TV shows are big, complex beasts.  It takes time to work the kinks out of even a great concept, for the writers to see which members of the cast are popping and have chemistry with each other, and then to start working toward that.  Plus there is pressure from networks to load up the top of the order with repetitive standalones that will allow passersby to get acquainted with the show and not feel like they’re too far behind if they only popped in for episodes 3 and 5.

To this end, it’s not until the end of the first season that a lot of dramas build up a full head of steam, with plotlines developing real, organic momentum.  As it moves closer to oblivion’s sweet embrace, Last Resort joins the ranks of shows like Sons Of Anarchy, Homeland and Justified that started off good and found a new gear in the home stretch of their first year.  Not that it as good as those shows are at their best, but tonight’s episode was handily the best of the series, and set us up for a rollicking finale that is destined to be disappointing, either because we will never get to see what comes next or just because it’s generally not good.

But anyway, even the plotlines that normally drag were more interesting tonight. The soil sample plotline finally feels vaguely relevant when Zheng presents it to Marcus as a way for his regime to display the islanders a carrot instead of just the stick.  Of course we don’t have time for this dilemma to really play out, but Marcus confronting what a tyrant he’s become is good material for Braugher to play, even in passing.  But strictly in terms of Braugher-boners, nothing can top his face off with Robert Patrick, with both men standing at attention and exchanging stoic, oddly courteous threats.  Just imagine the possibilities of an entire season with those two commanding separate island factions in uneasy truce with each other!  Argh!

I shouldn’t be negative though, as this isn’t a funeral, it’s a party (sidenote: this episode made me realize that as much as I want firedancers at my next party, I really, really want firedancers at my funeral).  There’s no real action sequences, but plenty of action as the parallel attempts to depose Marcus and the president move to their climax.  On the island, the doping-but-surprisingly-lucid COB seems to have pumped the brakes only briefly, muttering about plans that the captain’s mole and XO’s waffling can’t impede.  The lynchpin of this appears to be having the rapist officer commandeer the sub from Grace.  I predict his regime to be nasty, brutish and short, and COB’s  Things in DC implode much more dramatically, however.

Ernie Hudson going full Bud Dwyer on the floor of the Senate was a real jaw-dropper for a primetime network show.  Personally, I found the scene incredibly tasteless and downright offensive, and call upon all readers of this column to write their Congressmen in protest.  I mean, it’s 2013.  For a program on the public airwaves to Waste A Ghostbuster in such brazen should be a class 2 felony at least.

Really though, I’m assuming that this storyline was sped up considerably once the fix came in, because I can’t imagine getting someone as recognizable as Hudson for such a brief role otherwise.  In the aftermath of the aborted revolution, we meet Kylie’s father, who probably would’ve been held back as a heavy for season 2 in a different world. Seeing Kylie frazzled and laid low has made her more sympathetic than ever, and its easier to root for her cold self when there’s a concrete antagonistic presence to play off.  Too bad there’s no time for them to play.  But her dad is played by character asshole Michael Gaston, who specializes in an immediately smug, dickish demeanor that should making him get his comeuppance somewhat satisfying (should we be lucky enough to get it next week) even if it is a bit rushed.

The main action on the island involves shifting alliances, with Sophie dallying with Serrat in some sort of transparent subterfuge (to the show’s credit, they are playing it as him willfully deluding himself rather than just cluelessness), and Cortez replacing Sam as Chaplin’s consigliere.  The latter is something that I never would’ve predicted even 2 weeks ago, but the transition has actually felt quite organic, for as much as it relies on the ridiculousness of Christine’s faked death to create the distance between captain and XO.  The COB cutting a deal with Serrat to arm his mutineers is similarly unexpected but oddly believable.  That such twists can feel surprising and natural at the same time is a sign of a show that has found its feet, which is of course as frustrating as it is pleasant at this point.  I wasn’t too upset when I first heard the news, but if the nukes really do start flying in next week’s finale…it’s gonna hurt to never see the further adventures of the USS Colorado.

I don’t want to make it seem like it was all sweetness and light, though.  We did get more Chad and multi-ethnic Barbie relationship drama!  They’re going to run awa-snooooore.  It’s obvious from the get go that they aren’t going anywhere.  And he has to be a jerk to her to keep her safe because all the same shit we’ve seen a bunch of times with better actors.

Oh Chad and Barbie, I’m going to miss coming up with snide dismissals of your storylines most of all.