Of all the television series debuting this fall, ABC’s submarine thriller Last Resort is among those we're most intrigued by. It has the political intrigue of Battlestar Galactica and the mystery (and island setting) of Lost, yet seemingly without their genre elements. It's also in many ways a TV blockbuster, making it event television more than anything else. The network released the pilot online ahead of the drama’s Sept. 27 primetime premiere, and the response so far has been positive.
Last Resort follows the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado, the most powerful nuclear submarine in the world. When the Colorado is ordered through an untrustworthy channel to launch a weapons strike against Pakistan, its captain (Andre Braugher) refuses, costing him his command and marking the submarine as an enemy of the United States. Attacked by another sub, the Colorado limps into port at a nearby island, where the captain and the crew remove themselves from U.S. control and create their own society, promising nuclear war if any outside power tries to interfere.
Creators and showrunners Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) are well aware that the premise is quite a mouthful. But underneath all the political intrigue and big-budget sets, Last Resort is a character drama, and that's what the duo thinks will bring audiences back for more.
"We don’t consider this show to be a military-intrigue show,” Gajdusek said during a conference call with reporters. “We think of it as a large dramatic epic adventure, if you will -- although the military intrigue and the political intrigue is a huge sort of juicy part which is the part of our show. Hopefully, it will lead to some great mysteries and some great thriller tension moments. But the question of who’ve done is not nearly as big as the, what will these people do with the situation they're in?"
Ryan added, "One thing we did is, we’re really focusing on the characters in the situation. We’re not focusing on a political agenda," reinforcing that the series isn't trying to make a political statement.
It's hard to not detect some commentary, however. In addition to the island and submarine settings, Last Resort takes place in Washington, D.C., and at the home of the wife of Colorado executive officer Sam Kendal (played by Scott Speedman). Those elements are supposed to be taken separately from our current political climate, because in many ways -- especially with the nuclear warheads being a factor -- Last Resort can be considered a pre-apocalyptic show.
"Is it pre-apocalyptic? Could it be heading that way with that? You know, we’ll see," Gajdusek teased.
The show is shot in Los Angeles and Hawaii, so be prepared to see plenty of island scenes. After the pilot sets up Last Resort's initial premise, Ryan said the series will spend 60 percent of its time on the island, 20 percent on the sub and 20 percent in Washington. The characters in those locations will interact with each other, even if they're on the other side of the globe.
It's easy to compare Last Resort to another character drama set on an island: Lost. Ryan even teased, "the first word of our title is 'last,' so obviously that's very different from 'lost.'" He said he plans to make sure Last Resort sets itself apart from ABC's latest greatest dramatic series.
"I’m kind of the Lost police in the writer’s room,” he admitted. “When an idea comes up, I’ll be the one that says, ‘Well, they did something kind of similar to that in Lost, so we can’t do it.’ Hopefully there’s enough of a similarity, you know, that’s evocative of the great big hit on ABC while still being different enough that we can stand outside the shadow of a giant like that show and try to make our own way."
Ryan wanted to be clear that the Navy neither endorses nor denounces Last Resort, and has nothing to do with the show. They didn't shoot on actual submarines, and there's no secret nuclear weapon-loaded sub floating around in the Pacific (that we know of) on which they based the series. With that being said, Ryan and Gajdusek did bring former Navy and military personnel on board to ensure the show is as authentic as possible.
The biggest goal with Last Resort is to make a big, exciting character drama that keeps people coming back for more. Gajdusek and Ryan said during the chat that they feel one of the big things that sets Last Resort apart from Lost is that it's not dependent on its mystery. Even if they resolved the conflict of who ordered the nukes fired in the pilot, there would still be plenty more to uncover about these characters and their motivations as time went on.
"This was an opportunity that, you know, that was certain things in my wheelhouse namely, you know, a group of dynamic people in a dangerous situation, you know, but with a concept and a scope that I’ve never done before,” Ryan said. “I like the idea that this was a big huge epic kind of show. We’re trying to tell great big stories with great big scope. So it’s a challenge. And if we pull it off, I think it will be a great treat for the audience. And if we don’t pull it off, you know, we’ll be a very public humiliation on our part. So the stakes are high and it inspires us to do the best we can."
Last Resort premieres Thursday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.