With media and celebrity culture largely and quite rightly focused on men’s misconduct at the moment, Designated Survivor bucks the trend this week with something of a “women behaving badly” theme underlying all the main storylines.
Having made up an entire country last week, the show contents itself with fictionalising the leader of a real one this time around – albeit the veil they’ve used isn’t so much thin as invisible – who gets in a fight with PJB about an opposition leader, democracy and US air bases. This results in a complete disaster of a NATO meeting, and PJB being the worst negotiator ever, until he throws away all pretence at diplomacy, goes the full “I will FIND you” Jack Bauer on Mr Turan’s ass, and solves the problem, once again, by yelling at him. I’m not sure “channel your Inner Bauer” is the lesson we’re necessarily supposed to take from it, right enough, but the other potential lesson is worse, given that it turns out Leo’s first girlfriend is actually a foreign agent setting him up for… Oh, God, I don’t actually care. Suffice to say, Leo’s first girlfriend being an enemy operative is somewhat disappointing. Not because I give two tours of the Oval Office about the wretched Leo or his love life, but did the show really have to make the nice teenage girl in the inter-racial relationship a villainess taking advantage of the most privileged Caucasian boy in the world?
Not that Caucasian women are painted any more favourably this week. Despite a brief flirtation with the idea of Cornelius Moss as a suspect and his refusal to answer any questions at all – because every political drama needs a recovering alcoholic best pal – it’s obvious from the second we see her again that Charlotte Thorn’s murderer is going to be Peyton Lane, as Ms Thorn’s erstwhile assistant suddenly switches from last week’s plucky, self-possessed and smart mode, to the hoary old stereotype of “scorned lesbian murderess.” FFS. Designated Survivor is better than that. Or it should be.
Agent Q meanwhile succumbs to a different sort of stereotype since she and Mr MI6 celebrate one cliche with another: on solving the case, they jump each other’s bones, which isn’t so much behaving badly as behaving annoyingly, since Reed Diamond would be so good for Q and I don’t understand why I can’t just have this one ship work out for me on this show. Sigh.
Reed Diamond himself, however, has loftier concerns. He’s still busy investigating serial liar FMILOTUS, hampered slightly by the fact that the White House Women’s Guild – Counsel, FLOTUS and FMILOTUS – are quite brazenly conspiring to hide evidence from him. POTUS, meanwhile, is not just entirely on board with this, but actively colluding with them to help keep all their stories straight. So, let’s just be clear on this. The President, the First Family and the White House Counsel are working together to deceive federal investigators and cover up potential federal criminality. Does this not sound a little familiar? Which means the show suggesting it’s not just acceptable but necessary is hypocritical, inconsistent and frankly tone-deaf. Although no doubt what’ll happen in the end is that FMILOTUS (who is clearly up to her neck in it) will turn out to have been the real villain all along and she’ll take the fall for the whole thing. So a deceitful Administration will try to escape the consequences of its dishonesty by shifting all the blame onto a woman who isn’t actually a member of it. Oh, wait. That sounds pretty familiar too.