Designated Survivor s2 ep 10

*SPOILERS*

It’s Christmas time at 1600 Penn, and there’s a choir of small children being alternately ignored, disappointed and ever-so-slightly terrorised by Lyor into learning “Only You” by Yazoo. I didn’t think the year would end with Lyor and I agreeing on anything, but we both apparently love that song so, aw shucks, peace and goodwill to all, right?

Wrong. It may be winter outside, but it’s literally burning up in Shenandoah National Park as a seemingly unstoppable wildfire rips through the headlines and rages through the area. Twenty-six days of fighting it not having achieved all that much, PJB decides to let it snow let it snow let it snow burn itself out, which is fine in theory except that Henry from Ringer, now a radical clergyman of some sort, and a bunch of his “parishioners” are threatening to immolate themselves en masse unless PJB puts their views about medical treatment over the life of a sick baby who can’t exactly choose for herself.

In fairness, Seth and the show do their very best to explain that it’s not that simple but, since we’re not talking about people peaceably explaining their beliefs and trying to do the best they can in a difficult situation – which I would have had a lot more sympathy for – but rather blackmail and the threat of mass suicide, on this particular occasion it really is. As Lyor points out – FFS, that’s twice I agree with the man, what is happening? – “If they’re trying to barbecue themselves, it’s a cult.” And it’s a cult that’s not only endangering themselves but the Fire Service and the National Security Advisor too, since this week’s game of “Spin the Wheel of Jobs for Aaron to do” has landed on, I don’t know, Fire Marshal? National Disaster Advisor? Or maybe just Dude Who’ll Do Anything to Avoid the Office Secret Santa.

Anyway, as usual, Aaron has to try and fail to talk Pastor Henry from Ringer round before PJB can swoop in and do all sorts of slightly mad stuff – Religious Advisor (?) Emily’s sent in to wax Biblical at the baby’s mum, and a Doctor shunned by the entire medical and regulatory community is re-instated (and essentially given a halo) so he can try and save the child without upsetting anybody, while PJB debates theology with Pastor Henry. A solution is found, of course, and somewhat strangely, PJB and the show pretend it’s one that doesn’t compromise anybody’s beliefs, when it absolutely does, but since this is Designated Survivor not Salem, they’re not going to let a bunch of people burn to death on a random mountain at Christmas, so baby’s safe, mum’s safe and Henry from Ringer’s safe too. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good…

Er, not quite. Aaron is pulling double duty this week: back safely at his desk (no thanks to Henry from Ringer), he points out that he knows all about Agent Q’s not-so-secret affair with Mr MI6 and, since Mr MI6 has now been outed by both Chuck and Det Blakey as a Bad Man, he decides, entirely appropriately, to remove her from the investigation. Obviously, this decision lasts all of about twelve seconds, though, and Q is back on the case, having put the increasingly agitated Chuck gently but firmly back in his place. Before this week, I had wondered whether Q actually knows how Chuck feels about her – there’s something about the way she plays this scene that makes it absolutely clear that she does, and it’s never going to happen. Sorry, Chuck.

And sorry, Q, who ends another run of the show crying over a lost loved one – last season, it was poor Jason Atwood, this half-season it’s Mr MI6. Except that this is network tv, so if there’s no body…. yup, Mr MI6 isn’t dead. And neither is this weird conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy storyline, which brings me to the Reed Diamond investigation and the high hopes I had after PJB’s epiphany last week that Designated Survivor was finally going to commit to the idea that the FBI should absolutely investigate when there’s clear evidence of serious crimes potentially committed by the First Family. (I mean, it’s not like that idea has any real-world significance at the moment or anything, right?) Shows what I know: this week, FLOTUS is back on her ridiculous high horse, grandstanding at her deposition till Reed Diamond just… capitulates? Really? Because we’re now pretending FMILOTUS hasn’t actually admitted to felony corruption, and the man who bribed her didn’t set up a secret offshore bank account in her daughter’s name, and hasn’t been murdered since? We’re now pretending it really was all about Reed Diamond running for election?

For the last time this year, let me just ask: are you kidding me with this?

“I’ve beaten it” says a smiling FLOTUS, and I assume we’re supposed to smile too, but anybody who is doesn’t get to enjoy it for very long: FLOTUS goes the way of Rayna Jaymes and countless other tv characters before her – with the only original thing about the scene being that they used a (very pretty) cover version of “Only You” instead of “Hallellujah” at the end of it – and I find myself neither sad at her passing nor glad to see her go. Could they not just have sent her to jail? I disliked the character from the moment we met her, but if this ending means a Beverly-style beatification, the rest of the season is going to try my patience even more than this half has. I loved season one but, with the wretched mishandling of the FLOTUS/FMILOTUS story, the bizarre way Aaron has been treated, and the influx of new characters we didn’t need at the expense of old ones we did, part one of season two has been a real, infuriating disappointment. We’ll see what part two brings, but I have a horrible feeling it may well be more of the same.

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Designated Survivor s2 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

If last season’s theme was An Armageddon Conspiracy , this season’s appears to be An All-Encompassing Cover-up, as another episode of Designated Survivor means another week of people we’re supposed to like for their honesty trying to hide all the things they’ve lied about.

First up, we have Press Secretary Seth who, having been found with a dealer’s quantity of drugs in his car, calls Kendra (on this show “White House Counsel” translates to “Counsel for everyone who’s ever set foot in the White House”) rather than his boss/girlfriend to bail him out of the slammer, and then tries to weasel his way out of the problem on the QT by having Ms Daynes get the charge kicked out at a secret hearing on the grounds of the search being illegal. Which it probably isn’t, as far as I can tell, but it’s not a Law and Order:DC technical point I’m making here, more a “general flavour of the writing on this show” one, because guess what? They’re not even Seth’s drugs, they’re his shiny “about to go to med school” brother’s, so not only are we sidestepping evidence of a FELONY, we’re lying to our lawyer and our boss/girlfriend about it. Because perish the thought ANYONE on this show or their parasitic family members might actually take responsibility for their own criminal behaviour.

Being the busiest lawyer in Washington, meanwhile, Kendra is also on point to sort out the insufferable Lyor’s crimes and misdemeanours: he’s apparently secretly married which, fine, would be his business, except he’s lied about it to the IRS for six years, which makes it very much their business too. The solution, then, is to persuade Mrs Lyor to agree to an annulment, and persuade the IRS to treat the marriage rather than Lyor’s tax returns as a sham, because, again: NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING.

Oddly, however, it turns out that Lyor is married to the Good Witch’s cousin, and even more oddly, that she still wants to be married to him, even though they’ve never lived together and he plays online computer games in his White House office instead of doing his actual job. Anyway, whatever, Mrs Lyor’s reasons, this means Kendra’s plan is slightly scuppered and I have to confess I’m not entirely sure how this storyline ended, but I don’t care because it’s stupid and my point is already made. Unless Lyor just decided to pay all his back taxes, in which case, well… good.

There is one secret I do have sympathy with this week, though, and that’s PJB “going dark” because he thinks he’s still in 24 to visit troops in Afghanistan. As well as being a handy excuse for some cheesy “Hell, yeah, hi-fives to the troops!” type scenes, PJB is apparently there to conduct an Apprentice-type interview for the role of America’s Next Top Warlord, with the added incentive being that if he picks the right one, he can avoid a massive terror attack on US soil. If he picks the wrong one, though…. bad times.

Leaving aside the likelihood of the President meeting warlords in bunkers to make this sort of decision purely on instinct because the intelligence services can’t make up their minds who to pick (despite the fact it’s blatantly obvious who the Bad Warlord, as opposed to the Good one, is), PJB has Aaron the National Security Advisor with him to look handsome in shades and a very nice jacket – tasks which Aaron accomplishes with aplomb, I should say – and Agent Q of the FBI to assist because she used to be in the CIA? I think? Did she? Oh God, I don’t know.

Anyway, never mind Q taking on Search for a Warlord liaison duties, there’s a bomb attack on a market several miles away to contend with. This would be terrible in its own right – and merits significantly more concern for the presumably Afghan casualties than the show bothers to give – but everyone is extra concerned because “Kevin Dean” is missing, and no doubt this would ordinarily be very worrying for me too, except that I’m not 100% sure who “Kevin Dean” is.

He must be a very special guy, though, because Q insists on going to look for him, and Aaron insists she take Mike with her, even though, this is really NOT part of the Secret Service role. Still, it means Q and Mike get to make up – he’s in a mood with Q this week for no reason other than “time to give Mike something to do” – and Q gets to wear a headscarf as a “disguise” which might work better were she not teaming it up with US army regulation clothes and a bullet-proof vest, but hey ho. Q finds “Kevin Dean”, who may or may not be the intelligence guy she introduced to PJB when he arrived at the base, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever see him again, so no matter. Good luck with your future endeavours, “Kevin Dean”, all the best.

With all that sorted, however, PJB still has to pick his pet Warlord, and there’s a randomly hilarious moment where he tries to do it by way of, er, company law. Dramatically waving a sheaf of papers about while shouting “Which these articles of incorporation prove!” is not Kiefer’s best look, and sure enough, he immediately switches to his “We will HUNT YOU DOWN!” comfort zone, and everyone moves very quickly on. The Bad Warlord is, of course, rumbled, and shouted at – he’s not escaping responsibility for anything – and PJB flies home, with fire in his belly and warmth in his heart, having rousted an enemy, made a friend, and persuaded a very nice Army chef to go home and see his estranged daughter because, although it’s going to be difficult and painful, sometimes you just have to face up to things. Unless you work for the Kirkman administration, in which case, meh, no need to bother.

Designated Survivor s2 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

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.

Designated Survivor s2 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

Let’s just skip past the fact that The West Wing previously invented an awfully similar-sounding country beginning with Ku, and get to this week’s main points, because a) there are a lot of them and b) OMG WTF Emily and Seth?!

Dealing with a) first, then, the political crisis of the week has a US navy ship colliding with a sanitation barge and getting stuck just off the coast of “rogue state Kunami” which cannot believe its luck, although it turns out luck may not have had all that much to do with it since the ship was sort-of-spying and the collision was not-exactly-an-accident. Relations between the US and Kunami are already murky, so the usual “send Aaron to try and talk the Ambassador down and, when that doesn’t cut it, bring out the Bauer Glower” two-step doesn’t work. As nobody really wants to try and write a war with a fictional state of indeterminate geographical location, though, a deal is reached whereby the American sailors can be rescued but they have to leave the ship behind. All of this would be fine, but it’s elevated beyond that by some genuinely sweet, moving scenes between PJB and the young sailor who has to take charge of the ship and eventually makes what seems to both POTUS and me to be a noble but tragically unnecessary sacrifice. Poor Captain Griffin. We barely knew ye.

Back on dry land, meanwhile, Agent Q and Mr MI6 have had to press pause on all snogging and all talking about snogging, because not only have they not solved the murder of Charlotte Thorn, but they now need to solve the kidnapping of Charlotte Thorn’s aide. Yes, while they’re busy getting nowhere with Smug Mrs Arms Dealer and her even Smugger Lawyer, the somewhat improbably named and even more improbably self-possessed Peyton Lane is snatched off the street. Happily, however, the kidnappers have reckoned without her counter-kidnapping skills and she’s able to lead Q and co right to her. Hurrah for Peyton Lane! And what do you know? Smug Mrs Arms Dealer doesn’t know anything about the Charlotte Thorn murder after all, but that’s ok, because Cornelius Moss has suddenly re-appeared with a big neon sign over his head saying “Way too invested in this storyline to be up to any good” and lo! Somebody’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Somebody’s not the only one. With the offscreen Reed Diamond steadfastly refusing to talk to the White House about the FMILOTUS investigation because that would be profoundly inappropriate (FFS do these people not know anything?), Kendra goes back to FMILOTUS to get her to sign some sort of “I swear I don’t know anything about anything, I promise, honest, trufax” declaration. No-brainer, right? Nuh-uh. At first, FMILOTUS tries to deflect a bit with the frankly astonishing suggestion that her precious time is somehow being wasted with the investigation of her own admitted felony corruption. (“This notion I have to keep addressing it and re-addressing it” – lady, you’ve done everything but address it, wind your neck in and be grateful you’re not in jail. Yet.) But Kendra isn’t fooled any more than we are; she immediately works out FMILOTUS is not telling the truth. And lo again! Here’s another big neon sign, only this one says “met the Eric dude again, once, six months ago, by ‘chance’ and ‘forgot’ about it? If you believe that, I have a timeshare on Venus to sell you, weather’s lovely this time of year.”

FMILOTUS isn’t the only shifty parent pottering round 1600 Penn this week, however. Since it’s “making up some new things about Emily” week, we learn that her dad walked out on her and her mum decades ago, and he’s not really changed all that much. Daddy Issues being a fundamental element of every US tv drama ever made, I suppose it was naive of me to expect Designated Survivor to ignore them, but there we go. In other Emily news, she has apparently given up both coffee and speaking to Aaron at all – they share a number of scenes together, and even sit next to each other, but somehow seem only to speak to other people, with the writing continuing to freeze Adan Canto’s Aaron out in the most blatant and bizarre way. What on earth is going on?

The weirdness of the whole business is encapsulated in the penultimate scene of the episode when Aaron sticks his head through Emily’s office door and, for a moment, I’m BEYOND excited – finally! They’re going to TALK. He’ll notice she’s upset. He’ll come in. He’ll comfort her. And it will be ON. Oh, YES.

At least, that’s what would have happened last season. And actually, that is what happens. Except not with Aaron. Oh, NO. Aaron manages one syllable (not even a whole word!) – “Em” – and a salute before he takes his head back out of the door and disappears. A salute! Even Johnny-Come-Lately Lyor brings his whole body into the room, and a bottle of that Kombucha stuff as a peace offering. Before clearing out to let Seth come in, notice Emily’s upset, comfort her and… Yup. So, last week when I said Lyor’s got Aaron’s season one getting-to-know-PJB storyline now? Looks like Seth’s got Aaron’s season one getting-to-kiss-Emily one. Albeit without any of the careful build-up, sparky chemistry or clarity as to WHAT THE BLAZES IS HAPPENING. Was that prosaic lip-lock the start or the middle of the Semily relationship? Can Aaron be pushed any further to the side without actually falling off the edge of the show? FFS. What a waste of a good character, and a ship that had heaps of chemistry and plenty of places to go, if only it hadn’t been so inexplicably, deliberately scuttled.

Designated Survivor s2 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

We’ve seen a lot of rules and ethical principles flouted in the real world, recently, so perhaps Designated Survivor is just taking its lead from that, but the First Lady, acting on behalf of the First-Mother-in-Law, instructing the White House Counsel, to resist a subpoena issued by the FBI, relating to corruption uncovered by the President’s special White House FBI agent…. Really?

Not only does that seem like a gordian conflict of interest to me, but it’s also an unholy mess. And an unholy, off-brand mess to boot, since, as we’re reminded this week, PJB’s USP is that he’s honest and decent and open, but his staff working to help his wife and the felonious FMILOTUS frustrate a federal subpoena in an investigation of potential government corruption doesn’t seem too honest and decent and open to me, and when it comes out, as it definitely will, it’s not going to be a good look for anyone. Except possibly Reed Diamond who will at least be able to shrug and say “Hey, I tried.”

While the propriety and advisability of the First Family and the WH staff entangling themselves in said unholy, off-brand mess may be dubious, however, the purpose is clear. This is another chance for FLOTUS to indulge in her favourite sport: making a nuisance of herself in the name of “protecting my family.” Yes, buoyed by the success (in that nobody told her to get knotted) of her appalling attitude to Agent Q last week, Mrs Bauer turns on Kendra Daynes this time around, jumping in to act as second chair – because the FMILOTUS court team needed to get even more incestuous – and almost derailing the entire train in the process. Good work, FLOTUS. Better work Kendra, though, for telling her where to go.

Blurring of lines and job descriptions is something of a theme in all the storylines this week, though. I mean, I don’t know, maybe the Director of the FBI arguing his subpoena case himself in court is normal if he’s a lawyer too, but does he not have other people to do that? No? Well, what about the multi-millionaire arms dealer from England who, despite apparently having a hugely successful business and lots of people working for him, gets his hands dirty by moving all his illegal arms himself? Does he not have other people to do that? And even if his wife is the evil brains behind the operation, is she really going to carry out her hits on British MPs by herself as well? Do none of these folk understand the concept of DELEGATION?

Maybe they should ask the aristocrats at the Designated Survivor British Embassy, where nobody is allowed to work unless they sound like the Seventh Earl of Superposh, just passing through on his way back to Downton Abbey, about it. Although the Brits seem to be short-staffed as well, given that, instead of the squad of officers you would expect to investigate the murder of a British MP in Washington, they send just the one guy. And what do you know? That one guy is Mr MI6, back again to work with the similarly short-staffed FBI and their one go-to-gal Agent Q. Chuck and I thought/hoped we’d seen the back of him, but apparently we were wrong. Chuck and I also had other (admittedly divergent) hopes for Agent Q’s love life, mind you, and we were both wrong about them too. I guess this means my Qiamond dream is finally dead. Sob!

As, it would seem, is my dream of Aaron and Emily. Sigh. This week’s White House political pratfall/ test of the President’s moral fibre involves PJB saying something very stupid, refusing to defend himself – not wanting to lie and not wanting to sling mud is fine, but why does it take the entire episode for him to agree just to explain himself? – and then finally turning it around with one of his usual stirring speeches. *shrugs* It’s fine, I guess. Kiefer Sutherland is always good value in these scenes and, in this episode, just for a change, he gets to solve things peaceably and without breaking out the usual Bauer Glower. Fair enough.

Back on the subject of blurred job descriptions and staffing shortages though, Emily getting Seth to take a policy meeting “because we’re short-handed” made me laugh because, as I keep saying, Team PJB is now absolutely teeming with superfluous players. But then – did I imagine this? – Emily telling Seth to “come by any time, I’ll leave a saucer of milk out” startled the smile right off my face. Wh..what? I know it’s in the context of a Halloween chat, and there have been hints of a possible Seth and Emily situation for a couple of weeks now, but… does that count as a come-on? Are we at that stage already? Poor, poor Aaron. Emily has forgotten he exists entirely. And so, it would seem, have the scriptwriters, since not only has he nothing to do this week, but Lyor has essentially taken his job, most of his screentime and even his season 1 storyline (of initial despair at PJB’s refusal to do anything nasty, turning gradually into ride-or-die membership of the man’s fanclub).

Sigh. I know this post is one long nit-pick, I’m in a mood and the episode probably isn’t that bad for what it is. But I just can’t get on board with the show’s new direction. All I want is for them to bring back the Emily/Aaron/Seth dynamic, give Q something involving big explosions to investigate and give the show back its season 1 vibe. Please?

Designated Survivor s2 ep 4

As Designated Survivor continues to cast around (unsuccessfully) for a new identity of its own, this is its most deliberately “West Wing”-like week yet, as the bulk of the episode focuses on – gulp – tricky US/Mexico trade negotiations rendered even trickier by a trucker blockade.

Once you start using phrases like “import tariffs” in a show I’m watching for the action fun, you’re going to lose my attention, but it’s a well-meaning story at least, trying as it does to inject empathy and reality into a topic too often hijacked in real life by racist, bigoted asshats you already know about so I’ll not waste any more words on them today.

If the mechanics of the trade deal leave me cold and it mostly comes down to PJB solving the problem by yelling at a guest star, yet again, at least it also gives Adan Canto’s Aaron a chance to speak Spanish, which I enjoyed, and reconnect with his family, which I’m less excited about. The family thing surprises me somewhat since I thought all of them, except his pushy cousin – yes, Aaron calling out her boss for using his cousin to get to him was obnoxious, but so was his cousin volunteering herself to be used in that manner, get over yourself Nadia – lived in Texas, and it did not look like dude had been on a plane. Perhaps I missed a line about them coming to visit. Anyway, reconnecting with family is nice, Aaron, and they looked very pleased to see you. Awww. You know who else you could reconnect with while we’re at it, though? Emily. Just a thought!

Meanwhile, secretly investigating possible corruption in the First Family means that Agent Q has found herself at “the epicentre of every crime in Reston” and increasingly under pressure from that one detective whose job is to investigate any crime with a Qonnection, so she decides to do a little reconnecting herself. Hello again Reed Diamond! “You and I go way back, John,” Q says, for all the world as if she hasn’t seen him in two decades as opposed to two episodes. “I didn’t know who else to turn to.”

At this point, I’m torn between the urge to shout “you could turn to the President!” and the hope, flickering briefly into life once again, that these two crazy, mixed-up, highly upstanding FBI agents might make a go of it together. Sigh. But Reed Diamond helps me re-focus on the matter at hand, suggesting that Q could and indeed should turn to PJB. “If it’s cancer, you tell the patient,” he points out, which is entirely helpful advice, I think. Even if Q doesn’t want to take it, presumably because PJB insists on defying stereotypes and seventies comedy routines by actually getting on quite well with his mother-in-law.

Thankfully, however, Reed Diamond’s helpfulness doesn’t end there, as he follows up with the suggestion of going to the White House Counsel instead, and what do you know? They just hired a nice, smiley one a couple of weeks ago! Handy, huh?

So more screentime for Kendra Daynes, then, as she and Q go and see FLOTUS together. That was never going to be fun, but becomes even less so when Mrs Bauer not only treats Q like she wasn’t almost wholly responsible for uncovering and bringing down a massive conspiracy which almost destroyed American democracy about five minutes ago – saving PJB’s life and Presidency in the process, let’s not forget – and therefore might just know what she’s talking about, but also has the audacity to be snippy about it. Why didn’t Q come to you with the real allegation at the start, Alex? Because a) nobody wants to tell the First Lady the First-Mother-in-Law might be a felon and b) this is always how you were going to react. You can get over yourself, too.

And perhaps apologise to Q since, obviously, it turns out she’s right. PJB can spin it as “a 30 year-old transgression your mum made in order to save her husband” all he likes, but let’s call a federal crime a federal crime, you guys. And now Reed Diamond is going all federal subpoena on the FMIL’s ass, both she and her daughter might find they actually miss Q’s more under-the-radar style.

Not that Q is happy about it, either. “You’re such a bastard, John,” she says, dashing my hopes of a happy Qending once again. She gets a “one-time pass” because she’s Q, but Reed Diamond sternly reminds her he is the Director of the FBI (is this a recent promotion? I thought he was head of their Internal Affairs section?) and one time is all she’s going to get, because some apparently highly significant evidence he can’t ignore – I know Reed Diamond says he doesn’t need to tell Q what it looks like, but it would really help me out if he did – has now popped into his lap too. After all, Agent Q isn’t the only person who has an obligation to investigate, is she? And I don’t mean the woman at the OMB and her stupid broken vase. Nor do I see anyone sorting this one out with dinner.

Designated Survivor s2 ep 3

I spent a fair bit of time defending Designated Survivor from unfavourable comparison with The West Wing last season, arguing that it’s a different type of show entirely and should be judged on that basis instead. Designated Survivor is making it increasingly difficult to maintain that position this season, however, since it’s becoming increasingly clear the show doesn’t seem to have any idea what type of programme it actually is any more, and has taken to borrowing liberally from all sorts of others, just to see what might fit.

Last week was all about 24, but this week the show shifted into Containment mode, with a hyper-fast, hyper-deadly virus suddenly felling the population of South Carroll Parish, Louisiana, and PJB’s heroic pal from the CDC flying out there to try and fix it. Hazmat suits and viral apocalypse trope checklists at the ready then: we have 1. a poor child crying for his mother; 2. the mother being only the first of the many victims to come; 3. lots of bleeding from the eyes and mouth; 4. an experimental treatment yet to be FDA-approved being everyone’s only hope; and 5. Big Pharma wanting to squeeze every last dollar out of the entire scenario. All this would be fair enough, but, since this is a thriller about politics rather than pandemics, instead of taking its time and going the full Armageddon like Contagion or Containment did, we have virus, cure, court battle, defeat of capitalism, and heated discussion of the racial politics of it, all in one episode. And the CDC lady makes it out alive, no problem.

Not that that’s all, either. Q and Mr MI6’s investigation of Lloyd’s visit to the First Mother-in-Law’s house – for no reason other than with one conspiracy finished, we need another to fill the gap – continues, as they uncover what seems (for the moment, although it has to get bigger, right?) to be an exceptionally dull, small and convoluted instance of corruption, which I only care about because if the FMIL turns out to be a bad’un, maybe my season one wish’ll come true and FLOTUS will too. In the meantime, though, Chuck’s raging jealousy is the only fun part of this sub-plot. Well, that and Mr MI6, a thoroughly unnecessary character given that Chuck, Mike and Reed Diamond can and have investigated all sorts with Q in the past, getting deported for the most unnecessary B&E in the world. Bye, Mr MI6.

The weakest aspects of the episode are the political ones, though, and the ones that, much as I don’t want to, I do have to compare with The West Wing, because, let’s face it, they’re practically lifted right from it. In another example of the show introducing new, unnecessary characters, simply to take tasks and screentime away from the ones we already have, the spotlight falls on the perfectly-nice-but-we-already-had Ainsley-Hayes new White House Counsel Kendra Daynes who has lots to do, what with sorting out the sensitive, topical question of what should be done with a Confederate statue, while also starring in her very own episode of Law and Order: DC. Because what a show struggling to establish its identity after the end of its main storyline really needs is to throw in some regular courtroom drama and extra civics lessons (last week Posse Comitatus, this week public defence) to the mish-mash of styles it’s already trying to meld, and see what happens. (Clue: Papa Bauer eventually has to yell at the evil guest character again, that’s what happens. Although, just for a change, it doesn’t work first time out, so he has to shake him down, then yell at him again. Potay-to, Potah-to.)

Anyway, the statue debate is well-meaning and it would be important, except that it doesn’t get the depth or time it needs, what with everything else going on, and instead is treated as an opportunity for the President to patronise the living daylights out of Mike, and yet another opportunity for the most unnecessary character in the history of characters, Lyor, to say something infuriatingly glib to save the day. Or something. That guy is loathsome. And yet, inexplicably, getting a vast amount of screentime, be it relating to statues, the failings of his new colleagues, or some cutesy nonsense about hermaphrodite frogs.

Let me be clear, then. I usually like Designated Survivor a lot, and I didn’t hate this episode, but it really laid bare the main faults of this “difficult” second season. The show has definitely shed its early, joyous craziness and moved on to trying to do too many different, earnest things in each episode, all of which have been done better elsewhere. It has brought in too many characters, with the result being that the ones I already know and like (and ship!) are completely sidelined. And Lyor really, really sucks.