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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 5)


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This week sees the Kirkman administration severely struggle with public perception. After the President’s words calling the American people ‘suckers’ are taken out of context by a Senator for his own political gain, Kirkman faces an all-time low in approval as ‘Suckergate’ makes headlines.

It’s yet another apt commentary on current politics regarding how the simplest of words, whether warranted or not, can drastically skew political debate. Though the Kirman adminstration has faced many crises, ‘Sucker’ explores one that seems trivial yet may cause the White House to suffer long-term consequences. For a show that used to fancy itself a gritty political thriller, is seems a little lustreless for this to be the big catastrophe of the week.

A far more interesting route could’ve been taken if the episode had centred instead on the subplot, a new political murder. A member of the British Parliament who was intended to name illegal arms dealers during her speech at the G20 conference is shot on American soil by an unknown assailant. Whilst this could have given back some of Designated Survivor’s old cloak and dagger suspense, it was instead used as a means to bring back the dull Agent Damian Rennet as a partner for Hannah. Never mind that their chemistry is still as flat as ever, despite Maggie Q’s best attempts.

Meanwhile the First Lady agrees to enlist the help of White House Counsel, Kendra Danes, to file a motion to quash the FBI subpoena handed to her mother after allegedly accepting some bribe 30 years prior. Just like last week, Alex acts infuriatingly out of character as she throws all rationality and any of her lawyer experience out of the window, immediately giving away Kendra’s strategy and almost losing them the motion.

Similarly, Kirkman still fails to learn the game of politics, and repeatedly stonewalls Lyor, his political advisor. After over a year in office, one would expect some development in his approaches or that he has learnt idealism does not always have a place in political dealings. Yet once again, he gets out with little to spare and though it’s sometimes inspiring to see him challenge a crisis with optimism and honesty, it’s a tactic that is proving tiresome for the show, and implausible.

‘Sucker’ attempts to take on too many subplots within one episode, and struggles to make it work. Anything that was not directly related to the President felt like an afterthought, despite the potential other storylines held had they been given appropriate time and development. The characterisation continues to be static and little attention is given to the relationship dynamics that first drew in audiences.

Likewise, Designated Survivor increasingly falls prey to unoriginality by following in the footsteps of many other political soap operas, straying further away from its political thriller roots that had made it a standout.  

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

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