'Last Resort' review: They're out to launch

Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) and Captain Marcus Chaplin Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) and Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) in "Last Resort." Photo Credit: ABC

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Last Resort"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 8 on ABC

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WHAT IT'S ABOUT The USS Colorado is a nuclear sub with 18 nukes, a crew of 150 and a captain made of steel. One day, as the Colorado is passing the equator, Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) gets an order to fire on Pakistan. Why? That's what he wants to know, and when he questions Washington, he is relieved of command.

Executive officer Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman, "Felicity") then takes command. When he questions the order, a missile is fired on the Colorado. Evil overlords in Washington tell the world that Pakistan sank the Colorado and they use that as a pretext to launch a strike on the defenseless country. Marcus takes his powerful boat to an island, where he holds D.C. hostage by threatening to detonate the sub's nukes.

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MY SAY Doing his best Jack Ryan -- and "Resort" is sort of a small-screen Tom Clancy drama -- Braugher's Chaplin says that "if there's one absolute truth to having your finger on the [nuke] button," it's to have the enemy think you're crazy.

But what if the show is crazy -- full of wild conjectures, loopy plot twists and a fundamental premise that is disturbing? This particularly well-produced pilot wants viewers to accept its plausibility. They actually have to if they want become invested in Chaplin's journey of moral courage. To do that, they also have to accept a portrait of U.S. leadership as depraved as Hitler and Stalin combined. We all know Washington has its screw-ups, but this does seem like a bitter and cynical take on them -- at least for an 8 p.m. series. "Last Resort" purposely leaves questions hanging: When did Pakistan become an outright enemy (or is the attack a diversion)? What's really going on in Washington? The rest of the world? The geopolitics alone will give you a headache.

BOTTOM LINE Good pilot. Crazy premise. But maybe just crazy enough to be engaging in the early going. It's the long run that looks questionable.

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GRADE B-

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