At the start of the episode, President Tom Kirkman is as bewildered as any of us would be at finding ourselves catapulted into the Presidency: there’s a lovely moment when he’s wandering, lost, around the White House, needs to be directed to the West Wing, and on his way there drifts past staffers who pay him no heed. Then he walks out of a briefing, because everyone’s far too busy shouting at everyone else to pay any attention to the quiet little POTUS standing in the corner.
As the episode goes on, though, the President starts to reassert his authority. Necessarily so, because he has some big problems to deal with. First up, the FBI has identified terrorist group Al Saqr as responsible for the bomb attack, something we could have predicted from the start, when it’s the only fictional organisation listed as a possible perpetrator. In fairness, opinion is divided, kind of: everyone in the FBI thinks it was Al Saqr. Everyone, that is, apart from Agent Wells. She’s of the view that an unexploded device which they conveniently found was deliberately left as a misleading clue to point towards Al Saqr, meaning that the real baddies are still unknown.
But her opinion isn’t passed onto the President, who is asked by General Cochrane to strike at Al Saqr on the basis of what the General assesses to be 75% certainty that they were responsible. This, though, isn’t enough for Tom: “Come back to me with more than 75%”, he snaps, “and I’ll launch the missiles myself”. How much more? he’s asked. “Twenty-five, DAMMIT!” he replies. And, of course, with a DAMMIT adjacent to a number in the neighbourhood of, uh, 24, we’re given notice that President Bauer is in the (White) house.
Next on the agenda is the villainous John Royce, the Governor of Michigan, who has unleashed his police on the local Muslim community, leading to a young man being beaten to death. Royce is, during their first conversation, brutally dismissive of the new President, and then simply declines to take his calls. (Delightfully, Royce is played by Unpopcult favourite Michael Gaston, who has been, of course, lots of things in lots of shows, but in particular was Tom Carter in Blindspot, and Gale Bertram in The Mentalist. Tiger tiger.) The President is given a few unacceptable options – either too wimpy or too draconian – so needs to come up with an idea of his own. And, not for the first time, we’re given reason to believe that Tom Kirkman has more about him than perhaps meets the eye.
In staffing news, Aaron and Emily continue to squabble – if they didn’t hook up before the start of episode 1, it’ll be happening soon, you mark my words. Seth, meantime, remains the lowest-maintenance member of the President’s inner circle, which makes me think that he might leapfrog them both to become Chief of Staff, which in turn could mean that he’s less likely to be the victim of aggressive policing himself, as he is this week. In family news, Leo continues to be in dire need of a slap. And in future adversary news, enter Virginia Madsen as Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (sic, I think), the Republicans’ own designated survivor, who’s all about bipartisanship at this difficult time for the nation, but who might as well be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “I HAVE MY OWN AGENDA”, so clearly is she up to something. Perhaps not quite as good as the pilot, but still great fun; and now with a full season order as well.