– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Image via ABC

Image via ABC

Designated Survivor has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I’ve repeated time and again how amazing the premise is, and given this politically charged year in the United States, it could not have come at a bitter time. What would happen if the very infrastructure of our government was compromised? How would the country recover, and what other problems would it face along the way? Casting Kiefer Sutherland against type as a rather meek, soft-spoken president was a brilliant move, and thus far he’s risen to the occasion as a reluctant commander-in-chief.

That being said, This show has had some real trouble in its balancing act with its multiple subplots. How much of the story should go to rebuilding the government? How much should be allocated to the terrorist threat that made this whole scenario possible? How much should we spend on politicians and the press undermining President Kirkman at every turn? Finally, how much should be spent on more personal affairs. My personal thoughts are that the rebuilding of the government itself should be the main focus, with the terrorism threat a secondary focus. I want to get into the dirt, and actually see how something like this could turn out without stupid TV logic dictating the next move.

Unfortunately, in the desire to fill the hour, as well as the rest of the season, I think we got an episode filled with…well, filler. The main plot this time around revolves around an Olympic coach who gets arrested by Russia. It turns out he’s a spy for the U.S., and Kirkman has to organize a trade to get him back. Of course, nothing comes easy, and after a pretty sweat three-way trade is dealt, Kirkman finds that said coach was actually a double agent for Russia. Whoops. There was nothing inherently wrong with this subplot. By all accounts, it wasn’t un-entertaining or even boring. My problem is that it felt unnecessary. When we have larger things to deal with, like rebuilding the government, and the continued investigation of the potential vice president, I don’t want this fluff.

And speaking of the ongoing plot, this one makes very little progress. The deputy FBI agent very nearly tells the president about his suspicions regarding MacLeish, only to find that congressman with him and the president in the Oval Office. Understandably, the agent doesn’t want to reveal his suspicions in front of MacLeish, but the situation could have been handled much better. He could have called the president afterwards and made his suspicion clear. He would have simply requested that MacLeish leave — it wouldn’t be so out of place for the president to have the only ears on a subject. That, coupled with the events surrounding the FBI agent’s kid, really seemed to drag things out. It felt like they needed to delay things, so they inserted silly TV logic into the mix.

The third plotline revolves around Leo’s parentage. Admittedly, this is the plotline that worried me most. The first few episodes of this show really wore out that kid’s welcome, and I didn’t want to see him for another second in this show. Luckily, most of the drama surrounding Leo didn’t actually necessitate Leo being in the show, and the only time we do see him is in a short, two-minute scene at the end. Additionally, given Kirkman’s knowledge of the kid not being his son, it really seems to make the whole situation a lot less irritating. The fact that he doesn’t care about Leo’s potential father makes him a bigger man in my eyes, and makes me root for him even more. I hope this situation doesn’t blow up in our faces, but as it stands, it could have been handled much worse. Kudos to the writers for making this a bearable storyline.

While I wouldn’t call this a terrible episode, I may consider it the weakest one of the bunch so far. It’s unfocused, and manages to drain out a lot of the tension surrounding the main plot. Given the fact that we have another 13 episodes to go through, I can understand the need to prolong the plot, but it would be nice if they didn’t do so artificially. Had this been the real world, America would have been beyond eroded going all these weeks without an actual government. I understand that this is fiction, but my disbelief can only be suspended for so long! Get it together, Kirkman!

Grade: C-

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.