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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 6)


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After two weeks that were, frankly, disappointing, ‘Two Ships’ finally offers up a strong hour that moved narratives along effectively and packed much emotional impact.

The hour’s standout performance was undoubtedly that of Gregory Smith as Will Griffin, the newly-appointed captain of Verona, a US navy ship that finds itself stranded and slowly sinking in hostile waters. It’s been some time since the Rookie Blue star appeared on our screens, and he delivers a fantastic performance that proves to be the most moving this season has had yet.

Kirkman’s negotiations and emphasis on taking the diplomatic route were typical whilst growing increasingly frustrating; he wanted his people off the ship and to safety, yet as always, many roadblocks were set in his path. It appears Kirkman may be heading for a breaking point, for his political manoeuvring has recently been increasingly inefficient; he may grow beyond tired of having his hands tied at every turn.

Respite from the infuriating negotiations comes in the form of Kirkman’s conversations with Griffin, dotted throughout the episode. Kiefer Sutherland’s performances have always shone brightest as a man of the people, because that’s the point at which he is most authentic to Tom Kirkman.

The underlying driving forces between Kirkman and Griffin are similar, both men who wanted to serve their country and who, by forces out of their control and in times of crisis, were thrust into a position of power and unforeseeable responsibility. The rapport the two build over the hour’s run makes Griffin’s ultimate sacrifice that much more devastating.

Away from the US naval ship crisis, the investigation into Eva’s accepting of a bribe and her relationship to Eric Little continues, as Kendra Danes scrambles to obtain Eva’s cooperation. When it’s revealed she had, contrary to what Alex had affirmed on her behalf in court, been in contact with Little since, it throws Kendra’s plans into turmoil and put the First Lady’s integrity on the line.

The investigation into Thorne’s murder also continues, with Hannah Wells and Damian following what’s revealed to be a dead end. In a jaw-dropping revelation at the hour’s end, however, it may appear that Secretary of State Cornelius Moss had something to do with her death, or at the very least has been covering up some aspect of his involvement.

In all ‘Two Ships’s plotlines, Designated Survivor returns to its conspiracy roots, to its action-driven political thriller genre and slowly unfolding revelations that are never to be anticipated. It’s good to see the episode steer the show away from the edge of political soap opera territory and back to safety.

One let down of this instalment was that the writers finally committed to the romance between Emily and Seth, that they’d been hinting at since the season premiere. This is frustrating for a number of reasons: Designated Survivor is a show that allows for romance to play a valuable role in forwarding the story, thus it seems like a needless development. That’s why it was a relief when Hannah refused to discuss what had happened between her and Damian.

Emily and Seth had a strong and supportive friendship going, so it feels like weak writing to suddenly push them together romantically. The most frustrating reason, however, is that the writers had already tried to make a relationship happen between Aaron and Emily, with no closure or explanation as to why it was abandoned. Instead it’s merely treated as though nothing ever happened.

Nonetheless, this was by far one of the strongest episodes this season has offered so far, intensely reminiscent of the style of season one, which hooked audiences. Let us hope that it continues along this strand.

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

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