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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 13)


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After a couple of action-packed episodes since its mid-season hiatus, Designated Survivor slows the pace and allows for Kirkman to grab back the reins. ‘Original Sin’ opts instead for political machinations and picks up from last week’s end-of-hour crisis, the leaked prison tape.

While the news cycle picks up the video and spins it into a scandalous executive overreach by the White House, another crisis shares the staff’s attention: a group of Native Americans of the Ocheole Tribe, led by Lacy Cousins, stage a sit-down protest inside the White House in order to obtain the President’s help in retaining ownership of their land.

This episode also introduces Trey Kirkman, Tom’s younger brother whom no one seems to know about, when he attends a meeting about Alex’s late wishes for her foundation, for which he is a board member. It’s obvious from the beginning that the two brothers have a complicated relationship.

However, Trey’s introduction could not have come at a better time. Right now, Tom is struggling to keep his family together, mourning his wife and running a country, with no one left to help him manage his family life. A functioning relationship between the two Kirkman’s would contribute greatly towards finding an equilibrium for Tom’s private and public lives.

The children would also benefit from having their uncle around, as Leo made clear to Trey. These days he doesn’t seem to get much screen time, but what he does get he makes count. Though after ‘Grief’ and the words exchanged between Leo and his father, it would have been interesting to see how their relationship was faring some weeks on.

Two good things came of the Native American v. state land dispute narrative: Firstly, audiences were reminded of exactly why Lyor works at the White House. He’s not, unlike what the writers might have you believe, mere comic relief traipsing around on his own irrelevant side quests. His reaction to the protest is a needed reminder that he understands optics and public perception in a way no one else seems to, and that his input is invaluable to the administration.

Secondly, it allowed for a glimpse of the old, first-season Tom Kirkman. So far he’s been struggling, displaying indecisiveness at every turn, victim to darker moods than we’ve seen on him before. It’s understandable, of course, but one can’t help but miss the character that made us all fall in love with the show.

Kiefer Sutherland and Zoe McLellan in Designated Survivor (2016)

The solution to the whole land debacle was pretty cringeworthy, however. It involved a loophole found in a 200-year-old treaty between Spain and Florida, before Florida was even a state. Somehow, Kendra made it work but it was pretty far-fetched, even for Designated Survivor.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s search for the hacker is still going, Damian is still insufferable, and Aaron is still getting criminally underutilised. It’s all thrown so far into the background that it’s hard to really care what’s happening on top of everything going on at the White House, and in Tom’s personal life.

Overall it was a dynamic, compelling episode, with a lot going on. Like all episodes that at their centre, hold something which affects Tom on a more personal level, it was far more engrossing to watch. Despite this, other characters’ storylines and the hacking investigation had to suffer greatly to leave room for everything else, and thus the pacing and structure of the episode flailed.

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

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