“Skeleton Crew” did not start strong, with a fake-out opening that I did not believe was a real argument for a second, followed by a group scene between Grace, Chad the SEAL (who in the night’s most frustrating development reveals himself to be practically immortal) and multiethnic Barbie which was probably supposed to be lively but featured all the chemistry of an Arkansas homeschool curriculum. And really, the whole story with Grace taking the sub out on her own and proving her worth to the COB never really took off for me, mostly because this is the third time in five episodes that Grace has struck out and proven her worth to the COB. Who defines himself in this episode completely by petty, pointless dickery, but god bless him, Robert Patrick makes it kind of amusing anyway.
The stateside stuff isn’t a ton better than its been previously, as Autumn Reeser simply does not have the kind of charisma to make me want to watch her stomping around the DC social scene, ranting at…oh, who cares anyway. There’s also slimy lawyer Jay Hernandez scheming on Christine, laying it on thick with a far-fetched story about Sam trying to sell the submarine to China (never mind that the Colorado carved out its own territory in China’s backyard rather than floating straight to Shanghai). Then with very little prompting, he launches into a rehearsed recounting of how his divorce was tough but really the best thing that could have happened for him as a person actually and by the way he can stay the night just as a friend like and only if you want him to no okay okay that’s cool too. .
Christine thankfully sees through this, though, and things on the DC front are looking up at the end of the episode when she and Kylie team up to take on the Shadowy Conspiracy. If nothing else, this would be good news because it streamlines two of the less interesting ancillary plotlines (better one 5 minute scene with the both of them than each getting 5 minutes on their lonesome). But it also promises that these two side characters will become more active in driving the storylines they’re anchoring, and will not be spending all of their time uncovering things we already know, both definitely positive steps.
The strongest material, surprise surprise, is focused on the island, the captain and XO. Jay Karnes makes his long-awaited landfall and just immediately smarms the shit out of the whole place. Dutch versus Pembleton was as fun as I had hoped, even before Braugher flipped the table, grabbed his scruff and started growling in his face.
There was never a question that Sam or any other officers would be selling Chaplin out to go home today (it being episode 5 and all), but this was necessary development, and gave us some glimpses at the political turmoil post-Pakistan nuking. There’s not much explanation for why we’re not three weeks deep in WW3, but it seems that gas prices are skyrocketing (sure to send the president’s wartime approval ratings plummeting in a hurry) and China is taking advantage of America’s newfound unpopularity by pressing on Taiwan’s borders. Creating a plausible worldwide political scenario, however vaguely sketched, is vital to the show’s ability to sustain its high-concept premise. This is a good start.
The situation back home will not be stabilized by Secretary of Defense taking a bullet in the leg from a senior military official and another White House staffer apparently heading home in a body bag. What I like about this development is how it takes the wind from the sails of Grace’s big triumph. This is fast becoming the Last Resort signature; it’s as if Shawn Ryan went through each script, saw the big dilemma it set up and very neatly, very professionally resolved with no lasting damage, and asked himself “how much can I make this really cost the heroes?”
I used the example before of how the hostage situation could’ve been a simple close call, or it could’ve been solved by Cortez bartering her body in exchange for more time, but this show chose to not only do the latter but have the villain kill a hostage (plus the extra twist of the knife in the way it played out). This isn’t a 3-punch combo on that level, but consider that they could’ve had any random soldier take the shots at Curry and co. and accomplish the same basic plot function, but having it be Shephard undercuts Grace’s moment of victory and robs the budding insurgency in DC of their most powerful potential ally. Serialized network TV is very frequently an exercise in stalling, but Last Resort seems unusually willing to produce drama through consequences. Which is the only way to do it for real.
The downside for the audience in all this is that given his rough treatment on the island, it seems unlikely that we’ll get to see Karnes clash with Braugher face to face again anytime soon. Ah well, at least he didn’t leave without the skipper threatening to crush the jelly from his eyes. Good times.
Parting thoughts -
I give it two episodes before we meet Chaplin’s other kid that “ran off to save the whales”.
Last Resort is not the funniest show on TV, but even though the French cowboy exchange sounded scripted as all hell, Patrick made me smile at his delivery of “you take that back.” And the following exchange got a genuine laugh:
“Are we boring you, captain?”
“Yes. But I’m listening.”