Welcome back to my coverage of Designated Survivor. To catch up on previous articles and reviews click here.
Apologies to those who were looking to read my review of the third episode last week. I unfortunately could not see that episode until late into the weekend. However, I’ll do my best to get us all caught up before a two week break.
In episode three, President Kirkman started facing more opposition; more from those who already oppose him like the General, and from some who we might not have expected it like Congresswoman Hookstraten.
The hack against the White House paved the way for the reveal that Kirkman was in fact fired from his position in the cabinet hours before he was declared the designated survivor and sworn in as president. It turns out everyone wanted to take advantage of such information, including the former President’s son. Initially Kirkman was lined up to present the eulogy at the deceased President’s funeral, but when Tyler found out Kirkman’s value to his father he decided to have Hookstraten deliver it last minute. She of course took up the opportunity and showed that she isn’t just here to help Kirkman with his agenda, she has an agenda of her own and that includes claiming the Presidency for her own in the future, possibly the near future if things got bad enough.
It has been nice to have Virgina Madsen on the show as she brings a certain strength to Hookstraten that can compete with Kirkman. She has been able to portray Hookstraten as a confident and determined, yet not overbearingly egotistical politician. This strength in Hookstraten requires Kiefer Sutherland to bring Kirkman up to her level and match her.
We found out quickly that the purpose of the hack on the White House was not to extract important files, but rather to place one. A video of a member of the Al Sakhar terrorist group, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was found and thus the debate for immediate action resurfaced. The General especially showing that he sees no alternative and that insufficient action is a clear act of weakness. Kirkman was still not convinced of the validity of the video after the lead FBI director shared Hannah Wells’ theory about the reason the found explosive device did not detonate. I really appreciate the characterization of Tom Kirkman, he has quickly become my favourite politician, as ridiculous as that may be to say. I think what appeals to me most is his ability to stay relatively calm in these crazy situations. He doesn’t jump to conclusions or actions just because one answer seems the most likely. He places importance on human life and the rights of everyone, and that is exactly the type of leader I wish we could have right now. I don’t want to get too political, but I just find it refreshing to see a political fantasy that I can buy into.
The episode ended with Kirkman choosing his Chief of Staff in Aaron. I’ll admit I was rather surprised by the choice. I thought for sure he was going to accept Aaron’s letter of resignation as soon as it was on the table. Ultimately, I think Kirkman made the right move. Initially I was anticipating a coup between the General and Aaron, but thankfully Aaron decided to distance himself from the General’s actions. Smart choice as we saw in episode four.
Episode four shifted the status quo in a fairly significant way. I got the sense that even in Kirkman’s hesistations, we are seeing him develop more and more into a confident and reliable President of the United States, at least in this fantasy. In spite of the continuing problems, one of which is a returning issue, Kirkman is taking the wins he can get and using it to embolden himself as he continues to grow within the confines of the White House. I slightly worry that the progression of this character was specifically designed for a 13 episode arc, and now that ABC has green-lit the back-nine to complete a 22 episode first season, Kirkman’s evolution will begin to feel rushed. I still need to see more episodes to come to a full conclusion, but Kirkman’s characterization and the evolving plot feel specifically designed for the initial 13 episode run and I’m initially concerned that the stretch into 22 will become strained. We’ll see though.
Enough with the negative thinking, there were a lot of standout moments in this week’s episode as Governor Royce decided to take another stab at clamoring for control of Michigan. The reveal that Kirkman was fired hours before his announcement as President gave more fuel to Royce’s fire that he does not need to acknowledge the rule of this new President. Royce then immediately went back to his original plan of “randomly” bringing in members of the Muslim community for questioning and possibly arrest. Emily Rhodes, now acting as Kirkman’s special advisor, had the idea of going to the ground in Michigan and keeping an eye on the protests in order to keep Royce in line. While a good idea in concept, it failed in practice as Royce decided to block and confine Rhodes to the airport with the presence of himself and the state police. After Kirkman tried to mobilize the national guard stationed in Michigan (they sided with Royce), Rhodes was able to get Royce to come with her to Washington to have a sit down with the President. When they arrived, my second favourite moment of the episode occurred as President Kirkman did not give Royce the time of day. He took command of the situation and arrested him for treason against the United States of America based on his choice to isolate the state of Michigan from the command of the Presidency and the White House. It was a bold move that caught even Rhodes off guard who had seemingly convinced Royce to talk.
My favourite moment of the entire episode though came a little bit earlier as we discovered that General Cochrane had started preparations for the attack on Majid Nassar’s presumed base of operations that Kirkman had not approved yet. Cochrane tried one final time to deliver his “act now or fail” speech but it backfired and resulted in Kirkman firing him. It was a feelgood moment for myself as an audience member. The General was becoming too much of a liability to keep as a member of the Joint Chiefs, especially when he was already trying to convince other individuals such as Aaron to turn on him. Hopefully this will open up a greater role for Mykelti Williamson who debuted in this episode. Williamson and Sutherland have already worked together from their time on 24 in the eighth season so they have a good chemistry to fall back on. The dismissal of General Cochrane does present an opportunity for the show to gather a group of those that oppose Kirkman’s claim to the Presidency so we’ll see how that develops.
Seth Wright’s promotion into the role of Press Secretary was a humourous detour from the main proceedings with Kal Penn giving it the brevity the moment needed. Next to Kirkman, Wright is my other favourite character and it is these moments that continue to impress that upon me. I really appreciate the dynamic that the two characters have been able to establish between each other and I think that relationship is one the show can rest its laurels on in the future.
Episode Three Rating: 8/10
Episode Four Rating: 9/10