Episode 2 of ABC’s Last Resort picks up exactly where the pilot left off, maintaining the high stakes intensity in an hour that’s just as jam-packed as the premiere. It’s amazing how well they sustain the momentum and tension, even if some of the dialogue itself is a bit on the nose. They lean heavily on the episode’s theme as all of our key players find themselves either asserting or questioning who they are and what they stand for.
Having just basically declared war on the entire world, Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) is taking a moment to watch a video letter from his son, Jeffrey, stationed in Afghanistan, when hell breaks loose once more. Marcus’s 200-mile safety perimeter is being breached on all sides, first by twenty U.S. warships who want to tangle with the Colorado, then by an air-dropped Special Forces team. Reluctant to engage in battle with his fellow Americans, Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) wonders if they can’t ask questions first, shoot later. (Pro tip, Sammy, that doesn’t usually work out so well.)
Marcus reiterates the need for strength and craziness he eschewed last week, adding a touching story about how in some old battle, brothers were pitted against brothers. (People really like their nostalgic war stories/examples on this show . . . almost as much as they do their rousing speeches.) Then he says, “Sometimes the enemy is just the man keeping you from coming home.” His wise words—and prescient too, no doubt, sooner or later that man is gonna be Marcus, isn’t it?—work their magic. Sam comes around, deciding to take a team on foot into the hills of Sainte Marina to meet and quell the special forces team.
You know who’d be real handy to have on that mission? Why, a Navy SEAL of course. Unfortunately, our head SEAL, James King (Daniel Lissing), is still drowning his sorrows at the island tiki bar, now hungover to boot, which does nothing to improve his sparkling personality. Sam and Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts), who volunteers for the mission, despite her own fears about her strength to lead the team after more harassment by COB (Chief of Boat) Prosser (Robert Patrick) and his cronies, are less than impressed with King’s self-centered refusal to help, even when the buff soldier lays out his rationale while stripping down to shower.
Likewise Sam goes to NATO station director Sophie (Camille De Pazzis) and asks for her help with the lay of the land. She’s reluctant to get involved, thinking it’s all war games to these soldiers, not real people dying, but her better nature wins out. Sam and Grace and their teams set up in a field, hoping to surprise the Special Forces, only to get a surprise themselves: it’s not their fellow Americans but the Russians who’ve come, in an effort to steal the heavily armed, and now thanks to Kylie’s toy, undetectable sub.
Speaking of Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), she’s busy back at home, putting the screws to poor Linus and asking him to trace the order the Colorado received. He balks, she blackmails. Things don’t go so well for poor Linus, his digging lands him in a very convenient coma, possibly brain-damaged if he ever wakes up, thanks to a supposed allergic reaction to some food. Undaunted, Kylie rifles through his pockets and gets her info: a scrap of paper reading “Order 998.” Two episodes, two cryptic codes so far—at this rate, I hope the DVD set comes with a magic decoder ring!
Also on home turf, Sam’s wife Christine (Jessy Schram) is being aggressively interrogated by the two suits who picked her up last week. She’s trying to stay strong, telling them to f-off in not so many words, but they keep at her, forcing her to call Sam and try to sweet-talk him into giving up the boat and Marcus in exchange for full amnesty. When that doesn’t work, they show her a video of Sam being interrogated about his 17-day stint as a POW in North Korea—something Christine had no idea about. Her faith wavers a little, but she won’t break, so the suits bring in a bigger gun: a lawyer friend of Sam’s who has clearly turned to the Dark Side. He’s playing good cop to their bad cops though, and a weepy Christine is relieved when he gets her out of there.
Back on the island, barkeep Tani is challenging King to go help Sam and his crew. In a somewhat hokey moment, she actually puts black tribal-like paint on his face and tells a story (another story!) about how on the island, a man is marked to step up and do battle, and wonders if he’ll rise to the challenge. Apparently that’s all it takes to change his mind, because he arrives at the battleground just in the nick of time to save Grace from a violent beheading at the hands of one of the Russians. But he sneaks away afterward, prompting Grace to confront him when they get back to the town and warn him that someday soon he’ll have to pick a side.
The Colorado crew manages to round up two Russian prisoners, and while most of the crew are bloodthirsty and want to kill them on sight, Marcus (who is the only person anyone ever seems to listen to in this military group—so much for hierarchy!) stops them, saying there’s no debate about how Americans treat POWs.
An angry COB is still in the outdoor brig (one wonders if it’s the same cage where Lost’s Sawyer and Kate did the deed) and overhears this, and taunts Marcus to reveal to his crew what his real motivations are. Marcus’s son, Jeffrey, died two weeks ago by friendly fire, and Marcus wants revenge on the country who took his son from him. It’s an abrupt reveal, a little anticlimactic and underplayed here at the end of a very stuffed episode, but you can bet his motivations will get further examination later in the season, where no doubt his “just crazy enough” tactics tip into “too damn crazy” territory.
The crew, especially Sam, is shocked, but Marcus barely bats an eyelid, simply saying calmly and with authority. “You know me, Joe. All of you—you know me.” Sam catches up with him back inside the NATO station, sitting down with Marcus and reflecting on a happy memory (another poignant story example!) then seriously taking his friend’s hand and letting him grieve, assuring Marcus that he knows him and trusts him. There are a lot of fascinating relationships on the show, but this bond between Marcus and Sam is truly the heart and soul of Last Resort. Braugher and Speedman have a fantastic, warm chemistry as colleagues and friends (I’d originally thought the age difference would make it less believable, but it truly does not) and man, is it going to hurt when they eventually clash for real, and Marcus becomes that enemy who’s keeping Sam from going home.
All in all, it was a thoroughly satisfying episode that capitalized on the promise in the pilot. With a show this large in scope, it still feels like certain beats of the story would benefit from a bit more time and space and breathing room. For example, Grace flip-flops a bit too rapidly between being fabulously tough and quivering with insecurity. But there are a lot of engines firing (pun intended) at once here, and I imagine the show’ll stabilize its course soon enough.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.