Designated Survivor Pilot Recap

I’ve been a big fan of Kiefer Sutherland ever since 24. 24 is one of my favorite shows of all time but that’s beside the point. He’s great at the action start things but he has tried to branch out recently with Touch, a show with an amazing start but fizzled out rather quickly, and now has Designated Survivor, a show where he suddenly becomes the President of the United States (kind of ironic to me at least seeing that Sutherland is Canadian).

For those who don’t know, a designated survivor (or designated successor) is an individual in the presidential line of succession, who is arranged to be at a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location when the President and the country’s other top leaders are gathered at a single location, such as during State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. In this case, Tom Kirkland (Sutherland), the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is the designated survivor during the president’s State of the Union address.

Early on we see that Tom is the everyman type and has more of a layback personality. He loves his wife Alex (Natascha McElhone) and his two children, Penny (Mckenna Grace) and Leo (Tanner Buchanan). His personality influences his parenting style which sometimes leads to arguments with Alex.

The show doesn’t waste any time getting into the story as we see Tom and Alex in some sort of a conference room watching the address until tragedy strikes. A bomb has been detonated within the capital building and has seemingly killed everyone inside, including the President. Now Tom, being the designated survivor assumes the role of President. The look he gave when learning the news was that of shock and fear.

The shows then flashes back 15 hours earlier, showing us how the got to that conference room. We see him working as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development alongside his chief of staff Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci). They are trying to get the President to approve some housing initiatives but are frustrated by the fact he was taking them out of his speech. This introduces us to how divided this government is with nobody ever agreeing on anything. Tom may disagree with the President, he’s always been a loyal soldier so it came as a surprise to learn that he was trying to get rid of him by appointing him as an Ambassador.

We’re back in the present now and Tom and Alex are being walked back into the White House where people are still shocked that he will be who is in charge and also skeptical of his ability. It was definitely interesting to see the inner workings of the government as Tom was being walked around. But with that came the feeling that he was overwhelmed by all he was seeing. This spoke to Tom’s inner conflict as he was again overwhelmed, scared, and a little unsure of himself. Sutherland was great very likable as Tom and was also great at capturing his uncertainty.

The other side of the show was the investigation into the bombing by the FBI and agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q). She is ambitious and puts herself in the middle of the investigation by asking to be made in charge. She also appears to have the experience to do it too. The reason for this may be the fact that she had lost someone close to her in the bombing and wanted to figure out what happened to them. This investigation is in its infancy but was still exciting to watch as their promises to be a lot more going on here.

Despite Tom just getting into the picture, those around him think they already have a good idea of what was going on and who was responsible, Iran. They want a show of force in order to prove to the world that America is not vulnerable after what happened. Tom is taking a more conservative approach which angers certain members of the Cabinet. Here we see Tom taking matters into his own hands when he engages the Iranian ambassador and threatens to attack them if they do not pull their ships out of the Strait of Hormuz, where a large amount of America’s oil passes through. We see his inner conflict but what drives Tom is his sense of duty. Some may not see it that way, however, as we get a glimpse of a conspiracy involving some Cabinet members wanting to get rid of Tom.

Overall, this was a great start, not giving us too much story-wise but rather focusing on Tom’s inner conflict which was excellently captured by Sutherland. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Score: 9/10

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*Note: These may come later on certain weeks as this show airs on the same day where I attend advanced screenings*

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