Recap and review for Last Resort – Season 1 Episode 10 – Blue Water
As Last Resort inches closer to its series finale, I really have to wonder just how the show is going to wrap things up in a fashion that could even remotely be considered satisfying. Many times, when a freshman show is canceled early into its run, and assuming it’s lucky enough to be allowed to finish its initial order, such a series will inevitably put a bow on things with a finale that could have served as a cliffhanger if the series were to continue, but which could also serve as a finale if the show were to end. So, as we near episode 13, the question becomes whether the series can satisfactorily wrap that bow around its profoundly compelling narrative. “Blue Water” maintains last week’s narrative tension, thanks in large part to the central story, which sees Marcus (Andre Braugher) continue his gradual slip towards madness, and outright totalitarianism. However, it’s also a strangely ponderous episode, an hour of television that has undoubtedly high stakes, yet still feels devoid of any real urgency. This is less troubling in the Marcus storyline, though it’s a problematic element of the search for Christine (Jessy Schram), as Sam (Scott Speedman) and James (Daniel Lissing) hit up Manila to find her before it’s too late.
It’s always been subtly implicated that Marcus is at least a little bit crazy, dating all the way back to the pilot, in which he claims that, in order to be the man with his finger on the button, a little craziness is necessary. While the series continued embellishing upon that burgeoning madness in the weeks immediately following the pilot, the show has generally backed off of developing that arc over the last several episodes. Yet it returns here tonight, as Marcus meets with a Chinese envoy named Zhang (Chin Han), who offers to alleviate the Colorado’s food/munitions burden in exchange for the right for the Chinese to occupy a small portion of the island, an offer that basically amounts to one with very few, if any, strings attached. Yet, as Grace (Daisy Betts) correctly points out, nothing ever comes free. She advises Marcus not to accept the offer, rationalizing that allying with the Chinese will make it harder for them to clear their names of treason charges when/if they get back home. While Marcus argues that, since the Colorado has not established a sovereign nation, they cannot technically be in an alliance with China, he knows she’s right. But he just can’t bring himself to accept the aid of his other would-be benefactor, Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah). And so he takes the deal, clearing out his own brig in the process by putting all the prisoners back to their positions, but not before punishing whichever two prisoners drew the shortest straw. It’s stomach-churning to see Marcus result to such barbarism, as he has the COB (Robert Patrick) fashion a cat o’ nine tails out of some rope and go to town on the unlucky men (though we don’t actually see the beating, we do see the bloody rope tendrils afterwards). Worse yet, there’s a glimmer in his eyes and a near-smirk playing across his lips that suggest he might actually be enjoying this power. Or, if not the power, then at least outsmarting Zhang and Serrat by finding a solution to the prison overpopulation crisis without their help.
Speaking of the COB, his absence for the past several episodes is explained, as Serrat’s men threw him in a hole without food or water, where he languished for two days before escaping, and then wandering the wild for another four. He tries to hide his pain, along with his forced relapse into painkiller addiction, from everyone on the island, though Grace notices something is amiss…particularly when he collapses in front of her. He tells her his story, leaving out the torched feet and the forced injection, earning Grace’s sympathy, though it doesn’t seem to bring them any closer together as colleagues, in any measurable respect. If I had to guess where this Grace/COB plot was going, I’d guess it would tie into the hunt for the mole on the Colorado, whom we know is Cortez (Jessica Camacho), who is conspicuous by her absence this week, after her guilt forced her to anonymously return the nuclear launch key to Marcus’s cabin last week.
Yet that story pales in importance to the saga that takes up much of the episode, as Sam and James somehow bypass the blockade around Sainte Marina (don’t know how, because we aren’t shown, nor is it explained) to venture to the Philippines to follow the lead they have on Christine’s whereabouts. James utilizes an old contact named Wes, a grizzled veteran living off the grid with his native wife and son. From a pacing standpoint, this is the most troubling storyline of the episode. One moment, Sam and James are urgently beating down the vet’s door and trying to strong-arm him into helping them. The next minute, they’re lounging around his house, talking about how Sam and Christine met. Then, minutes later, they’re getting Christine’s whereabouts from a sleazy casino jockey and storming the warehouse to save her. Sam and Christine are united before the episode is even half-done!
That said, I can see why they did it that way, as it allows the couple to have time to live out their romance, no longer as just an idea, a prize being dangled in front of them for both parties to feel wistful about, but as an actual, tangible connection between two people. And, in that respect, it works tremendously. It’s weird that two people could simply have “so-so” chemistry like Speedman and Schram do, yet still feel like a real, lived-in couple. There’s something genuine to their dynamic that I love watching. In that sense, I guess their chemistry is outstanding. But I guess I just don’t feel them as a duo in the big, teary-eyed moments, like when Sam sends her off with Wes (who has agreed to escort her safely to a private plane), arguing that for every moment she’s with him, she’s not safe from the bounty hunters out for his head (because apparently the US government has put out a $5 million, X Factor-sized grand prize for Sam’s bullet-strewn corpse). I enjoyed their brief moments in the safety of a rundown safehouse, discussing the possibility of living off the grid, and starting a life for themselves, with Christine painting all day and Sam building ships for billionaires, all while raising a little child that’s just like his/her father. It’s a moving little scene, made all the better by the fact that Sam doesn’t make a big stink over the kiss he saw Christine giving Paul (Jay Rodriguez) last week. They simply address its artificial nature and move on, because they understand one another. This is what I was talking about when I mention how Schram and Speedman have the feel of a real couple, even when they’re simply delivering what’s written on the page. They give a spirit to it that might not actually be on the page itself.
This chemistry is what makes the climax a devastating bit of television…well, at least if it hadn’t been an obvious fakeout. I’ll give it to Last Resort in this sense, as they established with Paul’s death last week that no one is really safe. And they also established a back-up romantic interest for Sam, in Sophie Girard (Camille De Pazzis). So I actually found myself believing that Christine had truly been killed in the van explosion during the shootout between Sam/James and the bounty hunters. Yet the episode continued on, and didn’t even linger long with Sam in his grief over watching his wife, presumably, explode. He simply goes numb, and then James drags him away because crooked cops are en route. It’s strangely rushed, and kind of gives away that Christine is still alive – which turns out to be the case when it’s revealed that Wes is still alive, and holding a captive Christine out of the necessity to keep his own family safe (presumably from the local power brokers, though the US government could well be on his ass too).
The last plotline of the episode, and the one that’s least successful is, again, the story following Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), who’s confronted by Hopper. Never mind that I have no idea how he got back into the US, much less that quickly, Hopper offers Kylie the helmet-cam footage from Pakistan that she’s so desperate for, in exchange for $6 million. He wants the money in order to ensure that he and James are able to live off the grid, in perpetuity. Yet, in the process of their negotiations, one of Kylie’s contacts happens in on the deal and reveals that there’s much more going on than either of them actually know about, as a rogue faction is planning a coup de tat on American shores. This is all well and good, but again, the Kylie portions feel like they’re part of a completely different episode, if not a completely different series altogether. Kylie’s best influence in the show was when being paired with a character we cared about, like Christine. She doesn’t yet have the cache as an independent character to get us to care about her in isolation. And with only three episodes left, I’m not sure she’s going to get there.
That said, “Blue Water” is still riveting television for what it accomplishes over the course of the hour, deepening the theme of Marcus’s gradual slip on sanity, and dealing with Sam’s confrontation with perceived failure. There’s also the overarching conflicts of the Colorado vs. the locals, and even the crewmen against each other. There’s tons of drama to mine over the course of the final three episodes, when Last Resort returns in a month. I can’t wait to see if the show can stick its landing, even while I bemoan the fact that it won’t get the opportunity to do more than try.