‘The End of the Beginning’ Plot Summary:
As he recovers in the hospital, President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) meets with Agent Wells (Maggie Q) and asks for her help investigating Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman). As Wells gets closer to incriminating MacLeish, the Vice President and his wife (Lara Jean Chorostecki) take measures to protect themselves and their allies.
Well, that escalated quickly.
In all seriousness, though, I was not expecting that ending and am still trying to process what the twist means for the rest of the season. Designated Survivor has slowly laid out breadcrumbs leading to the heart of the conspiracy, but “The End of the Beginning” effectively released a pack of hungry pigeons on that trail. Normally I try to avoid spoilers in these reviews, but this latest development raises too many questions that should be addressed. If you haven’t watched this week’s episode yet, I highly encourage you to watch it now and come back to this review afterwards. But for those of you ready to jump into the conversation now, here is your final warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
RIP Peter and Beth MacLeish. We hardly knew thee. Which is exactly why I have mixed feelings about this shocking murder-suicide from Beth. From an internal narrative standpoint, this move makes perfect sense; the last few episodes have established that Beth is much more devoted to her cause than her husband and would do anything to protect whatever organization/ideology they are a part of. Beth is also calculating and pragmatic enough to know that Peter’s arrest would either end with them being forced to betray the masterminds behind the conspiracy or with the same masterminds having to silence them.
The deaths of Catalan and Majid Nassar have already proven that no conspirator is above being turned into a loose end in need of tying up—a point which Beth herself stated earlier in this episode. Given such factors, Beth’s decision was clear. Moreover, their deaths provided another stunning way of keeping the conspiracy storyline going.
At the same time, though, I’m incredibly disappointed to see Peter and Beth go. As I mentioned last week, the two characters had begun to establish themselves as the face of the conspiracy and finally provided the show with concrete, identifiable villains. On top of that, the actors’ individual performances and Macbeth-Lady Macbeth dynamic made the characters a joy to watch in a truly love-to-hate-them matter. Unfortunately, those compelling elements are now gone.
Likewise, the mystery of who orchestrated the attack on the Capitol is now back to square one. The only remaining leads are the nameless woman (Mariana Klaveno) that tipped off Beth and kidnapped Jason Atwood’s son, the soldier Peter met with in the graveyard, and the previous Chief of Staff. Of those three characters, only one has a known location, and he likely has limited intel to provide. So Wells and Kirkman are essentially forced to start their investigation from the beginning. For those viewers hoping to receive some answers, this turn of events is incredibly frustrating and remarkably sudden.
I also can’t help but wonder if Designated Survivor’s repeated change in showrunners played a part in the decision to kill Peter and Beth MacLeish. Around the time that the show’s winter finale aired, showrunner Jon Harmon Feldman was replaced by Jeff Melvoin; even though the series had only aired ten episodes at that time, the change made Melvoin the show’s third showrunner since the start of production.
The question then becomes if Feldman and his predecessor, Amy B. Harris, had different plans for the conspiracy and MacLeish family that were altered once Melvoin took over. After all, given the fact the Peter MacLeish was just sworn in as vice president in the winter finale, all signs pointed to the character sticking around for a bit longer. Is it possible that Melvoin decided to take the show’s conspiracy in a different direction? Perhaps, but I don’t want to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist myself. For the time being, though, fans may wonder how the changes behind the scenes are impacting the season’s trajectory.
Limiting my analysis solely to the content of this week’s episode, however, I would definitely consider the twist ending an effective punctuation mark on one of Designated Survivor’s best episodes. Finally having Wells and Kirkman discuss Peter MacLeish’s role in the Capitol attack was appropriately satisfying, considering how long the team-up has been building up and how effective Wells was once she had the President’s blessing. Seeing Kirkman take MacLeish’s betrayal so personal was a powerful moment, and Wells took some clever steps to trick MacLeish into incriminating himself.
Even the subplots featured strong parallels to the main plot as Kirkman and his staff questioned who could be trusted. Time will tell how much the twist ending will change the ongoing narrative’s focus, but the show’s pieces continue to display synergy and build momentum. If this episode truly was the beginning of the end, then the rest of the season should be an exciting ride with plenty of unexpected turns.
RATING: 9 OUT OF 10