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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 8)

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‘Home’ was a refreshing hour that allowed Kirkman and the audience to partially escape the stifling White House and head into the field.

Kirkman flies to Afghanistan in secret, to visit troops but more importantly, to form an alliance with one of the two dominant warlords in the country. The President aims to do something his predecessors could not: to end the long War on Terror and finally bring peace to the region, which would allow American troops to be withdrawn after over 15 years on the ground.

The catch is, one of the two warlords Kirkman is meeting with has plans for an attack on US soil. They just don’t know which one. The other could be backed by America to consolidate power in the country and flush out those extremist groups residing there.

As always, Kirkman does his job best when face to face with leaders, and when amongst the people. Seeing him out in the field was a great relief from the sense of claustrophobia that had been building in the last few weeks, as he butted against bureaucratic red tape and the frustrations of diplomacy at every turn.

Likewise, it was great to see Kirkman the academic, and Tom the person, make appearances this week. The President is an academic, conscious of various cultures’ histories and values, and seems always to know how to manipulate his social consciousness to open channels of communication with individuals otherwise unreachable. Meanwhile Kirkman’s scenes with Harry, a military chef who’d been away from home for the best part of 22 years, allows audiences to see Tom as himself, hailing back to the attitude of his early days in the Oval Office.

Still in Afghanistan, we are treated to Mike and Hannah Wells teaming up for a side mission, rescuing CIA Operative Kevin Dean, who may hold information as to which of the Afghan warlords bombed the CIA base, and by extension which is planning an American attack. It allowed for Mike’s loyalty and protectiveness of the President to steal the show once again, as he confronts Hannah about her putting the President at risk with her investigation.

With all this going on abroad, one could expect some lighter drama back home. No such luck; after all, this is Designated Survivor. Seth is arrested for possession of illegal prescription drugs, and Lyor’s background check reveals he is secretly married, and thus faces problems with the IRS for having filed his taxes wrongly.

These side plots were kept mostly interesting, but there was no real sense of danger in either scenarios, as the potential consequences were far too severe for the writers to have followed through without finding a resolution to Seth and Lyor’s problems.

Yet the true crux of the season - who killed Eric Little and who is setting up Alex Kirkman - are left ignored this week. Though everything was kept very busy, ‘Home’ was most definitely a filler episode that did little to conceal the fact the writers are keeping the real meat of the season for the mid-season finale.

Though a filler episode, this week still provided an entertaining hour, redeemed in most part by the portion set in Afghanistan and dealing with Kirkman. Certainly the next two episodes will readdress the central conspiracy, as we near the mid-season finale and Natascha McElhone’s exit from the show.

Designated Survivor is available to watch on Netflix, with new episodes arriving weekly.

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