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‘Designated Survivor’ Review/Recap: “The Confession”

Michael Simon ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff TV Writer

The latest installment in Designated Survivor brought some welcome changes to the show, in addition to the continuation of some less than stellar aspects. Overall, the episode was a solid means of progressing situations forward, leaving the viewers confident that they have more than enough material to fill the 22 episodes that were recently ordered to fill out this first season.

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

This episode picks up right where the previous episode left off; the sole survivor (so far) of the attack on the Capitol Building, Congressman Macleish (Ashley Zuckerman), is pulled from the wreckage. While Macleish himself is given little to do in this episode, it is the events surrounding him that make him appear crucial to the overall plot, as the FBI investigators notice an unusual occurrence that could potentially explain why the Congressman was able to survive the attack.

One of the things that was particularly noteworthy about this episode is how it took major events and made them simultaneously feel like national issues and personal issues. The video revealing Majid Nassar (Nicholas Massouh) taking credit for the attack, and the video’s subsequent leak to the press brought about not just national issues, but also tense relations between people, as President Kirkman went head to head once again with General Cochrane (Kevin McNally), Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), and an increasingly frustrating Congresswoman introduced in the previous episode, Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen). These scenarios are what work best on this show, as Sutherland can bring heat, emotion, and suspense to any of these one-on-one scenes.

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

More on Congresswoman Kimble, as in this episode, she starts revealing her true colors. Undermining the new President at the funeral of deceased President Richmond (yet another case of a national issue made personal), she gets to deliver the eulogy after Richmond’s son Tyler refuses to allow Kirkman to speak. The late President’s son arrives at this decision after finding out from a disastrous interview that Richmond sought to fire Kirkman the morning before he was killed. This reveal and Kimble’s disrespect stir the pot on Designated Survivor as the nation loses faith in Kirkman; a faith that is quickly restored once they are given an enemy to rally behind. Kimble remains a powerful presence on the show, as the two Designated Survivors begin to understand each other and it becomes clear that each one shall be seeking their own agenda.

As stated earlier, there are aspects of this episode that feel tired and worn out, despite the fact the show has only had three installments thus far. The bickering between Shore and Rhodes (Italia Ricci) grew tiresome as it was easy to view them as jealous juveniles during a time of national tragedy. It was a good decision to bring the Chief of Staff debate to an end with this episode, with Kirkman making an unorthodox and potentially detrimental decision in choosing Shore. Additionally, the plotline of Kirkman’s drug dealing son Leo (Tanner Buchanan) continued this week, and unfortunately, shows no signs of stopping. While it is important to show the President’s familial side, this show is best when it focuses on the pressing political and national issues at hand.

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

A bit of a side note before wrapping up this episode review; this reviewer could not help but notice that potentially the concept of Designated Survivor might work even better as a decision-based video game. Several times throughout the show thus far, and in this episode specifically, Kirkman comes face to face with two options that seem impossible to choose from. Be honest with the press or hide the truth. Undermine the eulogy or accept defeat. Choose between the two options for a Chief of Staff. While these decisions are tense enough to see play out under Sutherland’s watch, I can’t help but feel that the concept behind the show could be brought to even greater heights by putting the viewer in control of how the aftermath of this attack and the continuation of Kirkman’s Presidency play out.

Episode Grade: A

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