'Last Resort' co-creator Shawn Ryan on the series finale, 'Beverly Hills Cop' and more
"Last Resort" just aired its series finale, and I have a few thoughts on how things ended, and then a long interview with co-creator Shawn Ryan about these 13 episodes — and, at the end, about his "Beverly Hills Cop" pilot for CBS — all coming up just as soon as I ask who Jay-Z is...
As Ryan explains below, parts of "Controlled Flight Into Terrain" were largely as they were intended to be back when this was just going to be episode 13 out of a hypothetical 22, but large chunks of it were rewritten once ABC told them this would be the end. And it's pretty easy to tell which is which, not just because of the finality of some of those events — Marcus sacrificing himself to ensure the Colorado didn't fall into Chinese hands, Kylie assassinating the president (after the most incompetent Secret Service agents of all time took her dad's orders not to frisk her), Hopper ransoming Christine from Wes (with Kylie somehow figuring out where Christine was) — but because of how incredibly rushed they were. For all that we ask for canceled shows to get an opportunity at closure, it's not always easy to pull off in abbreviated circumstances, especially on a show with so many characters in so many different places.
And yet the section where Marcus, Sam, Grace and the COB fought back against the mutineers — which was largely what was supposed to happen, other than Marcus dying and the sub blowing up — was excellent, and was a reminder of why I was so intrigued by this show in the first place. And of the last-minute changes, Marcus's sacrifice unsurprisingly worked the best, because... well... Andre Braugher.
So here's Shawn Ryan, talking about where the series might have gone if the ratings had been a bit better, what regrets he has, and the most important factor that could make "Beverly Hills Cop" the show that breaks his recent cancellations lump:
I wanted to start out by asking how much of what was in the finale was going to be in there before you found out there wouldn't be a back-nine and this would be it for the show.
Shawn Ryan: I've been thinking a lot about the idea of this is a series that got interrupted, versus ultimately a miniseries, and how important are the intentions when you begin, in terms of what the final product is. In the movie world, "American Beauty" started off as a movie about two kids on trial for the murder of Kevin Spacey's character, and then it shifted. And yet movies aren't under the burden of what they started out, but what they end up as. I'm happy to talk to you about what was intended, but at the end of the day, I hope it's judged as a 13-episode miniseries. I know it won't be, because it's been deemed a series since May.
But to answer your question, the episode was always about the mutineers attempting to take over the sub, it was always about Marcus and Sam really being at odds, and in fighting against the mutiny, coming back together. The stuff that got rewritten once we found out it would be the final episode: we rescued Christine and returned her to the States, we accelerated and really minimized a story that was going to play bigger in subsequent episodes with James and Tani and these prospectors that were on the island and starting to mistreat people from Tani's tribe. That was going to play out as a much bigger thing. If there are some rough scenes in the final episode, I would say that story was. We didn't feel we could totally ignore James and Tani in the last episode. But that wasn't a thing we were playing in the original scripts. And then the culmination of the story is pretty much all new. In the original version that we wrote, it was going to be the end of Josh Brannan, he was going to die in the gunfight on the sub, that was going to be our big emotional loss before Sam and Marcus retook the sub. All the act four stuff is new, and the culmination, the ending, is new.
So before this turned into a series finale, Marcus and Sam were going to reconcile and retake control of the sub. Where was the story going to go from there? How much did you talk about the back-nine that never came?
Shawn Ryan: We talked a lot about the back-nine. We pitched it to the network back in September or October. That pitch was very well-received. We were about to dissolve the American blockade. In many ways, a lot of the first 13 episodes were about survival, and we were going to transfer in the last 9 to, "If survival isn't the main issue, if we're being left alone, what is this place?" we were going to do the opposite, where all of a sudden, things are open on the island, and they've become icons for a certain segment of the world's population. All of a sudden, these boats arrive with people who want to be part of this movement. And what do you do about those people? Can those people be trusted? Is there an assassin among those people? One of those people was going to be Marcus's surviving son, who had always disagreed with him politically, but who now looked upon Marcus's actions as something admirable, even though Marcus thinks that his son was misconstruing that. There was going to be a woman with his son who would be a foil for Marcus, philosophically and romantically. We were going to do a much bigger story about how Christine gets saved. We were going to deal with the island and the fact that there were valuable minerals on it that needed to be saved, things like that. We had definite plans on where we were going to go.
One of the things you had to race through in the final act was Kylie shooting the president. Were you aiming to set up an arc where she goes undercover in the president's cabal after the coup fails?
Shawn Ryan: We actually were going to take her on a journey where she was more conflicted, and trying to be the good daughter to her father, and in many ways would start to work against Marcus and Sam and Christine before having some qualms. We were going to muddy up that character some more, and only given the final episode, we had to do it in a much more black-and-white way.