‘Designated Survivor’ Premiere: It could be you, too

designatedsurvivor

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So Tom Kirkland (Kiefer Sutherland) is what we in the storytelling world call the Everyman – he has a thankless government job (Housing and Urban Development) that brings him in constant contact with the little people, a loving wife (Natasha McElhone) and two children (the adorably snarky little girl and the drug-dealing teenage son), and he’s just trying to do the best he can and get by. In fact, yes, before this nonsense went down, Tom was about to be “gifted” a new job as ambassador to … do we even remember? Tom asks, in disbelief, is that even a thing? Doesn’t matter, he’s assured it is indeed a thing now, and while ambassadorial perks are peachy, it means uprooting his family yet again, to Canada this time, and effectively admitting he’d just been fired from the Secretary of Housing job.

None of this sits well with Tom, of course, but he chooses not to make a fuss on the night of the Presidents State of the Union address, despite the added insult to injury business of having all his HUDS talking points removed from the speech. He and his politico wife Alex are just hangin out in the secret location for the Designated Survivor, the one person we know damned well and can prove is part of our American government and somewhere far down the line of succession, but is ultimately expendable.

The Presidents speech is droning on while Tom and Alex have popcorn, and then hey, the channel cuts out. That would be only mildly disturbing, but then Secret Service rushes in like the world had just officially ended, sending everyones pulses jackhammering, especially when Tom exposes a window to the capitol. A miniature mushroom cloud is silhouetted against the black sky where the Capitol building used to stand, and holy shit dude, Tom Kirkland, the official Designated Survivor, just by default became the freaking President of the United States.

Tom and his family, minus the teenaged son who they’re still looking for, get whisked away to the White House and suddenly the everyman politician in freaking sweats and glasses is being sworn in as the leader of the free world. And Tom ends up having the exact same reaction many of us would be having in that situation – he just hurls. There is an up side to this though, because it’s here in the bathroom that Tom meets Seth Wright (Kal Penn), a speechwriter for Congress, and apparently the one person prepared to tell Tom the actual truth and his genuine opinion.

A whole bunch more insane stuff happens to poor Tom, including his introduction to the nuclear football, his first attempts at “aggressive negotiations” with a foreign diplomat, and his meeting the psycho scorched-earth-policy military general. Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is the FBI agent with the eternal troubled past who’s now conducting the investigation into the bombing of the capitol and the possibility of further attacks. Between Maggie Q’s authority and Sutherland’s presence, the show is a fine combination of FBI crime drama and political humanitarian drama, with a twist – in theory, any one of us could be Tom Kirkland, and have near exactly the same reactions as him. Kiefer Sutherland has been a wonderful dramatic actor for years, and Designated Survivor continues to showcase his family acting dynasty talents. Hopefully the show can keep the same tempo going they had in the pilot episode, so we can continue to appreciate the superb drama of this show, to combat the farce of our real-life current political situation, if nothing else.

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