Third-episode verdict: The Last Resort (ABC)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired
In Canada: Thursdays, 8pm, Global

There is a certain doom-laden atmosphere surrounding The Last Resort. It’s not just because it’s a show about a rogue US nuclear submarine captain and his crew, threatening to nuke the US after the navy tries to destroy it for questioning an order to nuke Pakistan. It’s not because people get violently killed every episode. It’s because despite being possibly the best new drama on US TV this fall, judging by its ratings and the fact it’s on ABC, it’s not long for this world.

After a surprising and auspicious start, episode two gave us an almost literally nail-biting episode, as our heroes, holed up on a semi-friendly Caribbean island, faced off against a team of special forces sent in to capture their submarine. Episode three similarly gave us more military-grade tension as the submarine armed with its cloaking device – the ‘Perseus prototype’ (presumably not the more accurately titled Proteus prototype because of copyright issues with Craig Thomas’ similar invisibility device on the HMS Proteus in Sea Leopard) – has to brave blockades, depth charges and active sonar to escape from the US navy again.

And if, somehow, the show could confine itself purely to military operations, it would be an adrenaline-junkie’s fix second to none, thanks to showrunner Shawn Ryan’s steely attention to detail. True, some of the actors and characters are about as interesting as a paddling pool, but Andre Braugher and Robert Patrick more than make up for that by themselves.

But, unfortunately, the show is slightly lumbered with its island setting and supporting characters, including the strangely wooden Dichen Lachman, who for once gets to sound Australian. The islanders are a strange mix: a combination of black and Hawaiian stereotypes, despite the obvious fact that the show is set in the Caribbean, and some nerdy scientists, who are incomprehensible speaking either English or French. Whenever the US cast interact with the islanders, the show degenerates into poorly executed soap crossed with US imperialism.

There’s also the political goings on in DC, which are more bad spy novel than gripping drama, particularly Autumn Reeser’s desperate attempts to come across as a steely engineering businesswoman who talks like a man but who’s all-woman. And there’s also the clumsy attempts to deal with sexism in the US navy, with Robert Patrick’s constant undermining of officer Daisy Betts (another Australian you might remember from Persons Unknown) getting progressively more tedious with every clumsy attempt to smash it into the dialogue.

Nevertheless, it’s a brave show, prepared to go to places a lot of shows aren’t – a US government that pre-emptively nukes Pakistan and is prepared to fire on its military; heroes prepared to negotiate with terrorists and criminals; military personnel who disobey orders and start to let discipline fall apart; and more. When it sticks with military matters, although ultimately it’s just a load of CGI a lot of the time so doesn’t quite match the punch of a show like Strike Back, it’s still the tensest show on network TV. It’s just a shame that its ability to deal convincingly with non-military matters is so second rate – and that it’s probably not long for this world.

Barrometer rating: 2


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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