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TV Review: Designated Survivor (Season 2, Episode 20)

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‘Bad Reception’ concludes the season’s overarching investigation, finding the identity of the hacker who sabotaged the space station, and leaked the prison and therapist tapes. The outcome was semi-unexpected.

It turned out that Kirkman’s old friend Dax Minter was the guilty party all along, bugging the Oval Office with the replica car he’d gifted Tom earlier in the season. It was a surprising turn of events, but not wholly for the right reasons.

It was a decent twist in the sense that it was unexpected, but there’d been no indication previously that Minter had a problem with his friend. His motivations were not particularly nefarious either, which is slightly disappointing by scale of the grand conspiracies the first season afforded.

Further, Andrea Frost was so clearly a red herring that it was difficult to believe that she would turn out to be the culprit. What was more of a surprise was that Tom and Hannah were working together the whole time, and that her firing had been staged, so there was some shock value to this episode.

What was disappointing however, was that as soon as Andrea was cleared of suspicion, she announced she was moving away to San Francisco. It’s as though since she no longer served any purpose as a misdirect, it was time for her to exit the show.

Her friendship with Kirkman was beneficial to them both and allowed an insight into Tom’s private state of mind, as he opened up to her in a way he’d not done since his wife passed. If Kim Raver’s exit can serve one purpose however, it’s to save Designated Survivor from pushing Frost and Kirkman into a romantic relationship. Things did seem to be moving in that direction for the two, and that would have been a mistake so soon after losing Alex.

Beyond the hacker conclusion, the main plot and subplots of this instalment were inconsequential beyond developing Kendra’s character. The crisis of the hour involved a U.S. teenager sentenced to twenty years in a Bultani prison for graffiti, and his release being used as leverage against the American government for certain oil concessions.

The writers managed to force Ethan West into the mix, as he so happens to be working for the captured boy’s family. His actions were infuriatingly out of character, excusing his erratic behaviour with a sob story about knowing the boy’s murdered aunt. This plot only carries itself through thanks to Michael J. Fox’s ever-delightful performance, rather than on the merit of its own narrative.   

Another fantastic performance is given by Zoe McLellan, as Kendra seeks to submit her former boss and mentor for a vacancy in the DC circuit. As the vetting process ensues, she realises that the man she so greatly admired may not be as great as she thought, leading her to re-evaluate whether the one night they spent together years ago was entirely consensual. It’s a touching and nuanced performance by McLellan, one that was easily the highlight of the hour.

Where next for the last two episodes of the season? It seems Hannah is on the warpath, seeking revenge for Damian’s death. Maybe her quest to end Valeria will reveal a deeper involvement in the hacks on the Russian government’s part, or perhaps Valeria was simply an accessory to the crime. Let’s hope it’s the former, since no one really cared about Damian as much as Hannah did, and an entire two episodes devoted to avenging him aren’t guaranteed to be very interesting.

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

 




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