Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

There are movie ideas and there are TV show ideas. Plenty of movies have been turned into great TV shows, and vice versa — but there are some ideas that can only work in movies or television. Some ideas need 100 hours, some can only support two.

I'm beginning to wonder if Last Resort is just an idea that would work for a movie, but not so much as a weekly TV show. Spoilers ahead...

So as various people have already pointed out, there's already been a movie along sort of the same lines as Last Resort — 1995's Crimson Tide. Last Resort's approach to trying to turn the premise of a nuclear submarine crew that mutinies rather than launch nukes into a weekly series is: 1) develop the situation of the submarine crew being on a tropical island, where they have to make it work with the locals, and 2) delve into the eeeeeevil conspiracy behind the order to launch nukes, back in Washington DC.

Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

And this week's episode really tries to make both of those things work. In the "A" plot, the local strongman Julian Serrat has kidnapped three of the submarine crewmembers, and Captain Chaplin is forced to basically become a drug runner to get them back. It's pretty horrible and demoralizing, and erodes any sense that these people actually stand for any sort of principles. In the "B" plot, Kylie Sinclair keeps digging into the mystery of the "fire" order that came through the Antarctic network — only to have the secrets of her prototype Cloaking Device stolen. Oh, and there's a "C" plot where the Navy SEAL guy goes swimming with Dichen Lachman, who has daddy issues.

Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

It's all perfectly serviceable, but I'm not sure any of it is that compelling. Julian Serrat was set up in the pilot as being sort of a petty thug, but in this episode he's suddenly a murderous arch-fiend whom Captain Chaplin somehow can't swat like a bug. I kind of like the idea that Chaplin is forced to get his hands dirty, and even swallow the death of one of his men at Serrat's hands, because he can't afford to fight a war on two fronts — but they haven't made Serrat the fascinating character he needs to be for any of this to work. Plus I was so grossed out by the idea that Lopez had sex with Serrat to buy herself and the other hostages some time, I could barely focus on the rest of this storyline. Guh.

Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

The rest of the island characters remain even less fascinating than Serrat, too — I honestly could not have cared any less about whether Sophie the "Nutella is better than sex" woman left the island forever or not. And all of the "Dichen Lachman goes swimming" sequences left me kind of nonplussed. (Plus didn't Navy SEAL guy have a whole team with him? Where did they go?)

And I'm all for digging into the big conspiracy behind the nuking of Pakistan and the attack on the Colorado — yes please! — but only if we actually learn something. Like, why the Deputy Sec Def? Why the Antarctic Network? Was this behind the President's back? And if so, is the President now on board with it after the fact? Why is the Deputy Sec Def now the Sec Def, just a day or two later? You'd think the news media would be curious about a change of Defense Secretary at this crucial time, actually.

Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with Last Resort right now: they nuked Pakistan and it's a minor plot point. (I apologize to anyone who's bothered that I mention this in the headline of this piece. I don't think it's really a spoiler at this point, since it appears to be part of the basic premise of Last Resort, like "the police box is a time machine" is for Doctor Who. And it's at the root of my main issue with the show.)

Everything that happens here, including Chaplin trying to get three of his people back, feels like a minor sideline compared to the enormity of millions of people dying.

The nuking of Pakistan is actually mentioned once in this episode, when we see a talking head on television trotting out an (apparently false) story about Pakistan having portable nukes that were going to be used in a terrorist attack, unless the U.S. acted first. And as Kylie observes, a nuclear first strike is now apparently the new default policy of the United States, which in itself is a huge big deal.

But also, we still haven't seen any of the fallout (so to speak) from this attack. We haven't even seen any images of the devastation in Pakistan, or how people are coping there. There are no Pakistani characters in the show. Just how many people actually died, out of the 177 million people in the country? And no other dominos have fallen. (Okay, so maybe this wouldn't be World War III right off the bat. But how would India react? What would happen in Afghanistan? This is a complicated region we're talking about here.) Is there some debate among U.S. political figures about the ethics of preemptive nuking as a defense strategy?

Dear Last Resort: You can't turn mass murder into a minor subplot

I guess that one reason the pilot of Last Resort was so thrilling was because they went there and actually blew up a goddamn country full of millions of people. Which was a gutsy, insane move. But now they gotta follow through. And the events of this show, the submarine hiding out on an island full of wacky people, only really make sense against the backdrop of the whole goddamn world falling apart. If they really want to make nuking Pakistan no big deal, or just a pot simmering on the back burner, then my suspension of disbelief is going to keep getting more and more strained.

On the plus side, they got the COB (the great Robert Patrick) out of the brig, by having him make a deal with Captain Chaplin — the COB will go back to doing his job and following orders, and meanwhile Chaplin will try his best to get home for a court martial as fast as he can, where Prosser can be the star witness. I'm glad they've explicitly stated that as the goal now.