Last Resort, Season 1, Episode 2: “Blue on Blue”
Written by Karl Gajdusek
Directed by Kevin Hooks
Airs Thursdays at 8pm (ET) on ABC
Sophomore episodes can often be a better barometer of a show’s quality than series premieres. It is often understood that premieres are what really draw viewers in, leading to increased marketing and the presence of big name directors and cast, as well as large ideas, storylines, and themes. Second episodes, however, give audience members a real look at the caliber of the show, as the prevailing ideas take center stage. Unfortunately, many shows stumble at this point, often never recovering, a concern that, given the scope of what Last Resort looked to tackle in it series premiere last week, was a legitimate concern for this show. Thankfully, it manages to craft a second episode full of suspense and interesting character moments, fleshing out the emotional stakes of the events and, by extension, making them more tangible.
Having a Russian Special Forces team attempt to capture the Colorado is a very interesting route to take this early in the show. On some level, knowing that a nuclear submarine had broken rank and would be left without any backup, the idea of other countries not looking to gain what the US had supposedly lost would be ludicrous. It’s not difficult to imagine, however, a lesser show choosing to focus only on the main antagonist of the US government, rather than exploring how the rest of the world is affected by the Colorado’s actions, and for Last Resort to expand their viewpoint is a bold choice. It will be interesting to see if, going forward, other countries look to similarly attempt to capture the Colorado, or whether the vigilance of the crew is affected in any way by the actions this episode.
The exploration of the mental and emotional toll the actions of Captain Chaplin are having on the crew is also fascinating to watch. As was seen last episode, everything happened so fast that a lot of the decisions that had to be made, Chaplin made himself, and in other instances, he only discussed them with Sam Kendal. The discomfort some officers feel with disobeying the order to fire was seen previously, but now, with some time to process what has taken place, the differing reactions of the crew to the events adds a level of depth and humanity to them. Seeing, in particular, COB Prosser and James King’s reactions adds internal conflict that feels authentic, as their blind faith in the US government, and their refusal to turn their back on it completely, makes perfect sense and makes them both wild cards going forward. In addition, Lieutenant Shepard and XO Kendal’s shaky confidence in their own abilities to lead adds an interesting dimension to the proceedings.
The government’s actions this episode are also compelling to watch. While the premiere showed the government’s actions only from the perspective of those being affected by it, choosing to keep the driving forces a nebulous malevolent entity, this episode makes great use of Christine Kendal by using her as the lens through which we view the lengths that the US is willing to go to get the sub and its crew back. This gave Jessy Schram, who was under-utilised in the pilot, some great moments to shine and puts her in the middle of what may be the most compelling storyline of the show. This also helps prove that the writers are sure of the direction they’re heading in, as Christine’s relatively minor role prior to this episode helped establish her just enough to have the audience empathize with her as she is being interrogated, something which works perfectly. While Kylie Sinclair unfortunately seemed to get the short end of the stick story-wise this episode, her actions seem to indicate that she may find herself in a similar position to Christine soon as well, and if she gets to that point, it will be worth looking out for.
Which is not to say the episode is flawless. The biggest issue the episode has is the characterization of islander Tani Tumrenjack. While this is no fault of actress Dichen Lachman, the writers seem to have unfortunately made Tani the voice of the wise local natives, which is a very stereotypical and one-dimensional role that the show could have frankly done without. Characters of this nature tend to be caricatures at best unless fleshed out more thoroughly, which is something the show will hopefully do going forward. Camille De Pazzis’ Sophie Girard also falls into the same trap, unfortunately, as she inhabits the role of local who completely disapproves of any military action or wartime tactics from either side. While the purpose of her character, unlike Tani, is somewhat understandable, simply having her as a mouthpiece to communicate the general idea of minimizing conflict, which is practically all that Sophie does this episode, is bound to get really tiring and hopefully the writers intend to make both Tani and Sophie fully developed personalities as the season progresses.
Overall, however, despite these problems, this is another solid episode, proving that the show is able to effectively step forward from its strong premiere. The performances, once again, are top notch; in addition to the aforementioned Jessy Schram, Robert Patrick gets his moment to shine and takes advantage of it. Andre Braugher continues to effortlessly carry the role of Captain and Daisy Betts is still proving herself a worthy addition. Allowing for some character development is a smart idea on the part of the writers and it will be interesting to observe which of the many possible storytelling avenues they choose to move forward on over the next few episodes; whichever they choose, however, if they can build to the level of suspense and sense of high stakes that this episode has before even a single shot is fired, and maintain it throughout, the way this episode does, it will be worth tuning in for.