Michael Simon ’19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
“Please, choose your words wisely.”
These are final words stated by President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) in this episode before the title sequence is played, and they can be taken as a clear theme for this entry. In this installment of Designated Survivor, the viewers watched as the characters were either strengthened or destroyed by their words. Seeing as how this was probably the least action-packed episode thus far, the heavy emphasis on words and their impact across the board truly made this stellar episode stand out.
This week saw the anarchistic return of Michigan Governor John Royce (Michael Gaston) as well as the continued defiance from General Harris Cochrane (Kevin McNally). While the former man continued to incite racial profiling and violence in his home state, the ladder man was determined on striking at the enemy behind the attacks after getting information about his location in Algeria. The words of both these men proved to be their undoing this week. As Royce successfully turned the National Guard against Kirkman, Cochrane was preparing for war with Algeria before getting the President’s go-ahead. This left Kirkman with a very full plate as he, his Special Adviser, and his Chief of Staff all attempted to deal with these issues, either in Michigan or in D.C.
The theme of words could also be seen in secondary characters this week. Former Presidential Speech Writer Seth Wright (Kal Pen) saw himself getting promoted to the position of Press Secretary, and he ended the episode with an uplifting speech about how to react in these trying times. First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone) had to deal with the after-effects of her normal job as an Immigration Attorney, having to help a mother in need. Words impacted her this week as she was forced to make a deal with Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) in order to save her case – a decision that she may come to regret. Finally, FBI Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) was ready to give up her search for a conspiracy within the Capital bombing, only to be brought back into the fold by the words of an anonymous tip.
Now, perhaps the most powerful words of the episode came from President Kirkman himself, as they should. The show truly hit a stride this week as it showed the evolution of his character and his ever-growing ability to make the harsh decisions. It is refreshing to see the plot progressing so naturally, knowing that the show is actually moving forward rather than keeping the same plot points in play to constantly fall back on. His decision to fire General Cochrane after he overstepped his authorization, as well as the cold way in which he delivered it by twisting the General’s own metaphor – a snake in the kitchen – was beyond satisfying. Additionally, his calm and controlled demeanor upon arresting Governor Royce was highly effective as well as it showed that he will go to great lengths to affirm the legitimacy of his Presidency. And of course, the most powerful words are the ones that closed the episode, as Kirkman finally pulled the trigger to declare war.
This was definitely one of the stronger, if not the strongest, episodes to date of Designated Survivor. It was highly impactful to see old adversaries return with greater force than before, but it was a great deal more satisfying to see them actually being dealt with. The show continues to unravel in many ways, providing new and interesting plot-lines while expertly wrapping up old ones, leaving very little excess material in an episode. The viewer is confident that everything they are seeing will come into play sooner or later. Ultimately, it was the overall theme of the importance of one’s words that made this episode so tremendously impressive. Very rarely will an episode of television manage to go in so many different directions over the course of an hour and still have the ability to be tied together under one common message. This was one of those rare occurrences – bravo.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC
Overall Episode Grade: A+