Michael Simon ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
After yet another week off, Designated Survivor returned to the small screen this week with more of what makes the show great, and more of what drags the show down. Properly entitled “The Interrogation”, the episode does a remarkably good job of juxtaposing the two main plotlines over one another. The first story follows President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) as he calls a Governor’s Summit in order to meet with the state leaders in order to appoint a new Senate and create a pathway for elections in the House of Representatives. While it’s a bit unsettling that the essential task of rebuilding Congress is only happening now, six episodes into the show, it is a long awaited development, and it is done very well. The second plot follows the continuation of the investigation into Majid Nassar (Nicholas Massouh) by the FBI. After the thrilling capture of Nassar in the previous episode, the interaction with him shown here is interesting, if not a bit rushed.
The episode starts rather chaotically, as the festivities of the Governor’s Summit are quickly thrown in danger by a shooter on White House grounds. The fact that Nassar’s operation is complex enough to allow such intense breaches of security was a powerful plot development. The only misstep here would probably be a missed opportunity when it came to Secret Service Agent Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garret) being injured in the attack. By paying the incident little to no attention other than at the very beginning and very end of the episode, it was easy to forget that the matter happened at all, given everything that happened in between. In order for this incident to not seem simply like a waste, the show should have either worked it into the structure of the episode more elegantly, or have some sort of lasting repercussions in mind. Mike is one of the series’ most likable characters, so hopefully, this plotline is going somewhere with him.
Moving right along, the unrest of the shooter led to a much more formal meeting with the governors as Kirkman attempted to implore them to work with him in rebuilding Congress. When the situation turns from civil to interrogational, numerous reasonable and thought-provoking questions start popping up. The established condition is that the President must answer any and all questions the governors pose to him if he wants to gain their assistance in the Senate. It is here that the episode did its best work, going so far as to make the viewers question the legitimacy of Kirkman’s presidency. We, as the viewers, are intended to like and sympathize with the President, but the show did such a good job with the characters of the governors that they cannot be automatically written off as antagonistic obstacles in the same way that characters like General Cochrane (Kevin McNally) were. They have questions that deserve to be answered, and as likable as Kirkman is, it is hard to get around the fact that he has become President based off of a technicality that was grounded in the sitting President’s dislike of him. It becomes overtly apparent here that being the designated survivor was not a privilege or an honor – it was an insult.
As we moved from the President’s emotional response to his unofficial trial at the hands of the governors, the show shifted focus to the interrogation of Nassar. Although his character may have flip-flopped a bit too quickly, it’s forgivable in the name of how interesting it all was and how much it served to advance the plot. Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is able to quickly discern that Nassar could not have possibly been behind the attacks, and is instead being used as a scapegoat. After Nassar produces a lead that yields no results, he turns up dead in his cell before investigators can get any more out of him. This was a bold move. The show has spent its entire runtime thus far focused on the hunt for Nassar and has created incredibly emotional situations surrounding the hunt for him; key decisions were made based off of this man and now the show has decided to kill him off in an instant. However, seeing as how the show has done such an excellent job thus far of maintaining this plotline, it is easy to see this as a truly exciting development – for if Nassar was so disposable, what must be coming next?
The President’s talk with the governors winds up going very well in establishing their faith in him, but it requires a sacrifice. A plane of refugees landed in Florida, but given the current state of the nation, the governor refused to allow them to enter the state. The governors requested a temporary ban on immigration in order to quell the fears of the public, and despite some backlash from his wife, the President reluctantly agrees. This development in Kirkman’s character is very well done, as he is shown to be capable of compromising his own morals in the name of cooperation and national betterment.
Finally, the weak point of the show comes from a truly ridiculous set up with Press Secretary Seth Wright (Kal Penn). The fact that the show is trying to somehow weave a love story in here between Wright and a member of the press is zany enough, but the fact that it culminated in an accusation that continued the substandard plotline of whether the President’s son was legitimately his was just too silly. Again, this show does politics well, but Designated Survivor is not now, nor should it ever be, a soap opera. Seth is another one of those very likable characters; surely there must be something better for him to do.
This installment of Designated Survivor was jam packed, which was nice after a two week hiatus. It brought some truly well done emotional moments as well as some heightened tension as the show continues to unravel the big picture. However, the show remains insistent on keeping lackluster plot elements in for the long run, which may end up causing the series to fall short of greatness. For now, the good of the show outweighs the bad, as the political drama, intriguing plot advancements, and powerful performances remain firmly at center stage. Here’s hoping that does not change anytime soon.
Overall Episode Grade: B+