From the beginning, many of us wondered: “Is this a series?” As good as the pilot was, it also raised all the red flags that go along with serialized network storytelling in the post-Lost era. The scenario was undeniably intriguing, but how long could it play out? Did creators Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek have a plan, or would they quickly exhaust all the promise of the series premiere? After tonight’s episode, “Skeleton Crew,” I’m more convinced than ever that Last Resort is a series—one that’s determined to answer every question or objection even as it tinkers with our expectations.
This is the best episode since the pilot for several reasons. First, it stripped away all of the island intrigue concerning Mayor Julian and whatever precious minerals he’s after, as well as any side trips to visit Tani’s family. That stuff has its place, and it is important that the island community is established as more than just a colorful backdrop, but the stakes are so much higher when the focus is squarely on Marcus versus the United States government (or the conspiracy within it). And “Skeleton Crew” delivered that in a big way.
Second, my pleas for more Jay Karnes are answered as Secretary of Defense Curry arrives on the island with a contingent including Admiral Shepard and presidential adviser Amanda Straw (heard but not seen a couple of weeks ago as the negotiator who threatened not to give Marcus’s son a burial unless he surrendered). The poker game of a negotiation between Curry and Marcus as they attempt to hammer out a deal is a pure pleasure to watch. Curry holds the better cards; not only is he, y’know, the United States Secretary of Defense, but he also knows that his fast-attack subs are closing in on the Colorado, which is out on a mission to repair the sonar array surrounding the island. Once the sub is taken out, whatever leverage Marcus has vanishes.
But while Curry has the superior hand, Marcus has the better bluff. Banking on the fact that the Navy SEALs he picked up before the attack are the key to the international crisis that’s unfolding, Marcus insinuates that he knows more than he actually does. He also plays his wild card, physically attacking Curry after the SecDef mentions his son. Again, it’s not entirely clear how much of this is genuine emotion and how much is another installment of Marcus Chaplin’s Crazy Man Theater. But his hardline negotiating tactics seem to pay off when he goads Sam into accepting Curry’s final deal. Braugher’s expression when this happens is priceless: sad and disappointed, but somehow wryly amused at the same time.
Of course, the deal isn’t consummated, owing to events aboard the Colorado. The crusty old soldier who develops a grudging respect for the youthful superior he’s been ragging on since day one is an ancient trope, and you could see it coming from six fathoms away tonight. The COB might have already become a tiresome presence in the hands of another actor, but Robert Patrick is so skilled at delivering gravelly insults, he keeps even the most cliched exchanges between Prosser and Grace alive. I wish I could say Daisy Betts was his equal in these scenes, but it does sometimes seem like Patrick is delivering his lines to a brick wall.
Those viewers who aren’t so thrilled with the Washington D.C. storyline (and you are legion) at least didn’t have to deal with much of it this week. Having Kylie see Christine’s freakout on television for a second time was probably a little too on-the-nose (especially since we’d just been reminded of the first time in the “previously on” segment), but it’s amusing that it took losing her status at D.C.’s finest eateries to spur her crisis of conscience into overdrive. And while Christine’s scenes with Paul the sleazy lawyer still skirted soap opera territory, I was pleasantly surprised by the revelation that she’d already figured him out. It’s another encouraging sign that Last Resort knows intelligent characters who aren’t five steps behind the audience at all times are a lot more fun to watch.
- The world situation certainly seems to be deteriorating rapidly, although we’re only hearing about it in bits and pieces. China invades Taiwan, the UN condemns the United States, gas is eight dollars a gallon...I don’t want to get political here, but I have a pretty good idea who has been elected president in this nightmarish near-future.
- “There’s no such thing as a French cowboy, lady.”
- Word has it that ABC has ordered more Last Resort scripts. That’s got to be at least a tiny good sign, right?