Designated Survivor’s ‘Bombshell’ Places Kirkman on the Defense

Photo Credit: ABC/John Medland

“Bombshell” Plot Summary:

President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and Secretary of State Moss (Geoff Pierson) attend the administration’s first NATO summit, but a major news story overshadows the conference’s agenda. Off the coast of Delaware, Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) attempts to escape a cargo ship operated by the conspirators.

John McClane picking off terrorists in a Los Angeles skyscraper. President James Marshall battling extremists aboard Air Force One. Buzz and Woody escaping the terrors of Sid’s house. What do all of these famous plots have in common? They all feature more exciting and successful attempts to evade and defeat captors than Designated Survivor.

After last week’s episode ended with Hannah escaping her storage container only to find out she was on a cargo ship at sea, I was hopeful that “Bombshell” would give Hannah her Die Hard moment and bring the best action of the season since the Navy SEALs raid. Instead, the series ignores another opportunity to take the plot in an interesting direction in order to prolong the conspiracy. Delaying resolutions and extending storylines are not uncommon techniques for thrillers, but ending Hannah’s escape attempt so quickly nonetheless makes for an anticlimactic turn of events that fails to highlight Hannah’s strengths or establish her as a worthy adversary. I don’t know if I’d say Hannah has had a defining moment yet (except, perhaps, surviving her car accident and thwarting Kirkman’s assassination), but I desperately hope that she’ll finally have her time to shine in the season finale.

On the other hand, Kirkman has had plenty of opportunities to prove himself. “Bombshell” has the distinction of featuring Kirkman’s first in person encounter with the heads of state for America’s closest allies. Kirkman has worked with representatives from other countries before and responded to international incidents, but this episode marks the first time he actually sits down with his political equals. Of course, part of what makes this meeting so dramatic is that Kirkman isn’t actually their equal, and all of the leaders know it; Kirkman may be President, but he still doesn’t have his peers’ experience or the political acumen that got them elected. This dynamic creates a wonderful tension that is further heightened by the fact that Kirkman and Moss are desperately trying to convince their counterparts to accept their proposal.

Of course, Abe Leonard’s (Rob Morrow) newly released article on the truth behind the Capitol bombing throws Kirkman’s efforts at the NATO summit into greater turmoil. While Leonard and his plotline haven’t always been as engaging as one would hope, the payoff to his investigation is satisfyingly damaging. Kirkman has been against the ropes before, but the article’s revelations come right after Kirkman pulled off several victories in Congress and the Supreme Court and are more inflammatory than anything he’s faced before. At the same time, though, Moss and the other NATO leaders are probably a bit too hard on Kirkman after the article is published; as Moss points out, all of these leaders have confidential information and classified investigations they wouldn’t share with their allies, so why should they be so critical of Kirkman? Nevertheless, seeing Kirkman make a new frenemy, the Prime Minister of France, and put on trial by his peers is an exciting development.

With the season finale coming next week, I’m curious to see how Leonard’s article and Hannah’s predicament will affect Kirkman. Will the conspirators finally be brought to justice? Will Kirkman face public backlash for not revealing information about the conspiracy sooner? Will Hannah finally channel her inner Jack Bauer? There are still a lot of loose ends for the season to tie up, but “Bombshell” has at least set up what should be an exciting end to Designated Survivor’s freshman year.


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.