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

Michael Simon ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer

After a two week break due to the airing of the final Presidential Debate last Wednesday, Designated Survivor returned to ABC this past Wednesday. What it delivered was yet another strong entry that furthered major plot points in a huge way, while simultaneously raising new questions that just do not seem like the best direction for the show.

Let’s start with the good. This episode saw the continuation and playing out of President Kirkman’s (a somber and as always, excellent Kiefer Sutherland) decision to prepare for war in the mission to catch the man responsible for the Capitol attack. Having left off on this cliff hanger two weeks ago, the show delivered extremely well in every aspect of this attack. The viewers saw every step it took to plan it, every emotion that was felt during it, and every reaction there was to the aftermath. The opening minutes of the episode saw the President nearly ready to strike at the terrorist organization, only to be called off at the last moment due to new intel; intel that indicated that their enemies had been tipped off. This startling discovery led to the formation of a new mission that took up the majority of the episode – capturing Majid Nassar alive, in order to find out what he knows.

As the President was given the terrorists’ new location, he traveled to Virginia to meet with the Seal Team that would be carrying out the mission at hand. The episode did an excellent job of introducing these smaller characters in small yet effective ways, helping to deliver an emotional impact when one team member does not survive the mission. While the writers had set it up to seem (rather obviously) that death would befall either the newly married petty officer or the team member with a child on the way, they both turned out to be red herrings, which was a pleasant surprise. The real danger fell on the mission leader, who lost his life protecting hostages. The nobility of his sacrifice as well as Kirkman’s reaction were both impactful. As the President fell from rejoicing at the good news of Nassar’s capture to grieving over the loss, it helped show the viewer just how quickly things can change in the situation room. Watching Sutherland portray the inner turmoil and self-doubt of a man out of his element was spectacular, as always.

Virginia Madsen and Kiefer Sutherland in the Designated Survivor in "The Mission." Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg
Virginia Madsen and Kiefer Sutherland in the Designated Survivor in “The Mission.” Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

Perhaps the best and most tense part of this episode came from the continuation of Agent Wells’ (Maggie Q) investigation into Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zuckerman) and the mysterious room 105. Part of her investigation involved making a deal with this show’s devil – Congresswoman Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), who seems to be putting her finger in as many pies as possible. It’s exciting to see her spread her power, knowing a big payoff must be coming down the line. As Wells’ investigation finally led to some proof about MacLeish’s involvement, the string of evidence about a bomb-shelter built in the Capitol as well as a list of mysterious deaths finally confirmed the conspiracy, which left the viewers with several questions about MacLeish. Having just turned down the roll of Speaker of the House, it is curious to see exactly what this double agent is after – and it is nail bitingly intense to watch as Kirkman ponders about making MacLeish his Vice President, for the President remains oblivious to the possible conspiracy. It is also interesting to note how Wells’ boss tells her to keep the whole conspiracy quiet until they know who they can trust, for it brings to mind the idea that perhaps he cannot be trusted either. Only time will tell.

As per usual, the episode’s major fumble came from the show’s weakest link – First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone). The beginning of a new plot line that questions the biological father of the President’s son is just too ridiculous to rationalize, and unfortunately, it goes so far as to detract from the show. To have the severity of the Seal’s mission followed up by such a trivial and soap opera type conflict was insulting and vastly inappropriate. Additionally, this takes away the weight of a scene from an earlier episode when Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) was given a secret file on Kirkman. The fact that all the mysterious file contained was a birth father accusation just makes it all seem silly. Designated Survivor has the potential to be great, but it sorely needs to focus on the politics and morality of the show – not the family drama.

Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC

Overall Grade: B+

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