.
The unfortunate thing is, around episode 10 and 11, something happens that would’ve made a much more satisfying conclusion – at least to the off-island story. It’s likely that the episodes had already been filmed, and that it was too late to make the changes necessary to wrap things up; however, by not going this route, the off-island story really becomes overwhelmingly convoluted in the final episodes and really has no saving grace.
So is Last Resort worth checking out on DVD if you missed it during its televised run? In short, yes, but be warned that it does has that feeling of a rushed ending. That said, at least it has an ending, as there are some great episodes to be found here (especially episode 6, which involves some really well done storytelling!), and enough tension-filled moments and interesting characters to make you wish the show had at least gotten one full season under its belt, if for no other reason than to give the show the time needed to send it off in the addicting fashion in which it begins.
The audio and video transfers for the DVD are both solid, with the sound mixes coming through strong, and the visuals always being sharp, and clear without any muddy blacks are high contrasts.
The special features span the three discs, and are each found under a feature called Last Resort Declassified. Individually most are just under five minutes in length, and see cast and crew talking about the topic at hand. For fans of the show, this is a great way to get some more information on the series, as well as hear from the cast and crew that brought it all together.
Making the Pilot – This featurette runs at under five minutes in length and sees director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) talk about directing the pilot, with various cast and crew members talking briefly about the experience, while also touching on the difficulties of shooting such a show.
Profiles in Courage – This featurette is also under five minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about the main characters in the show.
Conn Artists – Again, keeping the trend of coming in at under five minutes in length, this piece sees the production designer and his crew talk about the Conn (the main command room in the submarine) and how it was made.
Anatomy of an Episode: Voluntold – This featurette – again, under five minutes – is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of episode four.
Grace Under Fire – This piece (did you guess it was under five minutes) focuses on the character Grace, and the struggles she faces being a female officer aboard the submarine. Daisy Betts, who plays Grace, talks about the character, as do other cast and crew members.
The Ties That Bind – This five-minute featurette focuses on the relationship between Kendal and his wife, as well as Sophie on the island.
Subvirtual – This featurette sees the cast and crew talking about the visual effects, and creating the action shots and the complexity in which was involved in making the show seem as realistic and seamless as possible.
The Buzzard’s Nest – This featurette touches on Tani’s bar, and sees the cast and crew talking about the set and what sort of things take place there.
Turning Point – This featurette focuses on the Navy SEAL mission, the conspiracy and the twists and turns in the story takes that leads to everything that goes down on the show.
The Mole – What show with this type of storyline doesn’t have a mole? This featurette focuses on the mole (so beware of spoilers if you’re watching these before the show for whatever reason). The mole talks about being told they’d be a mole, and the creators talk about why the person is a mole and their motives.
Serrat’s Lair – This piece focuses on Serrat’s base of operations, and sees the cast and crew talking about the character, as well as the giant set that is his home.
I, Kylie – This featurette focuses on the character of Kylie, and her arc over the course of the series.
Epilogue – If there’s on feature to watch, it’s this one, as it sees the cast and crew talking about how the show ended and their thoughts and feelings about wrapping things up in the final episode.
While it starts of stronger than it finishes, Last Resort is a show that’s worth watching for the interesting characters and solid cast chemistry. A little more time would’ve definitely done the overall story justice; however, credit must be given for at least attempting to wrap things up enough to satisfy viewers and give the show more of a mini-series feel now that it’s on DVD.
Sony Pictures Television Presents Last Resort. Created by: Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek. Starring: Andrre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Daisy Betts, Camille De Pazzis, Dichen Lachman, Daniel Lissing, Sahr Ngaujah, Autumn Reeser, Jessy Schram, Robert Patrick, Jay Karnes, Bruce Davison. Running time: 558 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: July 2, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Last Resort, Robert Patrick