Welcome back fans of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR! It has been quite the hiatus (nearly three months) since we last saw President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and gang (has anything relevant occurred in the world of real life politics?). In all regards, it’s great to have the show back. Somehow, the crazy events on the show seem to pale in comparison to the strange daily events happening in our current government. Enough about real world shenanigans, let’s dive into this week’s jam-packed episode.
When we last left the show, Agent Wells (Maggie Q) was hot on the trail of an assassin, who was trying to kill the president. As the assassin was about to pull the trigger, from a nearby hotel building, Wells spotted him from below and shot towards him, which caused the assassin to move as he shot towards the president. Now, we finally now who the recipient of said bullet is and it’s none other than President Kirkman himself. It appears the assassin did his job after all. In the middle of the chaos, Wells is taken into FBI custody and Kirkman is rushed to the hospital. We soon find out that the bullet went straight through Kirkman’s body and missed hitting vital organs (Wells’ shot appears to have helped with that), so he will survive. The bad news is that he must go into surgery right away to rid of any shrapnel floating around his chest. This means that Kirkman will be incapacitated for an extended amount of time and won’t be able to act as president during this period. He will have to invoke the 25th amendment and have Vice President MacLeish, who is suspected of being involved with the Capitol Hill bombing and most likely Kirkman’s assassination attempt, as acting president. President Kirkman, getting ready for surgery, is none too thrilled about having MacLeish in office. He has a conversation with Speaker Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) and makes a special request about keeping a close eye on MacLeish. She gladly accepts and the two exchange an unexpectedly touching moment. Maybe Hookstraten is not so bad after all, though on this show, you never know.
Moving on to the sketchy and shady dealing of MacLeish and his wife. When we last left off with MacLeish, Wells discovered that he had been a war criminal and is involved with the mysterious group behind the bombing. MacLeish and his wife, back at home after the assassination attempt, asses what went down. They aren’t happy about the fact that Kirkman is still alive, which wasn’t part of the plan. MacLeish panics and worries that they will be discovered, but his wife (in full Lady Macbeth-mode), calms him by saying that Kirkman is still injured and MacLeish is still vice president and now acting president. They remain hopeful that Kirkman may die during surgery and they will have full power. In the meantime, there is still time to due some damage. Cue the scary and devious music in the background!
And indeed they do. When MacLeish, now temporary president, is briefed about Asian markets plummeting, due to Kirkman’s injury, Aaron (Kirkman’s chief of staff) and Emily (Kirkman’s chief advisor) recommend MacLeish to order the SEC to shut down the markets for the next day, to avoid chaos. Since MacLeish is now in full evil-mode, he listens and ignores the advice and decides to keep the markets open and let the chips fall where they may. It appears MacLeish and his wife want full turmoil in the country, which makes them highly dangerous.
After the briefing, Hookstraten barges into the Oval Office to unleash on MacLeish (oh look, it rhymes!) and boy does she. In the episode’s dramatically juiciest scene, Hookstraten makes no pretense and flat out tells him that she is closely watching his every move. MacLeish asks if she is threatening him and being the badass that she is, responds with, “absolutely…sir!” Watching Madsen relish a scene like this is a treat for the viewer. I hope we get more juicy moments like this during the season.
MacLeish is briefed that the assassin has been found and turns out he was a fellow war criminal during the same mission in MacLeish’s past. MacLeish goes into the Situation Room, guns blazing (metaphorically speaking) and orders the forces on the ground to kill the assassin. Everyone in the room is shocked by this call and Aaron pleads to MacLeish to take him alive for questioning. MacLeish will have none of it and orders the kill. MacLeish is relieved, one less person to rat him out.
Aaron finally confronts Emily, who has been acting distant towards him. For good reason, when we last left Emily, she found out that a call connected to the bombing came from Aaron’s office. She also found out about this after she and Aaron finally made out. Is Aaron guilty or is he being framed? Only time will tell, but hopefully these kids can pull through.
Back to the MacLeishes, walking outside of the White House, they are told that Kirkman has made it out of surgery and will recover, much to their dismay. MacLeish starts to worry again that they will soon be discovered, but Lady Macbeth wife informs him that his kill order of the assassin has erased any of their connection to the conspiracy.
Kirkman wakes up from surgery, to the news that world has gone crazy while he was briefly away. MacLeish sure did a lot of damage in a short amount of time. He is sufficient, I’ll give you that much. Wall Street has plummeted and the morale of the country is low. Kirkman decides to address the country and world from this window, to show that he is alive, healthy and ready to get back to work. The appearance works and helps get thing back in order. Kirkman assumes the presidency again and MacLeish is back to VP status.
Meanwhile, Wells has been keeping silent with the FBI, but Secret Service Agent Ritter is able to get through to Wells, he is friend not foe. Ritter brings Wells to the hospital and she and Kirkman will now discuss all things MacLeish. Will Wells be able to convince of all of the crazy information she has on MacLeish?
This was one of the best episodes of the season, the best since the pilot actually. It moved at a brisk speed and all of the narrative threads were focused and tied to the bombing and assassination. Nothing felt like filler, which had been one of the issues with some of the episodes this season. It seems the hiatus did the show well. Creator Guggenheim have returned re-energized for the remainder of the season. There were wonderful twists, turns and dramatically compelling moments. I am hopeful that this season remains as entertaining as this hour was and we end the season on a high note. Welcome back indeed!
Season 1, Episode 11 (S01E11)
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC
Cristian Barros | Contributor