Last Resort Proves You Can Have Women In Your Military Thrillers
By Alex Cranz
There’s this hard fast rule that the only way a woman can appear in a military thriller is if she’s shoe horned in as a special JAG adjunct or something that is threatened with rape, is never as good as the men and usually beaten into submission by the bad guy before the climax or she’s a wife at home watching her husband forlornly and softly weeping and clutching her swollen baby belly.
This is reinforced by great gaming companies like Infinity Ward who talk about how unrealistic it is to include women in their games and how difficult it would be to animate another type of character that represents 51% of Americans.
War is a gentlemen’s game you see. And we lady are to bake pies or work at our looms on our father in law’s funeral shrouds and be “strong” women in other fashions that involve less fighting and protecting our nation from threats both at home and abroad.
Except on Last Resort where they realized that they were telling a story and it was fictional and they could do whatever the hell they wanted (within reason). So we get a woman officer (Daisy Betts) on a submarine and she’s only there because her father is an admiral and although the show certainly notes the presence of women on a vessel long considered the last “men’s only” club it doesn’t really make a big deal out of it.
“Hey look we included women on our ship because otherwise this would be the sausage fest of the seven seas and no one wants to see that right before Grey’s and Scandal,” Shawn Ryan probably said when he was taking breaks from watching every scene Andre Braugher is in (otherwise known as Braugher’s eternal Emmy reel).
Then co-creator Karl Gajdusek was probably like, “But hey this show will be untenable if it’s just this sweaty group of earnest sailors floating around in a tube for twenty episodes while Andre practices his awards acceptance speeches in his trailer. Let’s make sure our show is actually a little diverse and send our submarine to a little paradise of an island that’s tropical and not full of white people or super racist caricatures and for the heck of it let’s hint at a massive conspiracy and give that great actress (Dichen Lachman) from Dollhouse a love interest in the form of a hunky and spiritually wounded SEAL.”
And then he and Ryan high-fived and got back to making their incredibly tense little Tom Clancy but not as terrible and with less Clancy on a boat thriller. (Sorry taking a moment to remember that time Clancy inserted himself into his work, or was that Clive Cussler? Or bother? I feel like they both did it.)
There’s a great deal to love about this. The performances are across the board stellar. They made the decision to employ sexposition and have it come from the mouth of a super smart scientist/defense contractor. That woman happens to be played by Autumn Reeser whom stole and elevated every one of her scenes in No Ordinary Family. They got Jessy Schram away from the boring Falling Skies and have saddled her with a potentially boring plotline that’s still much more interesting the 99% of Falling Skies. They’ve somehow managed to create a futuristic science fiction thriller and set it in the present day and no one at ABC noticed or got mad.
It was like watching a gritty version of Star Trek set in the oil rig from The Abyss and those are two of my favorite things.
There are problems. No matter how good an actress is no one can save a “wife trapped at home and confused” plot. There’s a disturbing bit where the only woman on the submarine who appears comfortable with her sexuality is also the only one abducted by the evil local. Robert Patrick called someone a bitch. And I haven’t any idea how this will be able to survive more than a season. This is a plot meant to have a satisfactory ending and network television asks that our shows be able to last years at a time.
But I’m game to find out and right now I’d just like to be content in watching a really satisfying geopolitical military thriller that doesn’t treat women like accessories or victims.