TV Review – DESIGNATED SURVIVOR Season 1, Episode 3: More Goods For Those Already Intrigued

Last week’s episode of Designated Survivor left things with a bit of a twist. Initially, we’d been led to believe there were no survivors from the Capitol bombing, but now the cleanup crew has officially found its first and (so far) only survivor. I thought this may lead to a premise shakeup, wherein President Kirkman may find himself at odds with a surviving cabinet member who wants to assume power over him. Despite the fact that the deed has been done, and that Kirkman was already sworn in, I thought bringing in a “superior” cabinet member could add an extra twist to things. 

Interestingly enough, they’re not taking that approach with the series. Instead, they seem to be using him as a potential plant for the terrorists who bombed the Capitol. How did that congressman survive when so many died? The information revealed definitely seems suspect, but there’s no struggle for power coming from this man, which is what I’d expected at the closing of last episode.

The struggle for presidential power, instead, is coming from across the aisle — namely Congresswoman Hookstraten. Between her knocking Kirkman from the ex-president’s eulogy and potentially leaking the Al-Sakar confession video to the press, it’s clear she’s undermining Kirkman at every turn. Sure, she ended up not being the one who leaked, but the suspicion was definitely there for a reason. She’s a power-hungry woman who isn’t afraid to take advantage of the opportunity in front of her.

The power struggle doesn’t end there, however. By the episode’s closing scene, wesee there may be doubts about the loyalty of Kirkman’s newly-appointed Chief of Staff, Aaron. Why does he have the file on the president, and what does he intend to use it for? Does he have goals above serving the president, or is he more intent on forcing the president’s hand to take action against Al-Sakar. He was, after all, the man who leaked the video. Despite the fact that his intentions seemed noble (to unite everyone around Kirkman once they’d found an enemy), there could be more to the story.

I have a sneaking suspicion that his intentions are largely honorable. I imagine we’ll find that he only had that file thrown together simply to ensure he could absorb and deflect any allegations against Kirkman, but as a cliffhanger, it worked. In these types of shows, the red herrings of doubt are ever-present.

All in all, I’d say this was a solid continuation of the story — one that takes full advantage of the strengths of the premise. The real fun in such a plot isn’t necessarily trying to figure out who bombed the Capitol, or even the day-to-day struggle of an unlikely president. The strength, as with any good Shakespearean-level drama lies in the cutthroat nature of humanity in a power vacuum.

Who will take advantage of this moment? Who is considered to be the weak link in the fight for ultimate power? It’s always been a strong premise, and so far, this show has delivered on its promise.

That being said, as with the first two episodes, Episode 3 has plenty of shortcomings. The dialogue is still pretty clunky, and the execution — complete with the over-the-top music and predictable plot — has enough cheese to fill a platter. But for those who love this kind of show, I can’t imagine there being any real complains. Every cheesy line draws a smile from my face, and every twist and turn has me curling my toes. It’s dumb, artificial TV tension, but I love it so.

But I do I have my concerns.

Designated Survivor is the type of show that seem to have the hardest time standing up over the course of a network TV season. Can a show like Designated Survivor actually hold up for 20+ episodes without wearing thin? That remains to be seen, but this third episode certainly helps to set more pieces on the board that can be utilized down the line. It’s just a matter of how well they pace it all.

Grade: B+

What did you think of Episode 3 of Designated Survivor? Are you enjoying what you’re seeing, or is it just another painful, eye-rollingly predictable patriotic show?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!

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