Welcome aboard the USS Colorado, a nuclear submarine with 99 problems, but its 18 ICBMs ain't one. Let's meet her crew. Andre Braugher plays Captain Marcus Chaplin (like Sean Connery in Red October), a grizzled veteran with an Adama-like blend of gravitas and unpredictability, particularly when he's making portentous pronouncements into a phone handset. His youthful and loyal XO (like Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide) Sam Kendal, played by Scott Speedman, is looking forward to taking a desk job to be with his wife back home. Lieutenant Grace Shepard is a green officer, but happens to be the daughter of an Admiral and takes crap from no one. Least of all the crusty Chief of the Boat Joseph Prosser (like Harvey Keitel in U-571), played by Robert Patrick. We meet these people and other assorted crew members (who also includes Karofsky from Glee) just after they've extracted a fleeing Navy SEAL team from the middle of the Indian Ocean, and during a time when the President of the United States is having major political troubles back home. Neither we nor the crew find out what the SEALs' mission was, but within hours, the Colorado gets an order to launch its nukes. As subs always do in these kinds of stories.
Fortunately, both Chaplin and Kendal are highly conscientious, and before turning their launch keys and melting half of Pakistan, it occurs to them to wonder why the orders were relayed through Antarctica, when the normal D.C. channels are clearly still online. Chaplin gives the Pentagon a little ringy-ding-ding for proper confirmation, and is promptly relieved of command. But Kendal also refuses to launch, and the next thing our heroes know, they've got incoming. Grazed by a missile launched by another American ship, the Colorado winds up at the bottom of the ocean. The end?
Obviously not. The sub gets back online and manages to limp to an island that hosts a NATO listening post, where they hope to figure out exactly what is going on and why their own government is trying to kill them. But even this may not be safe harbor, as the loyalty of certain crew members is in question and the local mayor-slash-crime boss isn't exactly welcoming them with open arms. Oh, and also? There are B-1 bombers en route to turn the sub, and probably the entire island, into the epicenter of a tsunami. Chaplin's done playing, though, and launches one of his nukes after all -- at Washington D.C., threatening to let it detonate there unless the planes are called off. The bombers turn back at the last second, but Chaplin allows the missile hit the Atlantic at a "safe" distance, letting a mushroom cloud that's visible from New York to probably Norfolk serve as notice that he is Not. Effing. Around. Well, that and a video message taped in the listening post, in which he comes off as "just crazy enough."
Meanwhile, stateside, shadowy forces are at work, taking people like Kendal's wife and Admiral Shepard into custody, while a spitfire defense contractor played by Autumn Reeser is highly invested in a prototype she has aboard the Colorado. And two nukes hit Pakistan anyway, which is probably not going to ease international tensions. What's going on, and is there really a government conspiracy, and how high does it go, and what do the people behind it want? Presumably these questions and more will be answered over the coming weeks, at a maddeningly leisurely pace.
After a quick, pilot-style title card that shows an American flag submerged in the ocean, we're dropped right into the action. An inflatable motorboat full of Navy SEALs -- at least one of them wounded, so we know somebody somewhere is pretty mad at them -- flees to a point in the middle of a bay somewhere, while their leader, a poor man's (which is to say American) Robert Carlyle is on the phone to someone he calls "hospitality," requesting a "hot extract." Already this show is getting filthy. There doesn't seem to be anyone on the other end of the phone line, or even in sight, but suddenly, a big honking submarine surfaces directly beneath them, leaving their little boat neatly beached on the main hull just aft of the conning tower. I don't know if that's even possible, but it looks pretty impressive. We'll soon learn that this is the USS Colorado, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine, and it's about to become a very fraught place to be.
Inside the conn, which serves as the sub's bridge or CIC or what have you, there's an atmosphere of urgent competence. There's also a dollop of new people dropped on us at once, but as I soon realize, the nice thing about weecapping a show with a military setting is that the characters tend to have their names stitched across their right nipples. For right now I'll just say that the always riveting, frequently show-killing Andre Braugher is playing captain Marcus Chaplin and Scott Speedman is sporting a respectable naval haircut as his second-in-command, executive officer (or XO) Sam Kendal. Kendal gives the order to prepare to dive again as soon as the Chief of the Boat (who we'll meet shortly) has the SEALs safely inside. The radar operator, Lieutenant Cameron, is picking up plenty of blips nearby, but the captain doesn't seem too worried, pointing out that they're kind of in a heavy traffic area.
"Let me know if anything acts pissy," he instructs, then turns to his navigator, Lieutenant Shepard, and asks her for three good ways out of there. Which they'll need, because Cameron reports that a Pakistani military frigate just turned their way. The good news is that the SEALs are already on board, so they're ready to dive. Which they forthwith do, with all the Tom Clancy-porn that entails. Chaplin leads his XO down the sloping deck, giving Shepard the conn and reassuring his nervous second officer that they're not actually at war. "Just make him realize how incredibly dead he'd be if we were." At least he's leaving her with clear instructions.