Believe it or not, Matthew Fox has been gone from our screens for seven years; he decided to retire from acting after a series of films in 2015. He hasn’t been on a TV series since Lost ended. Remember, this is a guy who’s been around since the premiere of Party Of Five all the way back in 1994, so it’s kind of shocking to realize we haven’t seen him in a long time. But now he’s back with a new action thriller on Peacock.
LAST LIGHT: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A wind-swept desert landscape. A lone man walks atop a massive sand hill.
The Gist: Two days earlier in London, Andy Yeats (Matthew Fox) is celebrating the eighth birthday of his son Sam (Taylor Fay) with his wife Elena (Joanne Froggatt) and their adult daughter Laura (Alyth Ross). When they come home, he’s greeted by representatives of the energy company he works for as a petrochemist; with Sam due to get a cutting-edge surgery in Paris to help reverse his blindness, Elena is irritated that he’s being “summoned” by Baraa (Hakeem Jomah), the company’s CEO. He promises to be in Paris in time for Andy’s surgery in two days.
When he arrives in Luzrah, Baraa tells him that the oil being processed at a new refinery is contaminated, and they don’t know how it’s happening. He’s paired with Mika Bakhash (Amber Rose Revah), a representative of the UK’s commerce ministry, to go to the refinery, which raises questions with Andy. She tells him it’s to protect the UK’s interests, even though they don’t get their oil from Luzrah.
In Paris, as Sam and Elena get ready for his surgery, Karl Bergmann (Tom Wlaschiha), Sam’s doctor, tries to reassure Elena, but is concerned that Andy isn’t there. Elena isn’t sure she believes him when he says he’ll be there.
After he takes samples and tries to transport them back to the city, Andy finds out from Mika that there is intelligence that the world’s oil supply is being contaminated as a part of an organized attack. As Andy tries to get out of Luzrah the day of Sam’s surgery, the car he and Mika are in are chased into a massive dust storm by men with guns, which is when Mika’s real role comes into focus. In the meantime, massive power in both Paris and London, where Laura is participating in environmental protests, and the hospital Sam is in is evacuated while Elena has stepped away from her son’s bedside. She has no idea where he’s being transferred to.
Our Take: Last Light, based on Alex Scarrow’s novel of the same name, is notable because this is Matthew Fox’s first acting gig since 2015, and the first one on TV since Lost ended 12 years ago (he’s also an executive producer along with Dennie Gordon and showrunners Patrick Massett and John Zinman). It’s a little shocking to see him with greying temples and wearing a suit, looking more like Mitt Romney than Jack Shephard. But by the end of the first episode it’s apparent that Andy Yeats is going to be a bad-ass petrochemist, as he tries to get back to his family while getting to the bottom of what looks like a coordinated attack on the world’s oil and energy supply.
The series isn’t trying to be some deep-dive dissertation on how an attack on the oil supply would have worldwide implications on every aspect of life. That aspect is there, of course, but it’s more of a straightforward espionage and terrorism thriller, with the added factor of Andy trying to get back to his spread-out family as the world shuts down around him.
The first episode generally succeeds in setting this up, but it tries to show Andy’s petrochemical bona fides by showing him analyzing samples in a refinery lab and squinting through a microscope. But it seems that the rest of the limited series is going to be more of Andy being the reluctant hero, using his knowledge to help get the oil supply going again, more filled with chases, negotiations, guns and explosions than anything science-oriented. We’ll likely buy Fox more as the action guy than the science guy, though he does play his reluctance to even hold a gun pretty well.
The family angle will be significant, and we hope Froggatt will get to do a lot more than just be a fretting wife and mother. There is some family strife in the Yeats clan that’s alluded to, mainly related to Andy’s job and his lack of presence in the family’s everyday life; we hope that the strife is explored more, but it could just as easily fall away as they try to reunite. We don’t need much of that aspect of the story to enjoy what promises to be a series full of action and intrigue, but it’ll at least give viewers something to root for.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Andy reluctantly takes the gun Mika offers him, and she says, “I’m afraid you’re not going to make it to Paris.”
Sleeper Star: Alyth Ross does a lot with her brief screen time as Laura, who is of course an environmental activist, mostly in response to her father’s job.
Most Pilot-y Line: At a party after the protests, Laura is attracted to a young man named Owen (Victor Alli), who asks if she’s messing with him. “Why? Because you’re super smart, ambitious and working your way through uni?” And he says, “I was going to say ‘a boring computer geek with questionable social skills.’” We dunno, it seems that his social skills are just fine from where we’re standing.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Will you come away from Last Light thinking you watched the best show ever? No. But it’s got more than enough action and intrigue, a family that’s trying to reunite during a worldwide crisis and Matthew Fox being his usual charming, gritty self (eventually).
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.