DESIGNATED SURVIVOR Season 1, Episode 8 Review: A Satisfying Slow Burn Of An Episode

– by Joseph Medina
Image via ABC

Image via ABC

Things have been a bit hit or miss for me for Designated Survivor. Despite my inclination to like this series, even I have to admit it hasn’t been the most satisfying of watches. For the most part, it has a tendency to fall short of its potential, perhaps in the interest of prolonging the narrative over the course of 20+ episodes, which is a trend that plagues most serialized network TV. However, with a series like Designated Survivor, which hinges on a very specific, extreme premise involving an entire government infrastructure being obliterated, it’s a weakness that gets amplified. How much longer can President Kirkman dilly-dally before taking active steps to rebuild the government? Luckily for us, Episode 8 takes some real steps in moving all the pieces forward.



In the last episode, one of the main hanging threads came in the form of the FBI dude, Atwood, whose son was kidnapped. This episode, we find out how the kidnapper plans to blackmail him. He is given specific orders to claim responsibility for the death of Majid Nassar. Luckily for us, he left a trail of breadcrumbs for Hannah to follow, so let’s hope she’s able to unravel the entire mystery before it goes any further. It also helps that Kirkman is skeptical of this latest development, so I imagine he won’t be too hard to convince when she does find hard evidence that proves Atwood’s innocent. Let's just hope she can do so before it's too late. As much as I like Atwood as a character, he very much seems like the most disposable of the bunch, so I can see them setting up to be more of a tragic figure of the season.

One other big subplot of this episode covers one aspect that I hoped to God would be underplayed: the potential that Leo was, in fact, not Kirkman’s real son. Given how poorly this series had treated Leo in the past (by making me hate everything he did), I had no assurances this wouldn’t fall flat on its face. While I wouldn’t call this a flawless victory by the writers (some of Leo’s behavior continues to be annoying), it wasn’t the horrific monstrosity that I feared. Leo is understandably upset by this news, but at the end of the day, he chooses to accept Kirkman as his father regardless of the results (which ended up confirming Kirkman as his father). It ended up giving the audience yet another reason to sympathize with Kirkman, and also gave Seth some stuff to do in regards to his relationship with the press. No one did anything stupid, and I’m thoroughly happy with the competence everyone had all around. 

The main thrust of this episode dealt with something I’ve been waiting for: Congressional elections. I’ve been saying for weeks that I craved to see the nuts and bolts of this scenario played out, and that involves expediting these elections so that the government could get up and running as soon as possible. Of course, everything isn’t so easy. Prior to the elections, one poll volunteer succumbs to a bioterrorist attack, putting fear in the American people that this could be a widespread attack that could take place on all Americans once the election actually happens. Kirkman — always the delicate flower — initially refuses to allow this election to go forward without assurance that the lives of the people would not be at stake. After hearing the strong faith the deceased poll volunteer had regarding her civic duty, however, Kirkman changes his mind, and allows these elections to continue.

When Kirkman shows up at the polling stations, however, he sees it vacant and desolate. This isn’t exactly the most encouraging start, but after seeing the president to go these polls despite the dangers, Americans rise above their fears and make it out to the polls. I expect next episode, we’ll see the start of a new Congress. It was the victory we needed to see at this point after seeing Kirkman berated by constant doubt.

Finally, this episode saw the two remaining congresspeople, Kimbal and MacLeish, begin what I can only imagine will be a long, drawn-out conflict. In the past, Kimbal has clashed with Kirkman as an overly-pragmatic snake, but in this episode, her and Kirkman see eye to eye on the need to investigate Atwood’s “betrayal” and launch a full investigation. MacLeish expresses his concerns with taking this approach, and Kimbal is not taking his attitude sitting down. We’re left with one final revelation that MacLeish is in cahoots with Atwood’s son’s kidnapper. No surprise there, but here all the doubts surrounding him are revealed, and as expected, we now know that he aims to take the vice presidency, and ultimately presidency, as soon as Kirkman passes.

All in all, there was a decent amount going on in Episode 8, but surprisingly enough, it handled it with such deliberate and meditative pacing that it never went at a breakneck speed. While a faster-paced episode could have been more satisfying, I think this one did a decent job of handling all the subplots and keeping them entertaining enough to keep me going forward.

I’d consider this a stark improvement over last episode, and I hope it’s a harbinger of things to come.

Grade: B

What did you think of this week’s episode of Designated Survivor? Let us know in the comments down below!

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Reviews, TV TV, Designated Survivor, Designated Survivor Season 1, Recaps, Reviews