So we’re four or five episodes into “Last Resort,” the show about a submarine that goes renegade when ordered to nuke Pakistan. I’m not going to go into particulars about the individual episodes or anything, but I’ve seen the show enough now to have some general observations, for those of you who are interested in such things.
Is it just me, or does the show look kinda...cheap? This series started off really well--I was pretty enthusiastic after watching the pilot episode, although being the cynic that I am, I had my reservations about how badly it could go wrong. Hee, hee. I had "reservations" about "Last Resort." I slay me sometimes!
The Sub is OK, but it’s obviously not a real sub. The Hawaii scenes are beautiful, but no different than a zillion other Hawaii scenes in Hawaii 5-0, Lost, Magnum, and the other Hawaii 5-0--the not very good one. It’s too recognizable, and the locations aren’t particularly off-the-beaten-path. The “Meanwhile Back in the States” stuff is subdued, and lacking in scale. We don’t see crowds, we see two people talking in a garage, or in a bedroom, or three people in an office or restaurant. I’m finding it hard to believe there’s hustle and bustle here, the state of crisis, when the largest crowd scene we’ve seen in DC was six guys walking through a hotel lobby, and that was in the first episode.
That’s not a huge criticism, it’s just an observation. I get the feeling the budget on this one is pared to the bone, unlike LOST, or ER where it was a monster hit and they just kept throwing more and more money at it.
Each episode takes place the day after the previous episode. I like that. Assuming the show lasts a full season, that’ll take 22 days “in universe” as they say. I don’t know if it was signed for a full 22 up front, or the more standard 13 now, and we’ll pick up the back-9 deal, but it’s bleeding ratings. From 9.3 million viewers down to 7.06 million in just a month. That ain’t good. So don’t get attached, because it’s unlikely this will make it through whatever extended storyline they have in mind.
The fundamental mysteries (“Why was the sub ordered to nuke Pakistan? Why were the SEALs there? Why did they try to sink the sub?”) aren’t all that mysterious. We’ve got basically a wag-the-dog situation here gone horribly, horribly wrong. The President was on the verge of being impeached, we’re told in the first ep, though we’re not told why. The most obvious explanation is that the SEAL team was sent in to plant evidence to make it look like Pakistan was about to attack the US, and failed. A somewhat less obvious, but equally likely explanation is that the SEALS were sent in to provoke an attack on US ships, thereby giving us an excuse to attack, and distracting the public from whatever it is the president did in that closet with the firefly girl. This plan fell apart, and so they simply nuked Pakistan and claimed it was a pre-emptive strike since Pakistan was about to nuke the US.
That’s the most likely explanation. Go much beyond that, and it becomes too convoluted to be plausible (“The President made a secret deal with his alien overlords, and thus Karachis was nuked to clear the space to build landing pads for gay Martians. I like you, Stuart. You’re not like the other people, here at the trailer park.”) So you’re limited there. I think, really, the show would probably play better if it focused on the real cost of this to the crew, and not so much on the international intrigue aspect because, frankly, It’s not that intriguing. They have tried to do this, and when they do (as in the 4th ep) it works really well, but when they stray from the human angle, it gets dull quickly.
All that said, the cast is pretty good, the acting is good enough and, heck, it’s a sub show! How can anyone not like those? And it’s an ambitious story that hasn’t really pulled any punches so far, even if, y’know, the punches it’s landed are kinda unimpressive.
I think the show suffers in three fundamental areas:
1) The US just nuked 9.2 MILLION people! To death! It tried to sink one of its own subs. It’s been pilloried by (we’re told) every nation in the UN, including our closest allies. The Colorado’s crew is alone, charged with treason, besieged on the outside, plagued with criminals inside, in a very insecure position, and (we’re told) the Islamic world is going to strike back any day. That’s a lot of stuff, all of it very, very bad. The show should feel like one of the wheels came off the car, and you’re desparately trying to keep it going on the other three without flipping it over. I should know, I had that happen to me once. It should feel like everything is falling apart, and people are scrambling to hold what bits they can together with their fingernails.
It doesn’t. It’s pretty sedate. Direction is competent, but there’s no blow-the-doors-off crazy-unhinged direction, no jittery cam, no quick cutting, no dutch angles, no wild soundtrack, no funky lighting, no higgledy-piggledy*, and hence, no magic.
2) The “Meanwhile, Back in the ‘States” stuff just flat-out doesn’t work. There’s no one there we care about, it’s stilted, it’s slow, it’s boring, it’s not paranoid enough, and it’s not that mysterious since anyone who’s ever seen a good Cold War thriller already knows what’s going on. It’s well-intended, but it feels like it was all done second unit. I don’t know if they’re filming it back in the 48, or in Hawaii. Either case could account for it tonally, I guess, since neither is desirable, but it mis-steps EVERY time.
3) Someone posted a drawing of Mohammed in a French newspaper and European Muslim extremists rioted for days. Someone defamed Mohammed in an American movie, and their extremists killed our ambassador. Israel was given to the Jews, and Muslim extremists have waged a 64-year-long terrorist war as a result. In the show, we’re asked to believe that the US would nuke a Muslim country, and for five days nothing has happened? No repercussions? No declared Jihad against Israel, or, say, an invasion of Pakistan by India (India and Pakistan HATE each other, and have fought 4 wars since 1948), or, say, China moving in to restore order. No million-or-so enraged Muslims dying of radiation sickness and with nothing else to lose, swarming across the border in a living wall, destroying all that lay in their path? C'mon! The global economy has evidently not collapsed, which makes no sense since you can’t have a hurricane without the price of oil jumping 20 cents and the Dow wobbling as a result. Remember how they had to CLOSE the stock market for like a week after 9/11 to prevent the economy from crashing? Come on, guys, nuking anything means the collapse of the international economy, at least temporarily. We see no signs of this, it’s all business as usual. This really undercuts the “The whole world’s falling apart” tension the show occasionally goes for, and it makes no sense because (A) Chaos is CHEAP to film. Frequently it’s stock footage and (B) the show really should be going for more of that. (See ‘1’ above)
That said, I do like how the names and faces from back home keep changing. Heads are rolling in DC, and that’s a nice touch.
So that’s basically it. It’s not a bad show, but it’s not nearly as good as it could be. The premise is better in concept than in execution, sadly.
One nice way to wrap this whole thing up, and redeem many of these failings, is if we find out in the final ep that the US Government was right and operating above-board the whole time, and the Colorado was wrong to violate their orders. Have them recognize that, and surrender themselves for trial. Nobody’d see that coming.
* - “Higgaldy Piggledy” means “A Real Mess.”