Friday, September 28, 2012

Last Resort: Captain (1.1)

I spend most of my day trying to not sound stupid. It's sort of a natural reflex, probably rooted in insecurity and lacking in any real logic... but it's there. I bring this up because reading promotional materials about Last Resort was like trying to understand Korean or something. Just that general premise, with the submarines and the missiles and something about a tropical island -- it seemed impenetrable. Watching the pilot, some of the show still flies straight over my head. There were times where I completely failed to follow some of the Navy jargon, and the political subtext is a little disorienting at the best of times. Everything about this show is wildly outside of my comfort zone, set within a world entirely alien to my own, and it honestly threw me off a little. I have no idea if that says more about me, or that the show is going to struggle as it goes on, but it's something that rattled nonetheless.

Despite all of that, however, Captain eventually becomes something sort of fresh and fascinating. Any disorientation is prevented thanks to a last-minute rundown in which Andre Braugher effectively recaps the previous forty minutes, so I think I understand everything right now: a Navy submarine gets ordered to bomb Pakistan, the message sent from a strange off-shore division that is ordinarily only used for emergencies. They refuse the order, and are then bombed themselves. Now considered traitors and stranded in the middle of nowhere, the crew stumble upon a desert paradise and set up shop, promising to fight back against any further US intervention. It's a ballsy premise, something spectacularly different for network television, and raises the bar for what could have been just another Lost show.

I'm not sure where exactly the show is headed, and assume it'll probably become generally plodding after a while, everything now smaller in scale since they're stuck on an island, but EP Shawn Ryan has at least crafted an interesting world removed from the sub and its crew. There are the guys in Washington, the various factions already on the island, as well as Autumn Reeser's overly-enthusiastic cub reporter. Time and care has been given to make everybody reasonably absorbing, at least compared to similar shows with high-concepts and huge ensemble casts.

There's also a lot to like about the cast themselves. Andre Braugher, one of those truly great TV actors with the instant vibe of prestige and gravitas, adds a hint of crazed dictator to his protagonist, while Scott Speedman makes an enjoyable everyman trying to do the right thing in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. There's also a palpable sense of camaraderie within the ranks of the submarine, the script reaching for authenticity and laid-back charm, characters ribbing each other and having silly pop culture arguments. It's just surprisingly pleasurable to watch.

Last Resort struggles to entirely rise above the underwhelming pedigree of these kinds of shows, but there's more enthusiasm and intrigue here than, say, your average Revolution Event Nova thing. There's a lot of potential here to address conservative-tinged "what's happened to our country?" rhetoric, as well as dissent and mutiny within a government-sanctioned task force. So potential is obviously there. Or it could become traditionally ABC-ish and devolve into some kind of hyper-real version of Battleship. Whatever route is chosen, I'll probably stick around for a little while to find out. B

Karl Gajdusek, Shawn Ryan Director Martin Campbell

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. I really enjoyed this pilot and can't wait to see where they go next. However, I have a feeling it's ultimately going to turn out to be a misfire. I have a feeling all the great stuff was in the pilot. We're about to find out...