This week’s episode of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR proved once again why President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and his administration is considerably more appealing and sincere, compared to the daily shenanigans of he who shall not be named and his band of charlatans. But enough of real world politics, let’s focus on the fictitious kind. The latest episode had plenty of moving parts, which caused some filler storylines to take up space from the more intriguing aspects of the hour. Let us take a closer examination and break it all down.
President Kirkman starts the episode, appearing the most presidential he ever has, by addressing the press briefing room about his first hundred days as the leader of the free world. He points out that since there have been bumps along the way (minor things like your VP getting murdered by his wife, an assassination attempt on the president, oh, and the reason Kirkman is in office…the bombing of Capitol Hill!), he would like to set the restart button and proclaim that starting today he is declaring this as his first hundred day plan of action in office. It’s an ambitious statement that is meant with positive reaction by the press and public. Aaron even sends Seth a “good job” type of text, but Seth points out that Emily was the brains of the operation. These two haven’t seen the last of one another and their kissing lips.
Based on the encouraging response, Emily and Seth get straight to work on keeping the momentum moving along. They conduct a workshop hub where the staff take calls from the public to find out what the most pressing issues are in the nation, is it energy, social security reform, health care or all of the above? They clearly have their work cut out for them. In the middle of the session, Kirkman walks in to encourage the team and provide some words of wisdom. He pretty much says there is plenty to do, but in the end, they will come out looking stronger.
The First Lady is also feeling motivated by Kirkman’s renewal speech and attends a women’s luncheon. She provides a speech that touches on some women’s issue, mainly the pay gap that still unfairly exists. During an audience Q&A, the topic on gun violence is brought up and First Lady Kirkman makes her honest opinion be known. She believes there should be common sense laws in effect and that the country needs to look at this issue in a different manner. The audience erupts in applause and the speech appears to be well received, but not to everyone. Conservatives immediately go on the attack towards the First Lady. A senator from Montana named Jack Bowman, goes on cable news and starts criticizing her remarks about gun violence. He essentially equates what she said to conducting policy for the entire Kirkman administration. This obviously creates some issues for the Kirkman team. The team’s solution ends up being to have the First Lady do a TV interview to provide clarity. The interview goes well and she redirects the narrative that she provided her opinion and that her public opinions do not equate to policy making in the administration.
Emily and Seth decide to conduct a practice town hall meeting with Kirkman, to get him prepped and ready to knock it out. As they ask him some practice questions, he comes off as all business and not enough of a personal connection. They advice him to relax and come off as more relatable to the public. Kirkman has some work to do to make this the comeback he needs.
When the town hall finally arrives, Kirkman appears to have done his homework because he is coming off as presidential, while also having personal connections with the public asking the questions. The Kirkman charm is in full effect. During this back and forth with the public questions, Kirkman decides to pause and make an announcement about an ambitious plan to launch a public-works program to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. It will provide new labor and education programs to help those that have fallen behind. Kirkman’s plan seems to leave the town hall satisfied.
Everything goes swimmingly, but on this show, anytime something good happens, conflict lurks around the corner. A woman provides a heartbreaking story about her daughter being killed by someone with a gun, a crime that could have been prevented with common-sense gun control laws. Feeling genuinely moved by the woman’s story, he makes a plea that control laws need to be better in the country and that he wants to work to create vital change (seriously, can Kirkman be our president in real life, is that possible?). The town hall group erupt in applause and Kirkman has knocked it out. As well know, politics is a complex process and turning his plans into actual policy and laws will be a tricky battle.
Kirkman invites leading senators and House representatives to sit with him to discuss ways of making his plans come to fruition in a nonpartisan manner. He also makes it clear that he is an independent, so he seems ideal to deal with both sides, right? Well, the meeting appears to go well, which is a common theme on this show now. Senator Bowman, that swell guy to critiqued the First Lady, quickly drafts a gun control bill that is highly flawed. Bowman’s strategy is to corner Kirkman. Kirkman has to either support a weak bill or risk appearing like he is not being bipartisan on gun control legislation. I did say this was not going to be an easy road for Kirkman.
The filler part of the episode was an unnecessary storyline about about free agent Aaron trying to live life outside of the White House. Look, he has time to go jogging now, that’s nice. He also gets a visit from his cousin Nadia, who just graduated from Penn and wants a job in D.C. He arranges a meeting for her, but mostly this storyline functions as a way to keep Aaron relevant on the show. He bumps into Speaker Hookstraten, who asks him to stay in touch. He takes her up on the offer and meets with her to discuss working for public service because he misses it. She offers him a job to work for her. He accepts, but it does present an interesting dynamic, since he is liberal and she is conservative. At the West Wing, he bumps into Emily and tells her about his new job. She is surprised, but also happy for him. There is hope for these two lovebirds after all.
Meanwhile, in bombing conspiracy land, Agent Wells (Maggie Q) and her tech buddy Chuck find a lead on Brooke Matheson, the woman who killed Jason Atwood’s son. Since Wells is damn good at her job, she notices a wine glass in a photo she has of Brooke and tells Chuck to zoom in to find fingerprints. What you know, they find fingerprints on the glass in the photo and are able to scan the prints to find a location of where she might be hiding. Wells goes to Atwood, who is at the gym, trying to bury his emotions by pumping iron. She informs him that she knows where Brooke might be and they will be off the grid. He is in, but things don’t pan out so well. Brooke and her shady crew are on to her and blow up the hide out where she and Chuck are at, but lucky for them, they get out in time. Atwood and Wells track down Brooke at a dark warehouse. They find her, but she puts up a fight and her and Wells go at it, until Atwood draws his gun to Brooke. She has one hidden and goes to fire, but Wells and Atwood gun her down and now she is dead. Oh well for bringing her in for questioning, it can never be easy on this show. They find a thumb drive and discover a few simulations of famous landmarks: the Statue of Liberty, Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge, all being destroyed. Wells in shock, the attacks are not over, not by a long shot.
The episode was another solid one, but still lacked some of the excitement of the previous MacLeish-centered ones. The Aaron storyline felt superfluous and could’ve been summed up in one scene. This messed with the pacing of the episode by dragging out some points. The episode also felt the most like THE WEST WING so far, since we spent a majority of the time in the White House. These scenes worked well because we got a real sense of what goes into policy making without it feeling too dry. The conspiracy stuff continues to be the most exciting and fascinating element of the show. Even in some of the slower episodes, the writers do an effective job of moving things forward with well-placed clues to keep the show interesting. What does Wells’ new clue mean for the safety of the country? Will we ever get to the bottom of the group that Brooke belongs to? We will see what next week has in store for us.
Season 1, Episode 15 (S01E15)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on ABC
Cristian Barros | Contributor