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ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor’ Returns March 8

Jacob Huller, Editor

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“Sir, you are now the President of the United States.”

With these words, ABC’s Designated Survivor presented an entirely possible situation that seems unthinkable: The entire US federal government, the President, Vice President, Cabinet, Congress, the Supreme Court Justices, and a good amount of their subordinates, all gone in an explosion during the State of the Union. Only one person is left in power: The Designated Survivor.

Every State of the Union, one Cabinet member is always asked to stay away, in accordance with the Presidential Line of Succession. Said list contains 17 federal officers from the Vice President all the way down to the Secretary of Homeland Security, which ensures that even after a catastrophic attack on the US government, it can still function.

Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, who at the start of the series is a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who is asked to be the Designated Survivor for the State of the Union, just after being fired by the President that morning. In the middle of the speech (which Kirkman refers to as the President’s “greatest hits”), an explosion destroys the Capitol Building, making Kirkman, number eleven in the Line of Succession, the President of the United States of America.

Over the course of the show, Kirkman has to deal with questions about the legitimacy of his Presidency, his family being thrust into the limelight, overzealous generals, conniving legislators, rebellious governors, terrorist manhunts, and a conspiracy that’s a mile long.

The strength of the show is just how real it is. It presents a scenario that could really happen, and realistically shows the consequences of it: The nation coming together after a tragedy, as well as politicians using the disaster as a talking point. The show also presents a compelling wish-fulfillment scenario: Getting an honest person into the White House, not bound by campaign promises or party affiliations (Kirkman even refers to himself as a registered Independent, appealing to both sides of the debate). At one point, White House staffers question what type of person would work in Washington and not want power, to which Kirkman replies that he’s that type of person.

The star of the show is, of course, Kiefer Sutherland, best known for his role of Jack Bauer on 24, as President Kirkman. His character is compelling and honest; An everyman thrust onto the world-stage as the most powerful person in politics, rising to the occasion. Most characters assume that he’s just some fool at first, but he shows intelligence and his aggressiveness all at once, while still maintaining a heartwarming air around his family and friends.

Maggie Q has a major role on Designated Survivor as an FBI agent part of the investigation into the Capitol Bombing. Even in the face of doubts and corruption, her character never gives up and desperately seeks the truth at all costs, and in later episodes is almost the entire focus of the series.

Also in the cast is comedian Kal Penn as Seth Wright, Presidential speechwriter later turned Press Secretary, whose introductory scene features him badmouthing and denouncing Kirkman whilst in a bathroom stall, unaware that Kirkman is in the next stall over. His dry wit shines in the series proper, especially when he has to control the White House Press Corps. At one point, a reporter tries to grill him on something, he tries to redirect the question, the reporter tells him “You can’t keep pivoting to talking points!” and he replies with “Watch me.”

The cast also includes LaMonica Garrett as the Secret Service agent assigned to Kirkman, Italia Ricci as Kirkman’s trusted advisor and confidant, Adan Canto as Kirkman’s Chief of Staff, Malik Yoba as Deputy Director of the FBI working alongside Maggie Q’s character, Ashley Zukerman as the sole survivor of the bombing turned Vice President pick, and Virginia Madsen as a career-oriented Congresswoman who was the secret, legislative “Designated Survivor” alongside Kirkman.

There are spoilers from here on out, so beware if you’re thinking of watching.

 

The series culminated recently in the uncovering of a massive conspiracy to decapitate the majority of the Federal government, ensure the survival of Zukerman’s character, Peter MacLeish, conceal any evidence that would prevent his confirmation as Vice President, and assassinate Kirkman at MacLeish’s inauguration. Maggie Q’s character, Agent Wells, is front and center for these reveals, and by the mid-season finale, President Kirkman is catching onto the conspiracy as well.

In the mid-season finale, Wells arrives just in the knick of time to stop the assassination, firing her gun at the sniper’s position and throwing off his aim. The episode cuts to black at the sounds of gunshots and screaming.

A promo for the mid-season premiere proceeded to ask the question, “Who took the bullet?” The upcoming premiere has a boatload of questions to answer: Why exactly did the conspirators want to put MacLeish in power? How much of it was his idea? Will Wells get to tell Kirkman of her findings? How will that affect MacLeish’s Vice Presidency? How will the revelation of the conspiracy affect the interpersonal relationships of the White House staff? How will the conspirators react to their plans being ruined? And, as the promo asked, who got shot instead of Kirkman, and more importantly, will they survive?

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ABC’s ‘Designated Survivor’ Returns March 8