Dec 1, 2017

[TV] Designated Survivor: Season 1 Review

As a guy who didn't get into 24 for one reason or another, I wasn't quite sure if I'd get into Designated Survivor. On the surface it felt like it was going to be another 24 but set in the White House, but thankfully it wasn't.

This is not to say that Designated Survivor isn't a little ridiculous as well. It's a show with a massive conspiracy at its heart and to make it work they're trying to stretch things out for as long as possible. And it seems the best way to do this is by throwing in crazier and crazier ideas to add further complexity to the larger story.

But as much as there's the conspiracy angle, the show still has a strong political drama slant to it that appeals to my sensibilities. Sure it's not as high impact as the likes of Madam Secretarybut it does have it's interesting moments. And while it does meander a bit, I think the way things were resolved does leave some interesting plot threads to pursue for the second season.

Synopsis: Designated Survivor is an American political drama series created by David Guggenheim for ABC but airs on Netflix outside of North America. As of the time of this blog review the second season is on-going.

The show quickly explains that a designated survivor is appointed to maintain the line of succession whenever the US President and other top leaders gather. And for this particular State of the Union address, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is named as the Presidential successor. No one ever really thought much of the role until a terrorist attack takes out the President, the Vice-President, their cabinet and pretty much all of Congress.

Thus Kirkman is sworn as the President although he was never exactly a career politician and doesn't quite have the confidence of the American people. While he scrambles to find a way to reassemble the American government, he faces challenges left and right including from the leadership of the individual states. And there's still the larger question of who committed the attack and what their goals were, and FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) suspects that things are not as they seem based on the initial evidence at the scene.

What I Liked: The whole premise is rather fascinating, admittedly, and the many questions raised by the loss of most of a country's leaders is a fascinating thought exercise. How the show walks us through this progress as they determine how to re-establish Congress while still putting together a decent cabinet makes for fun moments. I think I especially enjoyed President Kirkman's first meeting with NATO and clearly being at a disadvantage.

The conspiracy investigation angle as drive by Maggie Q's character is a pretty good one. As much as it does seem like she's been typecast in this sort of investigative spy mode, she's pretty good at it. And with her being in the FBI this time around does allow her to be more methodical in her approach this time around.

What Could Have Been Better: Thomas Kirkman is like super, super unlikely given all the challenges he faces as a President to the point of being somewhat ridiculous. No one seems to believe in his ability to lead then you have the monkey wrench that he was actually trying to resign from the Cabinet right before the attack and other silly plot twists. The writers went out of their way to make sure it would be quite the uphill struggle for him to fully claim the presidency.

And thus far the big conspiracy that orchestrated all this seems to be one that loves Rube Goldberg machines. They have such a complicated conspiracy driving all this that it's hard to make sense of their supposed plans or even see what they were logically hoping to achieve. And as this is a regular network show, I don't know how long they're going to keep this mystery going without overly complicating things to the point of becoming full on crazy. This legitimately scares me about the show.

TL;DR: Designated Survivor is still a show with a strong premise and some solid characters keeping things afloat. I don't know if I'll stay with the show for long but thus far I'm enjoying the experience. Thus the first season gets a good 3.5 survive reveals about the nature of the attack out of a possible 5.


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