So, about those storylines I said were going nowhere…
Emily being shot in the final seconds of last week’s episode turns out to have been the cheapest, most pointless of cliffhangers: a minute into this episode, and she’s not only absolutely fine, but her hair and make-up are flawless and she’s headed back to work pronto. Only for her to make a real hash of things, try to knobble the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and resign, on the basis that making a real hash of things has been her default setting for a while now. It’s not entirely clear at first whether PJB is actually accepting her resignation – his method of “putting it back in the envelope and leaving it on a random table in her office” is new to me – but we subsequently see her in a sweatshirt toasting his address to the nation (yes, another one) at home, so I assume all the HR stuff and the leaving gift is in hand. Although there might be a teeny issue with that, which we’ll come back to later.
Meantime, Ethan West, the AG and the two buzzing mosquitoes posing as the majority and minority leadership (every week with these two) turn up to try and strong-arm PJB into announcing he won’t seek re-election, if he wants to avoid the constitutional crisis they say will ensue if the AG tries to indict PJB on whatever nonsense Ethan West has cooked up. This is a bad move for two reasons. No.1: nobody puts PJB in a corner. And no.2: Ethan West forgets he’s supposed to be a fiendishly clever baddie, and decides actually, no, he’s a truth-seeker, and PJB is the real deal. His sudden epiphany/devotion to the side of truth, justice and the American way is bizarre, and unless he operates on a different planet from everyone else, makes no sense in the context of his behaviour and everyone else’s over the past few weeks, but there’s no point in fretting about it because this is the finale and I don’t care any more.
In contrast, PJB, as usual, cares too much, so while his political life hangs in the balance, he busies himself – quite rightly – with thousands of lives at risk from a tsunami in a (fictional) US territory which has just voted for independence. Two of those lives happen to be Seth and Lyor’s, but, of course, they both turn out to be fine, a legally tortuous solution is found to do the right thing and get round
the mosquitoes Congress, and Taurasi’s grateful Governor sets about taking steps to make sure that the independence referendum is followed by another one which goes entirely the other way, and they go back to being the “territory” the US wants them to be.
The messaging for this part of the episode is somewhat inconsistent, since it’s Taurasi’s newly-acquired, albeit apparently fleeting, status as a separate country that enables PJB to get round the Congress problem in the first place, and also, the patronising racial optics of it all are awful – in the show’s mind, the black governor of Taurasi is immediately wrong to even contemplate self-determination and independence from the largely Caucasian government of the US, regardless of whatever arguments there may be either way. Lyor makes some sort of Brexit comparison to justify the show’s stance, but it’s both idiotic and completely different. We’ve made no secret on unpopcult of our feelings about Brexit, but to even hint that the UK’s membership of and status within the EU (a group made up of sovereign, independent countries who have freely chosen to team up for various shared benefits, by the way) is similar to territories like say Puerto Rico or Guam’s relationship with and status within the US is fundamentally wrong and misleading in so many ways my head might explode.
But there I go, over-thinking things again. Unlike Q’s plot of the week, which is unburdened by much in the way of thinking at all. She’s at a very posh boarding school which apparently has no staff and no students except Damian’s daughter Amy, a precocious teen with super spy skills and photographic memory, all of which come in handy when we find out what it is Damian had that the Russians are after: a list of all British spies everywhere. My goodness. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? How Damian got it, why he hadn’t already given it to the Russians when he was working for them and, if he hadn’t, how Valeria knows it exists at all, let alone where it is and how to get it, are questions which will forever remain unanswered. Likewise where, say, the janitorial staff or ANYONE ELSE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SUPPOSED BOARDING SCHOOL are when Q sets up Amy as bait and has a final showdown with Valeria outside the girl’s bedroom in the middle of the night. While she’s sitting inside just hoping not to get shot or stabbed. Top work “taking care of Damian’s daughter,” there, Q.
All of this is ridiculous beyond belief, but the cherry on top of the silliness sundae comes when, Q having killed Valeria and just left her on a towpath (how do you know she hadn’t already sent the list to her FSB pals, huh, Q? Or made a copy?), Amy, her accent shifting back and forth by the second, decides to join her in the US. What? Setting aside the questions that might reasonably be asked by the UK authorities, the US authorities, and the non-existent staff of the boarding school supposedly entrusted to care for this youngster when Q rocks up at immigration with her (What’s your purpose for travel, dear? Oh, I’m just going to move to America to live with this woman I just met yesterday. She says she knew my dead dad. I presume that’s fine?), this all seems completely mad, and only gets madder when Q uploads dead Valeria’s USB. Is the list on it? We don’t know. But is there a re-run of the “senior White House staffer might be a traitor” storyline which screwed up Emily and Aaron’s season one romance for nothing? Well yes, there is. So just like last week, Emily ends this episode in a precarious position, although if there were to be a season three, I assume that would be sorted out pretty quickly too. PJB’s precious Emily’s no more a traitor than Aaron was.
At the moment, though, there doesn’t seem to be any prospect of a season three resolving the issue. ABC wasn’t happy with the show’s ratings or its creative direction – I feel you, ABC – and while rumours suggest Netflix might be interested, they’re just rumours. For now. The tv landscape has changed considerably over the past few years, and shows rising from the dead has become a lot more common than its used to be, so Designated Survivor may not be entirely buried yet. Whether a late save would be a good thing is another matter, though. I loved season one, but whether it’s the repeated change of showrunners, or the show actually just running out of story when the original conspiracy was over, Designated Survivor’s second season has been bad. The show has simply become the very thing I insisted it wasn’t in season one – a poor, confused imitation of the West Wing, with none of its wit or intelligence, wasting characters and actors I liked in service of half-baked, ill-considered plots and characters I didn’t. I am actually sorry it’s ending, but more because it was an opportunity squandered rather than because I want to watch any more of it.