"Last Resort" had it all. It came from an exciting TV pedigree, including "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan and "Dead Like Me" writer Karl Gajdusek. It premiere to top reviews from many critics. So why was it canceled mid-season? Here's a few reasons why.
3. Two-Dimensional Bad Guys. I've already written about this frustration before - the villains of the show are extremely flat. Whether it's nuking Pakistan or trying to emotionally manipulate the wife of a crew member, the villains of the show - represented by a fictional, dystopian American regime - don't seem to have much reason for what they are doing.
I was getting caught up on "The Walking Dead" this weekend. This season, the show has a particularly memorable villain - the Governor, played by David Morrissey. The Governor comes off as a war criminal in scene after scene, but one thing which impressed me the most was how the sum of his character snaps into place after one grueling scene with his daughter, now a zombie. Morrissey's Governor tries repeatedly to see anything human in his undead daughter, to no avail, and in that moment, you can see exactly why the Governor is as tragically twisted as he is.
There's no moments like that in "Last Resort". The closest thing we had to a likable villain was Paul, a government agent sent to turn Sam Kendall's wife Christine against him. (Hilariously, Christine sees him coming a mile a way, and uses him instead of the other way around.) It turns out Paul is trying to get custody of his son, and is having second thoughts about preying upon Christine. Unfortunately, this characterization has absolutely no bearing on the plot because he dies not one episode later. The only other villain even remotely likable is local drug dealer Serrat, who was last seeing using the rape of an island woman to intentionally start a riot on the streets of his own city. Without good villains, the show seems dead in the water from the start.
2. Lack of Minor Characters. The show is at its strongest with its main characters. Spearheaded by Andre Braugher's powerhouse performance of Marcus Chaplin, the main cast includes the driven XO Sam Kendall, the by-the-book Lieutenant Grace Shepherd and the roguish Navy SEAL James King. The COB and bartender Tani are good side characters who just need a little more screen time. The growing friendship between Sam's equally determined wife Christine and weapons developer Kylie Sinclair is a nice touch, but otherwise, there's hardly any supporting cast. This is a particularly troubling because the show has a boat filled with hundreds of sailors, but no development.
We see several reoccurring faces, but we really don't know their names or personalities outside of the opening scene. After a while, they all start to blur together. While the showrunners wisely show the morale and reactions of the crew, we simply don't get any details on the crew themselves. Last episode had rogue Pakistani soldiers taking the crew's family members hostage and killing two of them. The scenes are particularly brutal, but the problem is we don't know whose family they were. We see the reactions of the crew, but we don't anything about them. The only exception is the all-important Cortez, who is really a sleeper agent for the CIA. Otherwise, it's hard to tell one sailor from the next, leaving the show down to a skeleton crew in many scenes.
1. Close-Ended Premise. A close-ended premise is the Achilles' Heel of plenty of TV shows. Look at "Lost" - the biggest question is "What happens when they get off the island?" Though the J.J. Abrams hit danced around this possibility in later seasons, having a close-ended premise has killed many a show, and "Last Resort" is no exception.
Perhaps the biggest problem of "Last Resort" is the show felt more like a mini-series than a TV series from the get-go. We couldn't really see the crew of the USS Colorado staying on the island of Sainte Marina long-term. With the exception of King and Tani, there's too few scenes of the the crew getting to the know the islanders. Obviously, Serrat has something to know with that, but for one reason or another, the island never seems like a home to anyone, Naval or native.
Maybe there's still hope for Last Resort to continue on another a channel, but if it does so, it will have to do so with a close-ended perspective, as a mini-series and made-for-TV movie. While this is just speculation on my part, I could see "Last Resort" continuing on a different channel or perhaps a different medium entirely. But for one reason or another, "Last Resort" just wasn't built to withstand season after season of abuse, and of that reason, the show's bleak future has suffered a hull breach with its cancellation.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Friday I'll take a look at what "Last Resort" did right - just time for the last episode.
(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder Wednesday)