Though “Last Resort” started slowly, many industry experts expected that steady growth in a tough time slot opposite Fox’s “X Factor” and NBC’s back-to-back sitcoms (“The Big Bang Theory” / “Two and a Half Men”) would be enough to earn the one-hour dramatic series a second season. But the show’s producers received word fairly early that the military thriller would not be renewed—time enough for them to tweak the 13th and final episode so that it provided some closure for audiences. Hence, this “Complete Series” DVD.
If you haven’t seen the show, the premise is simple but the plotting much more complex. Shortly after picking up a team of Navy S.E.A.L.S. from their apparently botched mission in Pakistan, submarine Captain Marcus Chaplain and Lt. Commander Sam Kendal receive an order via the Antarctic command to launch two nuclear missiles at targets in that nation. Both men find it strange that the order is coming from a secondary command site that’s supposed to give orders only in the event that the main command post in Washington has been disabled. When they turn on their TV monitor (yep, submarines are equipped with everything these days) they see programming as usual, and phone Washington asking for the order to be confirmed.
While they’re waiting, another of America’s nuclear submarines fires a missile that scuttles them, and they see two more missiles hit targets in Pakistan, in effect, starting a war. Why did their own Navy disable them, they want to know, and what was going on with that fire-on-Pakistan order? Apparently the sitting president is sitting on a hot seat, challenged from an opposing political faction, and it doesn’t take long at all to see similarities between this unfolding plot and Bush’s attack on Iraq, which was based on evidence that later was proven to be faulty.
TV news reports that Pakistanis sank the Colorado, and that Americans retaliated with those two missiles fired at the mainland. Thought dead and disabled, the Colorado limps into the island port of Sainte Marina, where they encounter a bar owner (Dichen Lachman), the leader of the NATO communications installation on the island (Camille De Pazzis), and the drug runner and black marketeer (Sahr Ngaujah) who runs the island. Other cast members include an admiral’s daughter who’s the sub’s navigator (Daisy Betts), Kendal’s stateside wife (Jessy Schram), a Washington lobbyist for her family’s weapons manufacturing company, and the sub’s chief petty officer (Robert Patrick), who will remind “Lost” fans of that not-to-be-trusted character Ben.
It’s fairly easy to understand why ABC thought the series would fly. We’re in a period of hyper-patriotism right now, and a show about the American military feeds into and off of that national spirit. The show also holds appeal for conspiracy theorists, of which, these days, there seem to be plenty. Anyone who believes that Obama can’t be trusted or that he’s working behind the scenes to do radical things will embrace the series’ plot, in which a sitting American president is among the ruthless schemers. There’s also a strong element of protest—questioning authority, while still waving the flag—that tea party members, libertarians, gun-control advocates, and survivalists will find appealing.
What appealed most to me wasn’t the Hawaii filming, the “Lost”-style inclusion of “others” and island travails, or even the submarine-related special effects—though all of them are impressive. It’s just that nothing tops the performance of lead actor Andre Braugher, who is terrifically charismatic as submarine Captain Chaplin (a great name, since it evokes both the predicament-rich comedy of the silent screen comedian, and a religious leader for a group that doesn’t seem to stand a prayer of a chance).
From my perspective, the plot elements ranged from topical to speculative to far-fetched military-grade soap. Choppy editing, similar-looking characters, and complex subplots can also make “Last Resort” hard to figure out at times. But there’s something about the series—and Braugher has a lot to do with it—that keeps you coming back for more.
“Last Resort” has a runtime of 558 minutes.
Thirteen episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen on three single-sided discs and housed in a standard-size keep case. There’s a nice level of detail and color saturation, considering it’s a standard-def release. Oahu location filming even looks stunning at times. There is, as you’d expect, a thin layer of grain and some indistinct edges at times, but for a DVD “Last Resort” looks visually strong.
The audio is also better than average, with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 distributing the sound nicely across the field, with just enough heft in the bass to make those noises banging against the sinking sub terrifying. An additional audio option of Spanish Dolby Surround is offered, along with subtitles in English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Thai.
“Last Resort Declassified” offers 13 very short featurettes that take you behind the scenes with the usual blend of interviews and shooting footage. Some of the areas explored include the show’s visual effects, the various characters and “factions,” as well as individual takes on the show from cast and crew.
“Last Resort” strikes me as a series that falls somewhere between a 6 and a 7 on the Movie Met scale, and while Braugher’s compelling performance as the beleagured submarine captain pushes it up, soapy second-half plotting pulls it down.