Last Hurrah for ABC’s Last Resort

I will confess that I have a tendency to form attachments to television shows doomed to premature cancellation: Firefly, of course, Jericho, Kings, Terra Nova, Missing (does anyone else remember Push, Nevada?). The latest addition to this list is Last Resort, an ABC series from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan that, unfortunately, will air its final episode this Thursday, January 24.

The series follows Captain Marcus Chaplin (an outstanding Andre Braugher) and his crew aboard the powerful nuclear submarine USS Colorado. In the premiere, Chaplin is ordered via an unorthodox channel to decimate Pakistan with a nuclear warhead. Refusing the order, Chaplin and his crew find themselves the target of U.S. forces. As a response, they batten down the hatches on the isolated island of Sainte Marina, where Chaplin tries to hold out while under siege from the United States, other international players, the island’s inhabitants, and his own increasingly disaffected crew.

Last Resort is more than just a taut military thriller; it was looked on by many critics as the best show entering the freshman class of the 2012–2013 season. Besides being a delightfully intense hour of television, it also serves as a thought-provoking exploration of a very American—and perhaps very Christian—dilemma. If we live in a country that has been founded on philosophical and ethical ideals at least as much as geopolitical realities, what happens if the governing authorities so thoroughly dismiss these principles that they forfeit the right to be obeyed? At what point do we cross from the civic obedience enjoined in Romans 13 and into the realm of defiance practiced by David or Elijah or eventually the apostles? And who has the authority—legally or morally—to make that call?

Overall, the sympathies of Last Resort seem to fall on the side of Marcus Chaplin in his resistance to a corrupt government and his idealistic declaration, “Do not confuse my country with the current administration.” The apparently unstable U.S. president is a faceless nonentity in the series, and when his representatives arrive at the island, they are callous and calculating. As the depths of Washington’s complicity in ethically dubious actions play out, Chaplin’s resistance can certainly be viewed as noble.

And yet. Ryan and his writing staff never let us forget the dangers of a single man, however principled and well-intentioned, going rogue. Chaplin threatens his country and the soldiers sent against him with the same annihilation he refused to unleash upon Pakistan. As the situation on the island deteriorates, his measures can at times become draconian, even dictatorial. He keeps his crew from surrendering so that they can return home, holding onto a desperate hope that the far-reaching conspiracy can be exposed and dealt with stateside. He is psychologically unstable, wounded emotionally by the death of his son in combat. Last Resort thus forces its viewers to ask, Is this the man we want leading a resistance, however corrupt the government? But if not him, then whom?

It is an intriguing premise to say the least, both in terms of plot and the ethical questions it develops. Moreover, the premise allows the series to remain unpredictable throughout its run. Thankfully, the writers of Last Resort had enough notice of the show’s cancellation to tie up some loose ends in the finale. Thus, the series should provide at least some amount of satisfaction for those who, like me, have followed it throughout its 13-episode run, and perhaps to attract some latecomers whenever it arrives on DVD.

About Geoffrey Reiter

Geoffrey Reiter is Assistant Professor of English at the Baptist College of Florida. He holds a B.A. in English from Nyack College and a Ph.D. in English from Baylor University, along with an M.A. in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

  • Josh

    I enjoyed the show a lot – wish it would stay on air

  • Dan

    I sampled the show a couple of times, along with a few other new ones, and when they got cancelled I assumed this one did too. I tuned in recently and found it pretty interesting. However, one of the reasons I cannot get involved with a network series is that too many have been cancelled with too many unanswered questions floating about. It is like reading half a book and then never being able to finish it. I wind up waiting for a multiple-season run before taking serious notice and then getting the show on DVD or Netflix.

    Of course there is the odd one that catches the audience’s imagination like Lost and THAT catches the writers by surprise and they start forgetting what happened back in the earlier seasons. I guess we should be grateful for any good shows at all. I suppose that is why the USA channel has become the NCIS channel. My ma always said I watch too much TV.

  • Mike r

    If the show is cancelled, why do they keep saying the “season finale” and not the “series finale” on the commercials and just now at the start of the show??

  • Judith R.

    Great series! Glad I was able to see every episode. Critics were right, but the audience was in another place. I never saw an ad for the series. How can a series succeed if it isn’t promoted?

  • Tim

    I also have an attachment to shows that are cancelled before their time and Last Resort has been one of the best shows to come on TV for a long time. I was intrigued by the idea that even though Chaplin believed he was right he had crew that questioned and rebelled against his orders. I’m going to watch the season finale later today since it was recorded on my DISH Hopper through PrimeTime Anytime. I don’t need to worry about missing episodes of my favorite shows when I work extra hours at DISH because my DVR automatically records three hours of the four major networks during primetime.

  • http://msn.com Jess

    Critics were correct, this WAS one of the best new shows of the fall season. ABC needs to take better care of its new shows. Placing this one against an already well established top ten show, Big Bang Theory, was just sacrifing Last Resort. It never had a real chance. Writing was excellent, acting was very good… it was NOT the same old ‘schtick’ we are given way too much of. I have lost faith in network executives today who offer up so many repeats of the same idea but also with American audiences who seem to want a very repetitive diet of bland mindless crap. Any wonder so many of the Golden Globes went to non-network programs??

  • Geoffrey Reiter

    Thanks for all the comments. Obviously, I agree with all of you that the show ought to have been kept on the air. My own impression, Judith, is that you’re right—Last Resort was under-promoted. If I hadn’t Googled “new TV series” in August last year, I probably never would have known it was on. Dan, I can understand your frustration at network shows being cancelled prematurely; I often feel the same way. My personal take, though, is that I would rather see 13 episodes of a show that I like and have it end on a high note than to stick around for a poor show or to watch a good show grow stale over too many years. Ultimately, I found the finale (and yes, calling it a “season” finale was misleading) to be about as well done as possible under the circumstances (here’s a good review of it: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/01/25/last-resort-controlled-flight-into-terrain-review). It was certainly fast-paced, but only a few spots felt outright rushed, and it made sure to give time for some excellent dialogue and events that brought some closure to the show, both on the plot and the thematic levels.

    Though if you want to know what the show might have turned into had it continued, here’s an interesting interview with co-creator Karl Gajdusek on what they had planned: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/01/25/last-resort-co-creator-discusses-the-finale-and-where-the-series-would-have-gone-had-it-continued.

    Geoffrey

  • JJ

    This is just another reason why I will not watch any new shows on this network. They reel you in with the previews and get you hooked on the show, only to pull the show off the air. I still have 3 episodes stored on my DVR that I have not yet watched. I can only guess that there is no closure to the finally. I will stick with the cable networks such as The CW, FX, AMC, they at least give the show a chance before ripping them away from the viewers. This is just another reason why ABC, CBS and NBC are loosing viewers. I only watch a few shows on these networks, and once they are canceled, so will my viewing of these channels.

  • mcp

    ABC, you fooled me again. Shame on you. Double shame on me. I tried to resist getting started, but the show was just too good to pass up. I don’t know why I start to watch anything on the networks anymore. My new rule of thumb: wait until the series hits Netflix, determine whether it actually went to full completion, and then watch the thing sans commercial interruption. Another in a long, long, long list of shows I have started to watch, got hooked on, and then got left out to dry. I Defied Gravity only to Flash Forward to watch an EVENT that led to this, but Jack should have nuked the network instead of the island (At least that one finally ended with closure even though I knew the ending in the first season but kept hoping it would end better than that). This is how NOT to build consumer loyalty. I can only surmise that the network would rather continue drilling us cheap mindless semi-reality based programming that has no beginning, no end, and no point — which I NEVER EVER watch. I must not be as smart as I thought I was, because I was fooled again. For the last time!

  • Daniel Cabrera

    Actually, this presentation infuses (or generates) a lot of thinking about the corrupted government we have right now,…quite frankly, the show makes the current illegal fraudulent administration looks really bad,….and so,….the show is for cancellection ,…correct on that one?

    Just think abut it.

    Input anyone? Opinions welcome


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X