Last Resort is still finding its sea legs, so to speak, which means that at the moment my reactions are totally unbalanced.  The stuff that works is great.  The stuff that doesn’t is rather terrible. Let’s start with the awful.

Kylie Sinclair is not the most compelling character ever, but she is becoming more sympathetic as we have come to understand that she is not an active participant in the conspiracy to nuke Pakistan, but will instead be our designated Nancy Drew for the purposes of unraveling it.  Her subplot is getting more interesting as her edges become more frayed and she gets caught between her father and Grace’s (another potentially problematic character, but she barely shows up this week).  The clandestine meeting with the general in the parking garage may be boilerplate Conspiracy Thriller stuff, but it set up an interesting conflict for her that the show may or may not capitalize on, as the subplot is just edging into “potentially interesting” territory.  Kylie has probably gotten along for a long time profiting off of shady ventures by telling herself that it is all vaguely in the interests of national security and that she is really a patriot at heart.  Now he’s telling her it’s time to put up, and we’ll see where she comes down on.  My money’s on the side of the angels, but we’ll see.

My biggest problem at this point is that James the SEAL is utterly unconvincing as a world-weary badass, a condition his nonexistent chemistry with Tani the bartender-whose-name-I-had-to-look-up-after-three-episodes does nothing to help.  I simply do not buy that this was the guy girls brought home to piss off their parents in high school.  I do not buy that he is a trained, efficient killing machine.  I do not buy that he has seen too much in the service and just wants to be left alone.

I do not buy it in her pub, I do not by it near a sub. I do not buy it in a waterfall, I do not buy it much at all.

I do buy that he is attracted to Tani, because I can see her too, but I don’t buy that her family issues are worthy of our time or interest.  I straight do not want to watch the show about their romance.

I do want to watch the rest of the show, though, which is a tense, messy adult thriller.  And it now officially features Jay Karnes in the flesh, which is a plus.  His role on The Shield was so profoundly uncool that many people underestimated just how key the character was to making that show work, and just how good he was on it.  Happy to have him heading up our Sinister Conspiracy.

Freeing the COB is a good idea for the show, but the opening scene between him and Chaplin still had to sell me on it being a good idea for the characters, which is a fairly tall order.  Braugher and Patrick however, pros that they are, do manage to convince me that they are men of sufficient honor that their words would be enough to keep this very tentative peace between them.  That scene may have played better after the events of this episode, though, as they would seem ideally designed to demonstrate to Marcus that with more than enough enemies within and without, he needs to keep what people he has very close.

But the real meat of the episode, and by far the strongest parts, focus on Julian the gangster’s kidnapping of three sailors.  I was not impressed with the character in the pilot, as his first big scene had him backing down from the threats of one drunk guy (whose badass credentials I recently declined to purchase), but he comes off as a much more credible threat here, both to the hostages, who are all horribly scarred or worse at his hands, and Chaplin’s increasingly tenuous grasp on power.  In the end he is successful in bending the Colorado to his will, sending it on a smuggling mission that provides us with some standard but effective Sweaty Stealth Submarine Sequences.  And he still takes his pound of flesh over and above that.

Plus, abs. Abs til Thursday.

This is some heavy, harrowing stuff that really makes the weaker parts of the episode stand out that much more.  I knew Shawn Ryan was capable of some dark turns of mind, but for whatever reason I was unprepared to see Cortez so matter-of-factly barter her body for a small reprieve when I turned on ABC at 7 pm.  Or the horrible way it ended, not just with Julian executing one of our guys, but with another cowardly volunteering his shipmate for the chopping block when the moment of truth came.  That is some harsh stuff to drop into direct from skinny dipping with beautiful locals, and asking a primetime audience to stomach not just sickening behavior from the villain but such drastic compromises from the “heroes” is risky this early in the game, but it does make an impression. If Last Resort can maintain that level of intensity in at least one of its plotlines going forward, I’ll stick around.  It may not be for long in any case, as the ratings have apparently dropped sharply from the pilot.  Hopefully this won’t be a repeat of the short-lived Terriers, which got better and better throughout its first and only season, but never gained enough ratings momentum to buy a second.

Chaplin ends the episode swallowing the bitter pill and promising Sam that he will have his revenge for ensign Redshirtman served cold.  His position, never incredibly firm with the locals or his crew, looks more tenuous than ever.  If he was played by anyone but Andre Braugher, I just might doubt his ability to make good on that threat.  But he is, so we should be in for at least one more very satisfying episode before the show is done.

Wild theorizing:  what if Chaplin actually does see the court martial he promises the COB?  What if the season were to end with the Colorado returning home, and season 2 started with the officers on trial?  They could be returned to service (presuming the conspiracy is rooted out and there is a new regime in Washington) after and episode or two, and still be on the front line, so to speak, of the WWIII scenario I threw out last week.