Designated Survivor s1 ep 2

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.

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7 thoughts on “Designated Survivor s1 ep 2

  1. Snoskred October 3, 2016 / 12:27 am

    The writing is so woeful. It is like they were sitting in the room saying – what is the least fascinating way we can say everything? Write that down! Got a cliche? Use that shiznit!

    I have my fingers crossed it will improve but having just done a West Wing rewatch, this is so, so, so so so bad. Probably that is my fault and not the fault of the show, though. 🙂 I should not watch epic teevee in close proximity to this.

    • Jed Bartlet October 3, 2016 / 12:53 pm

      It definitely isn’t The West Wing, Snoskred; on the political side, I’m not sure it’s even Madam Secretary. But I’m still more positive than negative. The sooner we can get Kiefer and Maggie Q acting opposite each other the happier I’ll be.

  2. adamcreen October 3, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Kimble and the missing Chief Of Staff are so definitely behind the bombing. Called it as soon as she appeared.

    • Jed Bartlet October 3, 2016 / 10:59 pm

      Supposedly dead Chief of Staff definitely. (But not Aaron). Not sure about Kimble, though: was she not Googling Tom Kirkman at the end? I’d like to think that someone capable of pulling off a terrorist attack like that would be better prepared.

  3. CJ Cregg October 5, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    I loved this. I don’t mind at all that it isn’t The West Wing – it isn’t trying to be. TWW was meant to be a serious, prestige political drama, but Designated Survivor isn’t – it’s a high-concept thriller against a political background so I don’t think it’s really fair to compare the two.

    Anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Apart from the family bits which I agree are just turgid.

    I love Kimble Hookstraten, unusual name and all. I don’t think she’s in on the plot, you guys, I think her agenda is to gaslight/ push Jack Bauer out (as if!) and become President herself, but for now I really like her and JB working together. Surely she’s the obvious choice for Secrerary of State?

    Against my initial expectations, I love Seth too – Kal Penn is terrific, I love his growing friendship with President Jack Bauer, and him and Kiefer work really well together.

    I was impressed and pleased that the show raised the Islamophobia issue so quickly and clearly, illustrating it on both a personal/someone the President knows level and large-scale political/action one that PJB had to get all badass about, and obviously Gale Bertram is always great value.

    (FWIW, I was shouting “You’ll need to send in the National Guard!” long before Mrs Bauer suggested it so the idea wasn’t that “brilliant”, no matter how impressed President Jack Bauer was – I can’t believe neither of those muppets vying to be Attorney General mentioned it as an option, even just to discount it. PJB’s solution was tremendous though.)

    The scene at the shrine where the cop eyed Seth up and Seth just looked weary and resigned to being the subject of constant suspicion and distrust, before the cop then just asked him if he lost someone and a lady handed him a candle genuinely made me cry. Religious bigotry, racism and anti-Muslim feeling has been on the rise for some years now, but the past year has frankly been a terrifying nightmare both in the UK and US with these kind of attitudes not only becoming increasingly popular but being presented as policy by certain mainstream political parties and the media. There are lots of more eloquent people than me fighting the good fight and speaking out about it, so it sounds silly to accord so much importance to a daft tv show, I know, but I find myself so despairing sometimes that any push against these attitudes on tv always makes me feel a bit better.

  4. Kay20 October 21, 2016 / 9:02 pm

    I also am still enjoying it but it still feels really leaden at times. The FBI scenes don’t feel connected to the show. And the two aides just feel really young.

    I like Madam Secretary so much better as the writing just feels more sophisticated and the cast hangs better together.

    Willing to stick with it, but it’s just not right yet. That said – agree with CJ on the general themes of the show.

    • Jed Bartlet October 23, 2016 / 10:43 pm

      The cast of Madam Secretary is undoubtedly better, Kay, but as we’ve said before it has an exceptional cast.

      Agree about the FBI scenes, but I’m guessing that it’s a deliberate decision to keep that arc separate from the political stuff. I won’t be happy until Kiefer and Q are working together to bring the baddies down.

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