Kirkman vs. Bowman Erupts on Designated Survivor, ‘Party Lines’

Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

“Party Lines” Plot Summary:

President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) goes to war with Senator Bowman (Mark Deklin), who introduces a flawed gun control bill to back the President into a corner.

Senator Jack Bowman is certainly leaving his mark on Designated Survivor, despite only debuting last week.

Though Kirkman has dealt with a hawkish general and a renegade governor, Bowman might prove to be the most cunning adversary Kirkman has faced. The show does caricaturize conservative legislators a bit, even if it’s a portrayal more accurate than past caricatures. I wish the episode went to greater lengths to explain his take on the bill and its purported flaws. This whole two-episode arc serves as a test for Kirkman more than anything else, so it is understandable that it would peg the President’s position on the issue as correct and move along. Still, themes usually work best when they’re dialectic, not didactic.

On the flip side, Designated Survivor is rounding out Speaker Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen). She still has her own agenda, and she’s willing to use the fight over the bill to her advantage, but it’s clear that she and Kirkman share a respect for one another. It’s fun to watch intraparty politics, so I would like to see her and Bowman continue to clash. If Designated Survivor plays its cards right, their rivalry could become the most entertaining rivalry on the show.

Despite all the wheeling and dealing, “Party Lines” is an optimistic view of what can be done in Washington. Honestly, that anything substantial can be done without one party having a supermajority is seriously up for debate. The show gets off the hook because its scenario, an Independent lower-ranking Cabinet member becoming President and a virtually new Congress, is so far from reality.

We wouldn’t have gotten here without the attack on the Capitol, of course. If you were hoping for more meaningful developments in this storyline, you were likely disappointed. Designated Survivor relegates it to the B plot once again. The episode only reveals that the conspirators have the means to carry out more attacks. That honestly shouldn’t be much of a surprise. What is a surprise is that Hannah (Maggie Q) and Jason (Malik Yoba) find the stockpile of explosives unguarded. It makes me wonder if they’re meant to find it.

I suspect we’re in for a few more episodes of the main storyline on the back burner, as Kirkman has to focus on the Supreme Court. I’m hoping the series fleshes out Senator Bowman more than these past two week have.

As for me, I’ll being reviewing the 24: Legacy finale. You’re stuck with my brother for next week’s Designated Survivor.


Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.