After last week’s firefight and minor mutiny, Last Resort ups the ante with “Eight Bells,” an episode that sees Chaplin (Andre Braugher) lead the crew of the Colorado on a do-or-die mission to rescue three captured crew members, while Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) embarks upon some detective work of her own, stateside. The episode has all the potential to be as tense and nail-biting as the previous two installments, but it ultimately struggles to feel very important, even while the stakes are arguably higher than they’ve ever been. Obviously, a show can’t be as intense as Last Resort and maintain that level of intensity from week to week. There need to be episodes that move the pieces around the game board, so to speak. “Eight Bells” accomplishes that with fitting aplomb, but it’s hard not to take it as anything but a disappointment when set against the high standard of the previous two episodes. That said, I still have every confidence that the show can rebound.
The three crew members of the Colorado are being held by Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah), the “Mayor” of Sainte Marina, a despot with zero patience for his island’s occupying presence. Chaplin, who discovers that his son’s body will be kept in a Navy morgue until Chaplin surrenders, seeks to resolve the situation by confronting Serrat. Serrat explains that this hostage situation is retaliation for the death of a 15 year-old Sainte Marina boy, killed as a result of a skirmish caused by the Colorado’s presence. The despot offers to release the hostages if Chaplin uses the Colorado to get past a blockade and retrieve a package from an abandoned boat. This verbal confrontation is among the episode’s best moments, with Serrat figuratively puffing his chest out and adopting his coldest tough guy posture, while Chaplin remains cool and resolute. “There’s no need to quarrel,” Chaplin says. “Because if we do: You lose.” Serrat, for his part, replies with a threat of “death by a thousand cuts.” Thus, we have a ticking time-bomb plot. Retrieve and return the package by sunrise, or a hostage dies.
The tactical maneuvering of the Colorado past the blockade is well-handled, and seeks to wring drama out of a human game of chess, and it works, for the most part. The issue is that it doesn’t work as well as some of the more explosive action setpieces we’ve gotten thus far, and so a cerebral sequence like this doesn’t feel like it has the same import or immediacy, even though it’s still fraught with peril. The Sinclairs’ Perseus cloaking device falters while the Colorado is in reach of an enemy sub, a complication that leads to the Colorado becoming stranded and blind in an underwater canyon. Enter Sophie (Camille De Pazzis), the French operator of the NATO outpost, who steers the Colorado out of its current jam by communicating with Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman). What should be a tense sequence is relatively subdued, and though it should be a jarring contrast, it actually works since Kendal and Sophie have such great chemistry. Whether or not they intend to test Sam’s fidelity by presenting Sophie (who has a penchant for cigarettes and bad men) as a romantic option, it’s a strong character pairing, as they’re among the few characters who’ve made it clear that they want no part of Sainte Marina. Sam wants to get home to his wife, and Sophie wants to get back to civilization. Unfortunately, in aiding the Colorado out of its predicament, Sophie misses her ride off the island. The friendship between Sam and Sophie does the work of further elaborating upon the nature of sacrifice and loyalty, if not duty itself.
The episode would be remarkable if these elements had been the sole focus of the episode, but there are several other threads that are bothersome, if not outright troubling. When Serrat threatens to kill one of the crewmen, Cortez (one of the captives, and the only female among them) asks to speak with Serrat alone. Upon their return, it’s implied that Cortez performed a sexual favor for the tyrant, and though it’s within the dark and perilous nature of the narrative being presented, along with fitting the characterization of the villain himself, the implication is uncomfortable, if not mildly offensive for how cavalierly the issue is dealt with. To be fair, it’s not as if there’s really any way to treat sexual assault respectfully, but hopefully this experience becomes a major factor in Cortez’s character going forward, since it would be a disservice to the character and to the very capable creative forces behind the series.
Naturally, the predicament in the underwater canyon causes the Colorado to miss its deadline, and as Serrat attempts to choose between the three hostages, Brannan (fellow hostage and friend of Cortez) offers up the third hostage, Redman (disappointingly lacking a Method Man of his own), out of desperation to survive. Brannan apologizing for selling out a friend and fellow soldier while Redman is being carried off to his death is heartrending stuff, and understandable in its own way, even if it’s not exactly the kind of stone-faced heroism we’re used to from military stories like this. Chaplin is furious that Serrat has killed one of his men, yet he doesn’t retaliate upon his return. When Kaplan demands answers, Chaplin responds, “We will respond to this affront at the time and place of my choosing.” This standoff leads to the episode’s denouement, and its best sequence, in which Chaplin and Kendal drink scotch and watch the funeral of the 15 year-old island boy. It’s a beautiful ceremony, enlivened with mellifluous chanting that borders on the transcendent, and Kendal and Chaplin reasserting their bond with Sam assuring his friend and mentor that they’re going to get back home and bury his son the right way, with twenty-one guns in Arlington. I’ve come to realize that my favorite moments of the show each week are the bonding moments between Kendal and Chaplin, scenes that reassert their friendship and respect for one another, while also advancing the undercurrent of clashing ideologies between them.
Of course, again, while “Eight Bells” gets so much right, the episode still suffers from the additional story threads it has to cover. I don’t know if there’s anything that can get me to care about the potential romance between Navy SEAL James King (Daniel Lissing) and Sainte Marina bar owner Tani Tumrenjack (Dichen Lachman), who takes the military man on a little excursion to meet her father. Her father is upset because Tani’s brother is slowly becoming a savage like Serrat, and now James gets to be the comforting presence in Tani’s life instead of the other way around. A moonlight swim next to a massive waterfall tries to utilize the scenery to convey a sense of romance that isn’t really there just yet. The storyline is a total non-starter, and weighs down an otherwise solid episode. Meanwhile, Kylie’s discovery of the Arctic network, which was used to send the firing order to the Colorado, has her fearful of a potential whacking around the corner, especially after her friend/contact was put in a coma last week. The storyline is too sparse to really be intriguing, but we do get to meet the patriarch of the Sinclair family (played by Michael Gaston), while advancing the government conspiracy angle when Kylie discovers that someone has broken into her apartment and stolen the Perseus blueprints. If nothing else, it portends future intrigue in the D.C. plotline, and leads to further questions of just how deep this whole conspiracy goes.
“Eight Bells” is probably the weakest episode of Last Resort thus far, but what is that really saying? The last two weeks have produced some excellent television, so for “Eight Bells” to be below par is hardly a condemnation of the series. It’s simply a matter of taste, and acclimating to the various narrative shifts as the show finds its groove. I’m still very confident in the show, and I really can’t say that there have been many freshman series that I’ve believed in to this degree. Hopefully, next week can take the developments of “Eight Bells” and move forward with the same confidence the series has shown in its early goings.