On the Bubble: The Last Resort

Posted on October 3, 2012


I’ve read a lot of Tom Clancy novels, and some of his non-fiction. So a show about a nuclear missile submarine going rogue was definitely of interest to me. I wanted to watch even before I realized the case included people like Dichen Lachman, Robert Patrick, Jessy Schram, Autumn Reeser, and Bruce Davison.

We Watched It

The USS Colorado picks up a SEAL team and heads for the open ocean. Shortly thereafter, it receives instructions to launch four nuclear missiles at Pakistan. Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and Executive Officer (XO) Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) both have the same question: Why did the order come from a secondary network that’s only to be used if the national command structure has been destroyed?

They surface and check satellite broadcasts for news. There’s no mention of an attack that could wipe out the US national command authority. When they request confirmation and a repeat of the order through appropriate channels, they find that the Colorado is the target of a Tomahawk cruise missile.

And the chase is on.

I read a lot of techno-thrillers. Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Stephen Coonts, Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, and a smattering of others have all had places on my bookshelves.

That said, I found that Last Resort threw a lot of things at the viewer very quickly and without explanation.

For example, a lot of yelling and melodrama occurred because the Captain and the XO took the time to confirm the nuclear launch order. I grew up during the Cold War. I trained on some NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) warfare doctrine while in the Army. I understand that time is of the essence during even limited nuclear exchanges. That must have been completely opaque to most of the viewing audience.

As another example, there’s an issue with female sailors and officers aboard the Colorado. Apparently, that’s something new and the crew is having trouble adjusting. We get no insight or explanation.

There’s also a lot of conspiracy to keep track of. Something is going on in Washington DC related to impeachment proceedings against the President. The SEALs are up to something, and involved with whatever started hostilities with Pakistan. There’s resentment within the crew over various issues. There’s an island strongman displaced by the appearance of the US Navy.

I’m skeptical of the writers’ ability to keep all those balls in the air, and moving forward in a way we can understand.


Where do I begin?

Well, first of all, you shouldn’t have to tell SEALs that using firearms inside a submerged vessel is a bad idea. They would already know. Also, any reader of techno-thrillers (presumably a big part of your target demographic if you’re making this show) could tell you that hitting your target doesn’t remove the concern. Especially at short ranges, high velocity rounds are quite likely to pass through the target and hit something beyond.

Putting aside how crazy you have to be to launch a nuclear missile at your own country, and leaving aside how fast the Captain decides to do so, they targeted a spot 200 miles West of DC. They said that no one would get hurt.

Uhm, wrong. Blast wave, fallout, and residual radiation will cause problems both immediately and over the following years. EMP should have at least temporarily knocked out power. Granted, the mountains will ameliorate and channel some of it. However DC sits between the mountains and the sea. Congratulations, you’ve just irradiated DC’s water supply.

There are plenty of smaller communities within 200 miles of Washington, DC. There’s farmland out there. There are highways, rail lines, air flight corridors, and power lines, all of which would be disrupted at least and potentially destroyed by the nuclear blast.

Again, readers of techno-thrillers know this kind of stuff.


Has a show ever boggled your mind with discrepancies and impossibilities, and then recovered?

Posted in: television