Recap and review of Last Resort – Season 1 Episode 12 – The Pointy End of the Spear
Last Resort comes to an end next week, with a finale that creator Shawn Ryan stated has been adjusted to allow the series to conclude on a relatively satisfying note. Yet there’s still a tinge of sadness for what might have been, particularly when the series is still putting out episodes as gripping as “The Pointy End of the Spear”. However, this is part of the problem with a show that only has two hours left to tell its story. In maintaining the narrative momentum of the presidential coup de tat, introduced only last week, along with the COB’s rebellion, we sacrifice some of the other plots that have been given short shrift in the last several weeks. What happened to Christine? What exactly does Serrat intend to do with the rare minerals in the island’s soil? Where’s Tani been lately? We only really get an answer on the last question, as Tani (Dichen Lachman) arrives to say she’s leaving the island with her brother, upon which James (Daniel Lissing) is willing to toss aside whatever lingering sense of duty remains, in order to follow her and start a new life. This subplot eventually suffers when James is roped back into the necessities of duty, resulting in the tired routine of the male pretending to be a jerk for the woman’s own good. But this is only one story thread in an episode that does an outstanding job setting up a finale that can’t possibly do anything else but disappoint. We’re down to the wire, and the show leaves many plates still spinning in the air, with almost no hope of a neat, satisfying finish. So we’re left simply to enjoy the episodes in isolation. And in this sense, “The Pointy End of the Spear” is outstanding television.
The episode sees the escalation of the conflict between the disgruntled half of the crew of the Colorado, led by COB (Robert Patrick), and the loyal division of the crew, fronted by Marcus (Andre Braugher). In the middle of all this are Grace (Daisy Betts) and Sam (Scott Speedman), who spends most of the episode relaying back and forth between Marcus and COB. To COB, he tries to negotiate several more hours to try and make Marcus see reason, and to allow for a peaceful transition. The COB isn’t having it, and he intends to initiate his coup at the festival being held by Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) that night. To Marcus, Sam tries to negotiate the peaceful surrender of his command. Of course, Marcus isn’t having that either. At an impasse, Sam feels that the only way to avoid bloodshed is to relieve Marcus of his command himself, confronting his friend and mentor amid the revelry of the evening festival. Sam claims to have Grace on his side (owing to a conversation he shares with her on the beach, in which he insists that they have no other choice). Marcus radios Grace, who has command of the con, and asks her to send up one flare if she’s with Sam, and two if she’s with him. The Colorado sends up two flares, and Sam’s attempt at a peaceful transition of power is shut down. The COB, meanwhile, looks to make his move, as it’s revealed that Grace was forced to send up two flares at gunpoint from the returning Lieutenant Harold Anders (Michael Mosley), last seen being sent into the wild of Sainte Marina by Marcus as punishment for raping a villager. Anders, presumably part of the COB’s plan, forced Grace to send up two flares as a means of luring the Captain to the Colorado. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, although we haven’t seen nearly enough of Anders to buy him as the man who could bring Marcus down. But he’s certainly hateable. It’s easy to hate any man when he’s a rapist.
Of course, none of this mutiny would have been necessary had the coup de tat in Washington gone off without a hitch. Kylie (Autumn Reeser) is terrified that the plan will fail, yet she soldiers on anyway – providing a pretty interesting contrast with the military men who have taken part in the conspiracy, none of whom seem to have the mettle that Kylie has. Admiral Shepard (Bruce Davison) contacts Marcus to let him know what they’re planning: to show the House of Representatives the footage of the mess in Pakistan, and then relieving President Bolton and the Vice President from office, with Speak of the House Conrad Buell (Ernie Hudson) assuming the presidency, and pardoning the crew of the Colorado, allowing them to return home without fear of prosecution. Unfortunately, as the episode progresses, it becomes evident that the plan isn’t going to work, although the extent to which it fails was beyond comprehension. We can detect the shift in the conspirators’ confidence in the plan when Shepard phones Grace and basically says goodbye, letting her know how much he loves her, and how the day she was born was the best day of his life, lastly adding that everything happens for a reason. From there, we see Buell receive a troubling text only moments before going in front of the House. From there, it’s an outright catastrophe. Watching from a TV feed in the back, Kylie witnesses Buell begin to deliver his address before being interrupted by a mysterious figure, who whispers into Buell’s ear before exiting just as mysteriously. Buell assumes a look of grim resignation, says that he and his fellow conspirators are at fault for the military calamity that’s dividing the country. He then produces a gun from a pouch by the podium and blows his own brains out on national television. The news report Kylie witnesses later notes Buell’s suicide as “the second high-profile death” that day, which leads me to believe that Shepard probably punched his own ticket as well.
But the intrigue persists. As Kylie escapes from the House of Representatives, she’s ushered into a limo by two men dressed in black. Once inside the limo, she sees her father, Barton (Michael Gaston). Barton reveals that he got her name removed from the list of conspirators that the government now has in their possession, and adds that he admires her initiative in being a part of the coup in the first place, since she would have been very near the top of the hierarchy had she actually pulled it off. Unfortunately, as her father tells her, “You picked the losing side.” And Barton would know better than anyone who’s on the winning side. As the limo comes to a stop, Kylie peeks out and sees that they’re at the landing strip for Air Force One. Barton is in league with President Bolton, ensuring that the weapons-manufacturing Sinclair family casts its lot with the winners in this game of thrones.
There are other elements to this week’s plot, some more successful than others. I honestly couldn’t care less about the potential romance between Sam and Sophie (Camille De Pazzis), although I was infinitely more intrigued by Sam giving James his hit list of people who need to be taken out if the deposing of Marcus goes pear-shaped. And there was also a bit of nostalgic tenderness to see Sam and Marcus share one last drink together as they waited for the Colorado’s flares, signalling Grace’s decision, the last act before their alliance would, by necessity, go to rot. And in the midst of all this is Zhang, who continues to play both sides (even after being warned by Marcus against doing just that) in the service of China’s interests, whatever they may be. It’s an episode that’s absolutely dense with plot, yet it’s remarkable just how effect the episode still is, given that it zips by at break-neck pace, while still telling nuanced stories focused on the shades of grey morality of characters burdened by equal parts duty, necessity, and ego. I have no idea how this series could possibly conclude, but I’m anticipating next week’s series finale (billed as a “season finale” by ABC, as if the network is still optimistic about its chances of survival, despite having already canceled it), although I’m also somewhat dreading it. How can any finale live up to the consistent quality of these twelve episodes? Like pizza, even when Last Resort is bad, it was still pretty damn good – and “The Pointy End of the Spear” is an episode fresh out of the oven.