Sunday Moment of Zen: Declaration by Robert Duncan

Last Resort remains one of the lumpiest, oddest, most ambitious TV shows of the last few years. The basic premise is this:

US Nuclear submarine is ordered to fire on Pakistan, refuses, is fired upon itself, annexes a NATO listening post on a small island whilst it tries to sort out just who is fighting what war.

Oh and there’s two or three ‘boy meets girl’s as well.

Not to mention the group of Navy SEALs the submarine picks up who may have started World War 3. Then there’s the local gang boss who views the sub as a very useful tool. And the NATO listening post staff. And the engineer back in the US who realizes that something is very wrong. And the fact that as the pilot episode closes the sub has no choice but to effectively convince America it’s now a rogue state.

It was huge fun, had entirely too much going on at times and ran one season with a beginning,middle and an end. That’s a rare pleasure for short run TV these days and the ending did a good job of tying everything off.

But, this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen, which was very nearly a Music Past The Red Line, is the music from this scene:


Andre Braugher is one of the greatest actors of his generation and looking at him here. There’s immense gravity, and the slightest dash of mania to him here that plays even better in the wider context of the episode. The line you don’t see is Sam Kendal, his XO, saying ‘Just crazy enough.’ That refrain, the idea that if you make enough noise, look dangerous enough the other guy will back down, is the spine of the series. It’s very nearly the last line Kendal says in the final episode and it’s a philosophy that serves Chaplin either very well, very badly or both.

But it’s the music under it that makes it. Robert Duncan is one of the most underrated score composers working today and that track could be a calling card. It’s barely there, the strings circling in a martial pattern for most of it as the piano cuts across everything with as much weight as subtlety. It’s the impossible conflict the Colorado’s crew face in musical form; duty vs humanity, individuality vs honor. The kicker is the final lap of the speech though where Duncan raises the key. That constant progression is a clenching fist, a moment that ties so perfectly with Chaplin’s sabre rattling they actually fuse together. It’s a remarkable, mournful, dutiful, proud piece of music from a defiantly odd, ambitious, flawed TV show and it’s this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.


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