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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Last Resort: “Controlled Flight Into Terrain”

Illustration for article titled Last Resort: “Controlled Flight Into Terrain”
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So this is what it looks like when you cram half a season’s worth of plot into one hour. I’ve made mention of the accelerated pacing over the past couple of weeks, but nothing could have prepared me for the whiplash-inducing “Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” which sometimes played more like a clip show made from episodes we’ll never see than a proper series finale. And yet, despite some obvious patchwork and one or two howlers along the way, I have to say this was a much more satisfying, at times even moving, resolution than I was expecting to see.

That’s not to say that the episode couldn’t have been improved if ABC had granted Shawn Ryan and the gang an extra hour tonight. The first five minutes alone featured more alliance-shifting than some entire seasons of Survivor. It turns out that even the mutineers aren’t all on the same page. Some, like the COB, remain loyal to the U.S. of A., while others, like the loathsome Anders, are pure mercenaries, using recent events as justification for selling a nuclear sub to the highest bidder: the Chinese. Zhang has three warships on the way to intercept the sub, which in turn prompts the U.S. to send fighter jets to take out the Colorado.

The mercenary development is a convenient one in a way, in that it allow Sam and the COB to quickly realign with Marcus and Grace. The character moments in this episode sometimes felt shoehorned in between action set pieces, but Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman have some of their best scenes in the entire series tonight. At first, they snipe at each other, each admitting that he’s never really understood who the other really is. In the end, they realize that doesn’t matter as much as they thought; their loyalty to each other trumps all such questions. The COB and Grace likewise have some nice final moments together; they’ve achieved a level of mutual respect that allows their barbs to bounce off each other harmlessly.

Anders and his squad of boneheads taking over the Colorado works as a sort of funhouse mirror reflection of the pilot episode, bringing things full circle. If you thought Marcus was nuts for threatening to fire nuclear weapons on the United States (“strategically,” as he points out), wait until you get a load of a real madman at the helm. Who knows how this plotline would have resolved if the series hadn’t been canceled, but Marcus running the sub aground (thus disabling the missiles, as the angle and depth were outside launch parameters), gunning Anders down without much preamble, and choosing to go down with the ship rather than risk it falling into Chinese hands, all felt very satisfying.

Elsewhere, however, the last-minute rewrites were visible. I didn’t need to spend a lot more time with James and Tani, so I didn’t particularly care how rushed that storyline felt, but some of the resolution this week might as well have been “…and then they all got hit by a truck!” Hopper shows up with a satchel full of money to ransom Christine from Wes, which raises a few logistical questions. Not quite so many as the wrap-up of the Washington, D.C., side of the story, however. Let me get this straight: Kylie proves her loyalty to the current administration by shooting her boyfriend. That’s reason enough to let her through security at a party the President is attending without so much as a patdown. And then—Kylie assassinates the President! Thanks for coming, everybody! Tip your waitresses!

Obviously, I understand the bind the creative team was in, and for the most part, it did a good job of making the best out of a nearly impossible situation. In retrospect it would have been better if Last Resort had been planned as a 13-episode limited series from the start, but the networks simply don’t work that way. It’s annoying that ABC couldn’t have given the show at least another hour to smooth over some of the more abrupt developments, but of course, it stopped caring the second it cancelled the show. I suppose we’re lucky the network let it play out at all; otherwise, we’d be waiting for an eventual DVD release or Netflix deal to see the final episodes.


I will admit, though, that the final moments got to me. COB’s parting wink to Grace, Sam’s attempt to explain to the press what Marcus was really all about, and Marcus himself resigned to his fate, putting on his sunglasses and grinning in another callback to the pilot. I don’t regret the 13 hours I spent in the company of the Colorado crew, even though I wish a few of them had been put to better use. I hope you feel the same.

Stray observations:

  • Someone give Andre Braugher another job immediately, please. He was a rock on this thing.
  • So what loose ends, if any, bother you most? Are you sorry we didn’t get to learn more about the rare earth minerals? Couldn’t Sophie have pushed Serrat down a mineshaft?