LAST RESORT 1.05 ‘Skeleton Crew’

Chaplin and Kendal attempt to negotiate a settlement to the impasse as Shepard’s mission on the Colorado becomes unexpectedly dangerous.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Skeleton Crew"

Writer: David Wiener

Director: Michael Offer

It’s unfortunate that “Last Resort” is struggling for ratings on Thursday nights, because Shawn Ryan and company are delivering one of the fall’s best new shows. And this episode was even better than the pilot.

As always, spoilers for the episode are ahead. Catch up on “Last Resort” before reading this review.

Because the focus of “Last Resort” is primarily set on the isolated island of Sainte Marina with a few subplots in Washington D.C., we haven’t previously been given a good idea of what’s happening elsewhere on the planet. After "Skeleton Crew," we know that things are much worse than we could have guessed.

The world presented here is very horrifying. In a brief scene on the beach, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Curry (Jay Karnes) has a rare moment of candor with Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) of the U.S.S. Colorado. To hear Curry explain it, nuking Pakistan was just the first step towards creating a new American empire.

Currey’s words smack of Ultranationalism and the administration he represents has already dumped nukes on a country and killed thousands of people (if not more) to protect its secrets and its interests. The America that Currey describes sounds like it is quickly becoming a fascist state, at least among the ruling class.

And just to add fuel to the fire, China has invaded Taiwan, almost as if to say “f*** it, all bets are off.” China is practically daring a foreign power to try to stop them, because if their advance isn’t halted in Taiwan, how long will it be before the Chinese decide to invade Japan? Or how long until Russia decides that it needs to start invading Eastern Europe for their own power grab?

This is a major disaster already in progress. And the American President wanted this, because it may keep him in power and free from being impeached. If it triggers a third World War, then so be it.

“Last Resort” has yet to introduce us to the the President in this series, so Currey has been our stand-in villain ever since the pilot. Karnes was so great as a troubled, but largely moral police detective on “The Shield” that it’s jarring to see him acting so villainous on this series. Currey and a delegation from the states arrive at the island to negotiate with Chaplin and his XO, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) in the hopes of finding a solution to their standoff. And the first thing that Currey does is to tell Chaplin’s men that they will all hang with him.

From the start, Chaplin seems off his game as he quickly loses control of his emotions when Currey brings up his recently killed son. Apparently Chaplin also has another son that he is estranged from; which is information that will surely come up again. 

Surprisingly, Rear Admiral Arthur Shepard (Bruce Davison) is a part of the delegation ostensibly to talk Chaplin into giving up the submarine and accepting imprisonment for disobeying the order to nuke Pakistan. But in reality, Shepard and a few others in Washington want the standoff to continue as a way to expose the President’s lies. And of course, Shepard also wants to see his daughter, Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts). But their reunion doesn’t come this week.

While the largely fruitless negotiations take place, Grace gets her first command mission on the Colorado with her two favorite people: COB Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) and James King (Daniel Lissing), the relatively friendly Navy SEAL. The COB seems to have an irrational hatred of Grace, while King has the odd character beat of always turning down Grace’s request for help before eventually changing his mind.

There is something almost inherently hilarious about the fact that the Colorado’s mission this week was to replace some batteries in the proximity detectors around the island’s perimeter. It also serves as an excuse to get Sophie Girard (Camille De Pazzis) on the sub for the first time. Sophie’s motives aren’t that hard to guess. She seems to sympathize with the Colorado crew because they choose not to fire their nukes. Sophie also seems to be very attracted to Kendal… and those early feelings even appear to be reciprocated by Kendal despite his long suffering wife in the states.

The writers of “Last Resort” have managed to keep the submarine involved in every episode and it’s been a big reason that the show has remained exciting to watch in the early episodes. “Skeleton Crew” ups the stakes by putting a very inexperienced Grace in charge as several U.S. subs close in on them… forcing her to give the order to leave King behind with the sensor despite only a limited amount of air in his tank.

Back on land, Chaplin’s behavior is so erratic during the negotiations that Kendal turns on him and accepts a deal that will deliver the ship back to Curry in exchange for only Chaplin suffering the brunt of the blame and consequences for their rebellion against the government. It’s a brutal, searing moment… that is sadly undercut when Chaplin reveals that he set the whole thing up just to get the crew a better deal.

My initial impression was that it was very bold to have Kendal betray Chaplin this early in the series in order to force both men to deal with it for a long time to come. It may have been a mistake to walk back that moment so quickly, as Braugher and Speedman are terrific when they are at each other’s throats.

Of course the deal couldn’t go through because it would mean the end of the series. But it was still alarming when Amanda Straugh (April Grace) literally pulled the offer from the table because the trio of subs had the Colorado dead to rights.

So, before the kill order could be given, the Rear Admiral grabbed a gun and shot Straugh dead and also tagged Curry with a bullet for good measure. Holy s***. I can’t imagine we’ll see the Rear Admiral walking free from that one as he gets dragged away from the island with Curry and his troops.

Back in the sub, Grace capitalizes on the moments that her father bought for her and emerges with the sub intact as she forces the other submarines to withdraw. Grace and the crew even manage to save King, who was apparently cussing her out in Morse Code. There was also a good moment where the COB actually seemed to gain respect for Grace and he finally treated her like an officer. I liked that, but if the COB is suddenly back to treating Grace like s*** again in the next episode then I am going to withdraw my praise. It’s only character development if it sticks.

There’s a reason that I’ve barely mentioned the Washington D.C. plotline in this review. And it’s because I find that part of the show to be extremely tedious. Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) is one of the least entertaining or engaging characters on “Last Resort” and I could give a s*** about her quest for the truth.

Christine Kendal (Jessy Schram) is a little bit easier to take, especially when she refuses to buy into the lie about her husband and Chaplin trying to sell the sub’s nukes to the Chinese government. We do get the impression that Christine is being ostracized and humiliated by the press because of her husband’s role in the unfolding crisis. But by keeping the focus so tightly on Christine and Kylie, the Washington D.C. scenes are strangely lacking in scope. Everything feels so much bigger on the island and on the submarine.

Regardless, this was a very strong episode of a very good TV series. Hopefully ABC will give “Last Resort” a full season and more time to find an audience. COB knows it deserves one.