'Last Resort' Breakdown: Boss Discusses Hostage Aftermath, Key Relationship Shifts
In a weekly chat with THR, executive producer Karl Gajdusek dissects the growing animosity between island "mayor" Serrat and Marcus, the most difficult scene to shoot (hint: it involves water) and what it means for the USS Colorado.
[Warning: Major spoilers from Thursday's episode ahead.]
A turf war is brewing on ABC's Last Resort, and it's already getting ugly.
This week, the USS Colorado crew -- led by Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Lt. Cmdr. Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) -- begin their search for three missing members. The search brings them to the island's unofficial "mayor" Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah), who proves just how far he'll go to protect his land -- including a major sacrifice that changes the face of the group.
The Serrat-Marcus dance is a development that will continue to grow as the series unfolds, co-creator Karl Gajdusek tells The Hollywood Reporter: "Serrat is a good provocateur for Marcus. He, in many ways, is the other side of the coin."
Here, he breaks down the biggest moments from Thursday's episode, "Eight Bells," with THR in the first installment of weekly Last Resort post-mortems with Gajdusek and fellow co-creator/executive producer Shawn Ryan.
The Hollywood Reporter: This episode planted a seed of doubt in Sam’s head in regards to how far Marcus will go. How does this development affect their relationship in the very near future?
Karl Gajdusek: I don’t think Sam loses his trust in Marcus, but he is perhaps shocked at the compromises that Marcus has to make. In some ways, it may be a schooling in the art of the possible for Sam. For us, Sam and Marcus is a very nuanced, complicated, often heroic and sometimes tragic story. There is a big difference between being a commander in a situation and being second-in-command. The second has a luxury of second-guessing and being the devil’s advocate. The commander has to make the brutal decisions and this episode speaks to that. At the end, Marcus makes a compromise that doesn’t sit well with anybody and you see that for the first time. Sam isn't questioning the order, so much as realizing how hard the situation is going to be.
THR: From Marcus’ perspective, he’s lost his son and it's becoming slightly more apparent that it's affecting how he conducts his job. Will this cloud his judgment more?
Gajdusek: It’s interesting. It affects him in a huge way and in the episode that played last week, you saw his grief and in this episode, you start to see his anger. I don’t think of him as someone whose judgment gets clouded, but I do think of him as someone who may not know how to handle the emotionality of what he’s going through. I don’t think he’s fully in control of the anger that he has within him and that will play into story and his behavior as we go forward.
THR: Is this a hint of what's to come, that Marcus will unravel even more?
Gajdusek: When we spoke to Andre Braugher early on in the process, one of the things we promised was that he would not just be the wise captain delivering positives each week, that we would take him up to the top of the mountain and down to the pits of hell. He would change. We’ll see him change as it comes. He will not be the same guy every week.
THR: And Serrat brings out the ugliness in Marcus, as we saw this week.
Gajdusek: Serrat is a good provocateur for Marcus. He, in many ways, is the other side of the coin. When we talk about Serrat, we often talk about the scorpion and the frog parable. Even when Serrat wants to do the right thing, he usually can't. He's bounded by a certain history, a personal story, an anger and a need for dominance that leads him to do irrational and sometimes violent acts. Just as Marcus can't abide, Serrat can't bow down to this new occupier -- even though Marcus has more strength. Serrat will continue to take every advantage he can to push Marcus as far as he can, even to the point where their mortalities are on the line. That's a huge relationship for us. Marcus is up against the government, the conspiracies and all these international pressures, but he has this visceral pressure of someone who's vying for "I own this island."
THR: Why does he push Marcus' buttons, and vice versa? There has to be more to it than a turf war?
Gajdusek: The simple answer is: only one person can own the island. The more subtle answer, and Marcus gives words to this in a later episode, is Marcus escaped this sort of behavior. The military brought him order, purpose and morality, and he came from a background that wasn't full of those things -- though he wasn't without them. Serrat is the opposite; he has no land, has no borders, has no compass. He is opportunity, he is hedonism. In a parable structure, he is Marcus' darker side or is the thing that he has rejected in himself.
THR: What was most important moment for this episode?
Gajdusek: This was the episode where we dove back into our sub action. We're still learning how to play our con well. It's a complicated set. As much as some people may think, "Oh it's easy, it's just a small room with lights," for anyone who shoots TV or film, it's the biggest dinner table ever. If you've got six people in the con, you have to shoot six faces in every scene. We were learning to do tension and action again; we did it well in the pilot but we were learning how to do it quicker.
THR: Since the premiere, relationships between island natives and members of the Colorado crew have grown since then. Where do you see the Sophie (Camille De Pazzis)-Sam dynamic going?
Gajdusek: Sam is a married man trying to get back to his wife (Jessy Schram) and he's been thrust onto this island. Unlike a war story, where war is the subject, we're doing a war epic, where we're talking about the people who are pulled apart or the pushed together. So when you ask about Sophie, here you have two unlikely people pushed into each other's orbits. She is, without a doubt, a temptation for Sam, and vice versa. We hope to get a lot of mileage out of there. There's a moral obstacle there that we can't be casual with.
THR: One of the most beautiful shots was the waterfall scene with James (Daniel Lissing) and Tani (Dichen Lachman).
Gajdusek: That was hard to shoot. At first we tried to find a big waterfall and we couldn't do that, so we put that together through so many different approaches and VFXs and I wasn't quite clear that it would all come together. I was very impressed with the team that did it because it's an actual diver diving in front of a green screen, then the waterfall is superimposed and made to look twice as tall. We're in some pool with some rocks in Hawaii that has sea animals -- dolphins and seals or something -- to shoot the rest. We all cobbled it together to what turned out to be a gorgeous scene.
THR: What's next for them?
Gajdusek: For James, Tani -- I don't mean to reduce this or be essentialist about it -- represents a kind of peace he's never known. You've got a guy who delivered himself to the military and the art of war, who says in the pilot when Grace offers him a list of names who've died that he's got a list longer than that. He's carrying around all the demons plus ones in the pilot, which will be revealed and are huge. Here comes this woman, who represents a non-judgmental peace, and of course he's drawn to that. For her, here's a woman who wants to get off the island and here comes a man who has been to every country in the world. For her, he is escape and for him, she is peace. The only problem is both their natures are not given to make that work so well, so they will have their problems.
THR: Will more be uncovered about Marcus and Prosser's (Robert Patrick) deal and how that affect the core group?
THR: What do the events of "Eight Bells" trigger for next week's episode?
Gajdusek: This episode sets in motion a feud between Marcus and Serrat that you can look forward to growing in many episodes. You can also look forward to the ramifications of the two young people who were taken hostage play out over time. Those are both fuses that have been lit, if you will. The thing you started this conversation with: Marcus having to make more and more of these difficult choices and the XO having to decide whether he can stand with these choices with this man he honors and respects or if he has to say no, and what would that moment be.
THR: Sam and Marcus have alluded to past situations that haven't been fully revealed. Is that something that will be shown through flashback or given more context to in the future?
Gajdusek: We have one episode where we're going to play some strong flashbacks to reveal a hidden plot, but it's not something we want to lean into in our show. We'll learn more about it but we'll learn it in the present.
Last Resort airs 8 p.m. Thursdays on ABC.
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