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


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‘The Sting of the Tail’ brings Patrick Lloyd back as the hour’s primary focus, reintroducing the thrill and tension that had been sorely missed since season one’s finale.

A break in the manhunt for Lloyd rapidly precipitates an ultimate showdown between the authorities and the infamous terrorist, forcing Kirkman to weigh the law against Lloyd's imminent threat to release sarin gas in the DC metropolitan area.

All this occurs against the backdrop of the White House Correspondents Dinner, one which ultimately served little purpose aside from giving Seth a minute amount of screen time, during which the point is driven home that he cannot write jokes. Far from being amusing, this entire side story is simply awkward and weighs an otherwise solid episode down.

Likewise, bringing in Alex’s mother Eva had no point - aside from displaying that Lloyd’s reach could extend to the President’s family. Since he is killed off by the end of the hour however, no development occurs as to the potential of the threat, thus it’s difficult to understand the motivation for bringing back her character.

Otherwise, Designated Survivor does well in balancing intense political manoeuvring with the thriller-like action. Viewers experience this in full as Aaron is forced, in court, to defend the use of a drone on American citizens and on US soil; the nuanced politics and complicated party dynamics are on full display, both understandable and frustrating.

Something promising the show brought to the table this week was to finally live up to its premise: to have Kirkman as an independent. Season one had him painted as a Liberal Democrat, perpetually opposed by the conservative Republicans of the red states over his leadership and policies. After being advertised as a show that aligned in the middle of the political spectrum, something unusual for such a drama, on that front, season one failed to deliver.

Yet this week it’s Kirkman who pushes for military force, and it’s the Democrat Senator Cowling who attempts to block his authority through legal means. Undoubtedly this is an exciting sign of things to come in terms of political alignments and oppositions. If there’s one thing Designated Survivor could do better this season, it’s to exist more in the grey area that makes these shows fascinating, in politics and morality.  

Lloyd was the devil they knew. Hannah and Damian had shown that governments understand his psyche and know how he operates, which took away some of the excitement and mystery surrounding his character. On the other hand, viewers never got a chance to connect with him either, for he was never a central character; thus, his death had little emotional impact.

His death too was anticlimactic, and after such an intense and torturous pursuit for the Capitol bombing’s culprit, his death was more of an afterthought than anything. Nonetheless, in one final bang, Lloyd manages to upload a mysterious file to the cloud before being hit - one that the FBI cannot access. This is bound to be the set-up to this season’s big twist and challenge, though what shape this will take is still to be determined.

Overall, this instalment found the show’s essence again, after straying slightly the previous week. It was more focused, engaging, and set up the Kirkman administration’s next crisis in one fell swoop.  

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

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