Michael Simon ‘19/ Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
Designated Survivor was firing on all cylinders this week as it delivered the thrilling eighth installment in its first season. With such a tremendously stuffed episode, it is remarkable that the writers were able to handle it all within the 45-minute confines. This week saw a stupendous continuation of several pressing plot lines and it was truly a wonderful display of how great this show can be when it does everything right.
The main focus of “The Results” was the pressing matter of the Congressional elections in the wake of the attack on the Capitol. This was a matter that was originally brought up back in episode six, “The Interrogation,” so it was quite satisfying to the see the show deliver on what had been set up back then. The fact that the show utilizes and carries out elements from prior episodes helps the entire story to feel more complete; even though the show is segmented into episodes, they are all pieces of an enormous puzzle that fit together quite nicely.
When the threat of a flu virus first sprang up early in the episode, it may have been easy for viewers to roll their eyes. Right off the bat, it seemed like a bit of a forced plot point that was just going to distract the President for the duration of the episode. When that flu threat evolved into the potential biological attack that provided the episode’s main conflict, it truly grabbed the viewer’s attention. President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) was put through the ringer during the last episode, and to see that continue this week garnered an emotional response from the audience. We want to see him succeed, but we also want to see him earn it.
Now, Designated Survivor has delivered emotional moments before. The President’s speech from the Capitol in the aftermath of the attack immediately comes to mind, but the show truly outdid itself this week. In the aftermath of the ricin attack on the polls and the death of a volunteer worker, Kirkman delivers a raw and gut-wrenching speech to the American people. As he reassures the country of the importance of bravery and democracy during such trying times, it is easy for this reviewer to forget he was watching a television show.
While Designated Survivor derives its premise from an outlandish sequence of catastrophic events, it derives its essence from the human emotions that serve as a driving force. After a string of failures, the President truly shines in this moment, and when the American people pour out to cast their votes the following day, the viewers couldn’t help but cheer for his hard-earned success.
The other element that made this installment of Designated Survivor so excellent was the overall ensemble feel of the episode. As of late, the show has been getting relatively overstuffed with characters, making it difficult to keep track of everything. It even reached a point where certain people would simply disappear for episodes at a time. Here, we saw the resurgence of more or less every supporting character from the series thus far.
At the forefront of the series right now is FBI Director Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba) who has found himself caught in the middle of a national conspiracy. For a guy who started off on the sidelines of the show, watching him take center stage is incredible. The subtlety of his performance as he sacrifices his career in order to save his son, as well as his forced confession of murder to the President, easily makes Atwood one of the show’s best characters at the moment. Along with Agent Wells (Maggie Q), who is doing whatever it takes to figure out this conspiracy, having reactivated the source that told her about Room 105 and gaining her latest ambiguous clue.
Not far behind them are Congressional members Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) and Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zuckerman). These two are currently the most intimidating characters on the show, and it is fascinating to watch their respective plans unfold. It is hard to determine which of these two will turn out to be the lesser of two evils, because while MacLeish is shrouded in conspiracy, he seems to be more of a pawn in a master plan, whereas Hookstraten appears as more of a puppet-master. As Kirkman still sees them both as allies, the tension continues to build as we anticipate when that reveal will hit.
Finally, this episode saw the tasteful conclusion of the illegitimate son plotline, through which we saw some great exchanges involving Press Secretary Seth Wright (Kal Penn) and Secret Service Agent Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garret). As the issue was finally put to rest this week, with the press getting undeniable proof of the legitimacy of the President’s son, it is still hard to understand why it was every here in the first place. While it remains as the show’s biggest flaw thus far, it is a relief to see it finally be put to rest. With the amount of thrilling plot lines the show seems to be setting up, it is hard to imagine there will be time for another misstep like this one.
This week, Designated Survivor showed its audience just how great it can be when it is utilizing its brilliant ensemble cast, building the tension of the plot, and of course, heightening the emotions that have driven the show since day one. As a true fan of this new series, this is thrilling to see; full speed ahead.