Recap and review of Last Resort – Season 1 Episode 11 – Damn the Torpedoes
Last Resort is closing in on its finale, with two more weeks to go before the series becomes a thing of the past, and damned if I’m not going to miss it. “Damn the Torpedoes” is an exhilarating episode that really gets me thinking about the different ways creator Shawn Ryan could possibly end this. If this was a show that had every intention of continuing on for the foreseeable future, it would be inconceivable to me that the series would pit Sam (Scott Speedman) against Marcus (Andre Braugher) this early into the series, nor present the complete overthrow of the US government as such a plausible possibility. But unless the rest of the remaining episodes were filmed before the series was canceled, I’d say expectations are out the window. So could we see Marcus killed off? Or the loose confederation of senators and admirals overthrow the President of the United States? Unless Shawn Ryan and company are hoping for an eleventh hour cable network/Netflix reprieve, I see no reason not to put balls firmly to the wall, and just go all out. Yet any wild developments should still be grounded in good storytelling, sort of like tonight’s episode, which brought a nail-biting level of intensity without compromising what’s been a solid story throughout the series: the gradual slip into insanity and absolute power from Marcus, and the compromise of his crew’s loyalty.
The storylines are pretty evenly distributed this week, save for one perilously uninteresting subplot involving Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) and his search for rare earth minerals, with Sophie (Camille De Pazzis) trying to dissuade him from his pursuit. Ignoring that misfire, the rest of the episode is unflinchingly tense. Sam is far from over the “death” of his wife, taking to the beach to drink himself stupid, where Sophie finds him to offer her condolences. Sam flips his lid on her, sick of the empty platitudes of sympathy, and telling her to leave him the hell alone. As Sam wanders the island, he happens upon a group of USS Colorado crewmen organizing an overthrow to relieve Chaplin of command, with COB (Robert Patrick) as the anointed head of this initiative.
COB gives chase to Sam, and the two end up duking it out in the mud under a torrential downpour. Eventually, COB calls a truce, and the duration of the episode represents a war of wills between the two men, as COB explains why Chaplin needs to be deposed, while Sam defends his longtime friend and colleague from COB’s insinuations. These are among the best scenes of the episode, and they basically amount to two guys just sitting around and talking. But it’s the content that goes over so well, as COB (a “dyed in the wool” patriot) accuses Sam of simply joining the military as a means to an end, instead of out of any sense of patriotism. He says that people like Sam don’t think their patriotism and fealty to their country will ever have to be tested, and so they sign up, thinking they’ll get promotions, retire, collect benefits, and get old and fat in peace, without ever really having to make the tough decisions about loyalty. Whether it’s right or not, it’s well-observed, and goes a long way in illustrating the necessity, from COB’s point of view, of deposing Marcus. This kind of complexity is why the show works as well as it does. Sam eventually accedes to the COB’s plans and decides to join his rebellion against Marcus, under the condition that Marcus is not killed. It’s the most dramatic development in an episode that’s full of them.
A Chinese supply ship is headed for Sainte Marina to provide food and other necessities for the crewman and villagers on the island, yet the US government has sent a destroyer, the USS Patrick Lawrence, to intercept and destroy the civilian vessel. The captain of the ship is a Navy man who was once in attendance at a lecture Marcus gave at Anapolis; thus, the captain claims to know Chaplin is abidingly patriotic, and would never fire on an American ship. Faced with compromising his own patriotic code of conduct, or allowing innocent civilians to die, Marcus chooses the civilians. Grace (Daisy Betts) has friends on the USS Patrick Lawrence, so she approaches James (Daniel Lissing) about finding another way. And so Marcus instructs them to hurry up with their compromise, extracting 80% of the payload from the torpedo so that the missile will injure the Patrick Lawrence but not sink it. However, time constraints force Chaplin to consider firing with the full payload. Grace refuses the order, as they’re nearly done with their modifications. The wait ends up being worth it, as the Patrick Lawrence retreats after the first hit. But Marcus is still furious with Grace for disobeying him. To save face (and because it’s probably true), she tells Marcus that she did it for him. Grace has gone from a woman of unflinching loyalty to her captain to a woman with a greater loyalty to what’s right, even if it contradicts her orders. It’s a rich bit of character work, well-performed by both Betts and Braugher, in particular, whose “My word is LAW!” speech really illustrates Chaplin’s frustration at the limits of his power.
Lastly, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) and Admiral Shephard (Bruce Davison) are in Washington, meeting with a group of high-ranking officials, among them the Speaker of the House (Ernie Hudson). Together, they watch the footage of the Pakistan mission from Hopper’s helmet-cam, which reveals the treachery of the US government in their dealings with the Pakistanis. The group decides that an overthrow of the government is in order, starting with the relief of the President from command. One of the Generals refuses to participate, calling their talk treason. He’s shot for his trouble. They’re all in this together now. There’s no turning back. For better or worse, they’re on the hook for treason every bit as badly as Marcus. Doesn’t stop Kylie from making out with her colleague in the bathroom after the shooting, but then, I suppose a good snogging can help dull the panic that accompanies plotting the overthrow of your country’s duly sworn and elected leader.
“Damn the Torpedoes” is an episode about loyalty and rebellion. Each of the major arcs of the episode involve the overthrow of a leader, and the question of just what manner of fidelity is owed to a leader that so frequently operates from an increasingly darkening morality. It’s a fascinating analysis made all the more poignant by the episode’s other overarching story, in which the one member of Chaplin’s crew that was never really one of his to begin with, the CIA mole Cortez (Jessica Camacho), is the only one to truly, unquestioningly commit herself to Marcus. She gets her marching orders from the CIA at the start of the episode: Kill Marcus Chaplin immediately. Yet as she confronts him, and he deduces what she’s there to do, Cortez can’t bring herself to do it. He reads her a passage from The Bible, and this is perhaps her impetus for reconsidering…except that her heart didn’t ever really seem to be into killing Chaplin. She was frequently given to pangs of guilt that would contradict her order, as evidenced by her returning the stolen launch key once it became evident that everyone’s family members would be in danger if she continued with her CIA mission. Here, she explains that she initially joined the Navy as a means of paying off her student loan debt, and then accepted the CIA job for the extra money. Yet that isn’t who she is. Cortez hands over her gun and tells Marcus that he has many enemies…but she’s not one of them. It’s an act of loyalty that relies on Marcus’s trust, in the same way that fidelity to Marcus relies on the trust of his crew, and their faith that he isn’t steering them down a hopeless path. The show has engaged these issues before, but never so nimbly, or with such grace.
This is yet another in a long line of episodes that make me sullen to be losing this show. However, with that disappointment comes the excitement of the approaching finale, as I’m genuinely puzzled as to how this series could end. The narrative is chock full of breathtaking possibilities. With any luck, the series will provide a conclusion as satisfying as the story it’s been telling these past eleven episodes.