TV Review: Designated Survivor 1×10 “The Oath”

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR – “The Oath” – (ABC/John Medland)

Welcome back to my weekly review of Designated Survivor. Be sure to catch up on all previous coverage here.

So, here we are, the mid-season finale. This wasn’t the story-line gratifying episode that I was looking for, but for the most part, it did the trick in that it, gratingly, has me anticipating the show’s return in the new year. I’ll get to my reason for that later on as it had to do with the final sequence of this episode. Starting the episode, we see Aaron and Emily share their first kiss, the brief return of General Harris Cochrane, and Hannah’s escape from her car accident.

Surprise, surprise, Hannah was attacked by another operative in the growing conspiracy facing the United States. The operative approached, acting as a concerned citizen just enough to get in close and try to kill Hannah for good, while also stealing all of the files that prove Peter MacLeish has a questionable past rather than a heroic one. Hannah does get away, but is forced to forfeit the documents during her escape. Last week when the episode ended on the car crash, I was rolling my eyes at the use of such a cliche. Not that this show has always avoided using them, but I’ve found more often than not that the show has been able to get creative and subvert those cliches. Sadly that isn’t the case here, as this week I found myself eye rolling at the same outcome. Luckily, the scene moved on quickly. Hannah was hurt, but she was able to make it to Chuck’s apartment, and he was somehow able to stitch her up on his own. With his help in the morning, Hannah was able to track down the location of the place that sold the phone the mysterious woman was using to contact Hannah and feed her information. That led her to a cottage in Virginia where she discovered former Chief of Staff Charles Langdon, who was assumed dead at the scene of the Capitol bombing, alive and on the property. He claimed that the whole conspiracy was bigger than she could conceive and that she should run, get away before they could kill both him and her. This was the kind of stuff that I wanted this episode to really pack a punch on this week. I wanted them to fan a flame on the whole conspiracy, and get to the bottom of who really is behind this attack against the US. Unfortunately that did not happen to the extent that I was hoping for. Some teases were made, sure, but largely I felt like this episode was stalling a little bit at getting to the more impactful moment.

Kirkman had continued to have the Capitol building threat assessment file analyzed and his investigation led him to the discovery that General Harris Cochrane had been one of the few authorities granted access to the file when it was first created two years ago. Cochrane confirmed that the file was sent to him, but his access to it was reversed quickly from the Secretary of Defense and Cochrane believes that the order to do that came from the White House, confirming Kirkman’s suspicion that a traitor is among them. Now while Cochrane provided great antagonism to our protagonist, I was impressed with Kevin McNally’s performance even if he played it a bit typical. But the small scene he had in this week’s episode was notable for his last line where he offered his help to the President. I was not expecting that, and I have no idea if the President will ever take him up on his offer, but it makes me wonder what the show wants to do with this character. Perhaps getting fired allowed Cochrane to start viewing his position a bit differently because here he looked very humbled.

This revelation from Cochrane pushed Kirkman to use Emily to investigate who among the prior cabinet might be the perpetrator. I mentioned this earlier, but we saw Emily and Aaron share their first kiss, the one that has been hinted at for the past couple of weeks. Que the elaborate attempts to put Aaron once again in the spotlight for being a suspect. I can’t say I’m really surprised that the show is going in this direction. After all Aaron is one of the sole surviving staff workers of the former administration and he has already proven to be a bit shady in the way he goes about his business. With all of that said though, I still can’t tell whether or not he is the traitor in spite of the phone log evidence against him. The show could be leading us to believe it is Aaron just to increase the tension.

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR – “The Oath”  (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg)

The juiciest detail we learned this week was that Peter MacLeish’s wife is not only aware of his involvement in the greater conspiracy, she is complicit in the whole thing. The scene between MacLeish and his wife had me thinking that she might have been the one to persuade Peter of the necessity of this plan, even if Catalan is his buddy. Peter’s wife kept mentioning how their “friends” would react to his slight doubt in the heat of the moment. Who are these friends? Well clearly Catalan is one, and the woman who kidnapped FBI director Atwood’s son is another, but who else? This thing, as the Chief of Staff said, is bigger than we realized.

The final sequence of the episode revolved around the swearing in of Peter MacLeish as Vice-President of the United States. Kirkman mandated that he did not want to break from tradition and announced the ceremony would take place in front of the Capitol Building. Hannah’s final discovery at the Chief of Staff’s hideaway house was a key card of the man that tried to kill her. This key card, as Chuck identified, had access to a room of an office building that overlooked the courtyard in front of the Capitol building, and naturally the swearing in ceremony. Basically, the conspiracy group was making a play to assassinate President Kirkman, and have MacLeish take his place. This is where I had my major issues with this episode, especially as a mid-season finale. It was all just a big cliffhanger. Hannah got to the scene, and was able to see Catalan’s position inside the building. The secret service had noticed her rampant entrance onto the facility and were pursuing her. She was able to get a shot off at Catalan, it hit the side of the window, and his sniper went off before leaving the screen blank. I was rather irritated at that choice, much the same way I was irritated when The Walking Dead did the same kind of thing. Ultimately, I think it is just a cop out, and while I do want to find out what happens, I wish they could have left this first half season on a more definitive standing end point, one that wasn’t so reliant on mystery. I would rather be awaiting the return of the show if my anticipation revolved around how a character was going to react to a reveal of something shocking. I wanted something more concrete. Ah well, I guess we can’t have everything for Christmas.

That is it for me for this first half of Designated Survivor’s first season. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season, I know I will be. Rest and eat well everyone! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Episode Rating: 7/10


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