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TV REVIEW: Last Resort (Pilot)


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When a nuclear submarine is ordered to fire on Pakistan, the crew requests confirmation, only to be attacked by another submarine. On the run, the crew takes refuge from their attackers, intending to lay low and figure out what happened before they can return home.

PROS: A smart, fast-paced show with plenty of potential.
CONS: A tight story and lower ratings to start mean this could be a limited run.

ABC’s new show Last Resort isn’t exactly science fiction, but it feels like it could be. Taking place aboard the fictional USS Colorado, the show begins with a short introduction to the crew before quickly flipping into high gear: orders come from a back-channel to launch nuclear warheads at Pakistan. Captain Marcus Chalpin (portrayed by a fantastic Andre Braugher) requests confirmation, only to be relieved of command. His second in command, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) likewise questions the command, and their submarine comes under attack from another sub, the USS Illinois. Effecting repairs, they commandeer a NATO facility and launch a nuke over Washington DC when they find that they’ve been discovered, and let the US know that they’ve got 17 more if they’re troubled further.

I’ve seen places talk about this show in the same manner as they did Battlestar Galactica, and I can see some of the similarities: a crew separated from their homes on board a military vehicle, trying to find a new home. Indeed, I have a feeling that I would have liked this even more if it had been set in space, on board a starship.

The similarities end there, however, and we have the beginnings of what could be a really great drama – if the ratings hold out. After delivering a 2.2 rating last night, I’m guessing that the show is going to be short-lived.

Compared to the other television pilot that I reviewed earlier, Revolution, it’s a huge step up. The characters here aren’t sock-puppets waiting for their characters to gel, and there’s the potential for a very focused story line that involves a nice range of topics, from duty to patriotism. Looking at the title of next week’s episode (“Blue on Blue”), it also looks like we’re going to be in for quite a bit of inter-personal drama as well. The pilot does an excellent job at setting up the main elements of the series: a crew looking to return home, all the while figuring out the background for the incident that got them into this mess. There are conspiracies about: is there a rogue element in the US Government pushing the country into war?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t issues, even verbally brought up in the pilot. If you’re setting up an unauthorized nuclear strike, why choose a crew that isn’t in on the plan, and why do so through a round-about method? Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered over the course of the forthcoming season.

Last Resort has quite a bit going for it, not the least of which is that it’s interesting, and while not exactly plausible, it looks to be exciting in the way that a number of the high-concept shows such as Awake, Kings and Daybreak have been over the last couple of years. Even if the show doesn’t last for more than a season or two, I suspect that we’re going to be in for a neat ride.

About Andrew Liptak (180 Articles)
Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer and historian from Vermont. He is a 2014 graduate of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and has written for such places as Armchair General, io9, Kirkus Reviews, Lightspeed Magazine, and others. His first book, War Stories: New Military Science Fiction is now out from Apex Publications, and his next, The Future Machine: The Writers, Editors and Readers who Build Science Fiction is forthcoming from Jurassic London in 2015. He can be found over at and at @AndrewLiptak on Twitter.

3 Comments on TV REVIEW: Last Resort (Pilot)

  1. Oh, there’s definitely a rogue element in the government. At the very beginning, there’s a news story about some military higher ups being purged for some reason I missed, and the lower elements of the chain of command giving the order to nuke Pakistan shows this.

    The show is really intense and well-written although I’m not a fan of conspiracy within conspiracy stories or of the US government is EVILLLLL plot line. Still, I’ve give it a shot.

    One of the things I didn’t like was the choice of actors. Why do all the white guys and the women have to look alike? I couldn’t tell who was who half the time with all those chiseled jaws and blonde beauty.

  2. “If you’re setting up an unauthorized nuclear strike, why choose a crew that isn’t in on the plan…”

    Because, they can be fed to the wolves of blame. If the sub were loyalists to the cause they would be lost to court maritial or even sunk for firing on Pakistan without legit orders. None of the officers in the conspiracy are going to admit to going around the chain of command and ordering the strike. Thus, the sub crew is beyond help and can’t be from the small conspiracy group or the group would get even smaller and less effective. They were counting on people to follow orders.

  3. I really liked the show and I can definitely see it going on for at least a season. I think that this show might have also made a really good movie. While there are inconsistencies in the show such as the protocol used to verify firing orders and launch codes, it’s still a good show. I’ve already got my Hopper timers set to record new episodes and I’m excited to see what else this show can offer up. I encourage people not be too critical of the show in technical terms because there are some things of course that the show cannot replicate and it is fictional. My DISH co-workers disagree with me on this but if you spend less time judging what isn’t accurate and more time watching the show, you may enjoy it more. I can’t wait for tonight’s episode.

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