There are several reasons why you should be excited about ABC's Last Resort. First, there's the Crimson Tide-style storyline that finds the commander of a U.S. nuclear submarine refusing to fire his payload after receiving suspicious orders to do so. Essentially AWOL, he and his crew eventually make port at a small island, where they must deal with tensions between them and the local inhabitants, not to mention the internal strife among the crew. It's got a top-notch cast that includes Andre Braugher as Captain Marcus Chaplin, and that's a dude who rarely makes bad television. Finally, the kicker: the show was co-created (with Dead Like Me's Karl Gajdusek) by Shawn Ryan, whose TV resume includes The Shield, The Unit, and the brilliant but short-lived Terriers. If you aren't already saving a spot on your DVR then you and I can no longer be friends.
Ryan put in an appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour last week, where he told IGN that he felt his experience on all his previous shows has given him the experience to tackle a high-concept, large-scale show such as Last Resort.
It's not like I didn't want to do something of a huge scale like this before. But this is a really difficult show from a storytelling standpoint, from a production standpoint, to have the production in Hawaii and to manage that. It's a big budget, very huge, monstrous scope show that I don't think I would have been capable of doing before.
Ryan's no slouch in the storytelling department, but it's true that his previous shows have had a much more contained scope than Last Resort. The Shield, Terriers, and even the one-season Chicago Code were all limited to a core group of characters operating primarily within one city. The Unit operated on a global scale with its tales of a globe-hopping special forces unit, but even there the focus was on, well, that unit of soldiers. With Last Resort, it sounds like there will be more moving pieces, a larger cast of characters, and more points of view going into the mix.
While Last Resort's concept will automatically bring to mind the works of Tom Clancy, Ryan insists that the core of the show will be about "people in a time of crisis," comparing the show's structure to Casablanca or Gone With the Wind, where the larger events are used as backdrop for smaller, more personal stories. For instance, while Captain Chaplin's relationship with his XO, Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), is solid at the beginning of the pilot, that may begin to break down under the stress of Chaplin's decision to disobey orders. Next down the chain of command is Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts), a character who will allow the show to examine the unique perspective of a female officer. She's also the daughter of Admiral Arthur Shepard, played by Bruce Davison. "Only recently has the U.S. government allowed women on submarines, so her character is a trailblazer," says Ryan. "Can she live up to that? Will she be viewed as a creature of nepotism, or will she prove herself amongst her crew?" Grace's character will also, presumably, give the Admiral a more personal stake in the events. I'm betting if Admiral Shepard and Lt. Shepard will have a lot to talk about during the next family gathering…assuming the sub ever returns home, that is.
Last Resort's cast will also include characters back in the U.S., allowing the show to dissect the opposite view of the situation. Those characters include Admiral Shepard and XO Kendal's wife, Christine (Jessy Schram). The show will explore the nature of Chaplin's decision to disobey orders, questioning whether he is noble and well-intentioned, or the darker possibility that he is more in the vein of Apocalypse Now's Colonel Kurtz. As Gajdusek says:
…one of the things that we hope to embrace without ever being on a political soapbox is what power is. And it's one thing to be captain of a submarine. It's another thing to all of a sudden become captain of an island. It starts to sound a little bit like a president or a king.
Of course, invoking Kurtz's name raises a lot of other questions. Kurtz had pretty much gone batshit insane, so what does that say about Captain Chaplin? Is his questioning of orders legitimate or simply a creeping paranoia that could render him unfit to command? How far will his own crew before they decide it's time for a good old-fashioned mutiny?
Ryan says the show will have three main types of threats facing the crew: threats from the outside world, including both foreign countries and their own U.S.A.; threats from the inhabitants of the island; and internal threats as the crew of the sub comes to terms with their situation. The show's creators say they feel like they have many different stories to tell within the framework of the ongoing story. "This isn't going to be the kind of show where every episode feels the same," says Ryan.
Last Resort will air Thursdays this fall on ABC. You can read the rest of the IGN interview right here, and check out the trailer for the show below.