'Last Resort' premiere recap: Series premiere rises above cliches

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"Last Resort" has so many angles and moving parts that we're about at the level of Season 3 of "Lost" by the end of the premiere. With so many characters and storylines, there's the danger of spinning out of control and losing viewers who lately seem burned out by serial dramas. The pilot episode of this naval drama has plenty of action and suspense to ignite interest, however, and could be enough to sustain high ratings for the series.

Where it all begins

Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) commands a Navy submarine in Middle Eastern waters. Soon after he and his crew rescue a Seals team from a lifeboat, they receive orders to fire nuclear missiles on Pakistan. The orders come from a suspicious source, however, so Chaplin and his XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) agree to contact their superiors for verification. When they refuse to fire without proper authorization, they get a dial tone from HQ and an attack from their own navy. Two missiles blast holes in the sub and send it crashing to the ocean floor.

The major news networks report that Pakistan took out the submarine, and the "crazy" President authorizes a nuclear attack on the country in retaliation. With mushroom clouds in the distant background, Chaplin gets his submarine limping along to an island, and essentially commandeers the entire area. He holds off a second fatal attack from his own Navy by firing a warning shot at D.C. with his own nukes.

More drama

Aside from the varied array of locals, the island includes a NATO station and its two employees, as well as a local drug lord who's not happy having his authority questioned. There's plenty of opportunity for conflict with the island's inhabitants, as well as dissension and mutiny within the sub's own crew.

Back home, family members of the crew are being taken in for questioning, including a high-ranking military officer who had no idea that his own government shot down his lieutenant daughter's submarine. There's plenty for a conspiracy theorist to work with, including a special prototype mechanism placed on the rogue submarine that was intended to hide the vessel's signature from the enemy.

Sink or swim?

The first five minutes of "Last Resort" seemed destined to drown in military movie cliches: the seasoned revered captain, the fresh-faced good-guy XO, the daddy's-girl lieutenant who has to earn the respect of her subordinates. Each character was given a little quirk that stood as shorthand for a personality. It felt like a million movies and TV shows we've all seen before.

Once the action kicked in, however, the show took off. The claustrophobic, pressurized interior of a sub always makes for good movie drama, and the series has top-notch effects that made us really feel the danger. The motivations of many of the characters remain unclear, which could provide a lot of twists and shocking revelations in future episodes. We can't even be sure if Chaplin is just pretending to be crazy, or if he really is.

With action and drama as intense as big-screen fare like "The Hunt for Red October," viewers will be motivated to tune in. There's also a lot of acting talent here, and if "Last Resort" can successfully juggle all of the storylines it's begun, ABC could have a hit series.

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