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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 19)


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Designated Survivor delivers on another gripping instalment, picking up from last week with Kirkman’s hearing, in which he must convince the Cabinet that he is fit to remain as President. Between this and the continued investigation into Andrea Frost as the hacker, ‘Capacity’ makes for an intense hour.

Michael J. Fox again shines as Ethan West, and finally provides someone of a high enough calibre to face off against Kendra. As both characters battle it out in the hearing, it’s fascinating to watch them take turns questioning the witnesses, using the same responses to present completely different arguments.

Zoe McLellan in Designated Survivor (2016)

Despite the twists and turns as Kirkman’s failings since Alex’s death are revealed to all, never once does Kendra appear outmatched, nor does she get the upper hand on West. It’s exciting, and the tension makes it believable that the Kirkman presidency is truly at stake.

‘Capacity’ also serves to portray the strength of Kirkman’s leadership, a reminder which is sorely needed after the past weeks’ events exposed his worst traits. He reminds the Cabinet of his power as an honest and loyal civic servant, not a politician but a man who believes in doing write by his office and his country.

On the other hand, however, Kirkman’s actions remain questionable. Hannah goes to him with the information she and Damian uncovered, that Andrea Frost is Gamine, aka the hacker they’ve been hunting for the best part of the season. While it’s true Hannah’s evidence was somewhat tenuous, the manner in which Kirkman dismissed her suggest his decision was emotionally-driven.

We’ve seen him grow close to Dr. Frost, treating her as a sort of confidante since they met, and his reaction to having her loyalty to him questioned was reflexive. Though to be honest, Hannah wasn’t the epitome of straight thinking either.

She tried to barge her way into the Oval Office covered in Damian’s blood, only for Aaron to forcibly stop her before the President could see her. Worse, when she was turned down by Kirkman for failing to present concrete evidence for her accusations, she confronts Frost in the middle of a crowded restaurant, accusing her of sabotage and murder.

Both Hannah Wells and Tom Kirkman are driven by the same thing: grief, only this plants them on opposite sides of the same issue. It’s equally captivating and frustrating to see how their emotions drive them; yes, they’re only human, but the positions they hold demand greater self-awareness from them both.

By the end of the hour, Kirkman is saved, but Hannah is not. Once his Presidency is reasserted, Kirkman proceeds to terminate Hannah’s employment. It’s a shock, and although this will probably prove to be a misdirect, considering Maggie Q has been part of the core cast since the beginning, it’s refreshing to see her character face consequences.

She never seems to be reprimanded for disobeying orders, acting out, or going rogue at almost every occasion. This outcome feels more realistic, and serves to ground an otherwise fairly idealistic ending to the episode.

As season two’s end draws nearer, and an inevitable showdown between the hacker conspirators and the White House looms on the horizon, let’s hope everyone starts making better decisions.

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

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