Designated Survivor Season 2 Premiere: Kirkman Faces New and Old Crises

Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor Season 2 Premiere
Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

Designated Survivor Season 2 Premiere Plot Summary:

While Agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) tracks terrorist mastermind Patrick Lloyd (Terry Serpico), President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) deals with a plane hijacking that could lead Russia and Ukraine to all-out war.

Designated Survivor is finally back, though it seems like it’s without much fanfare. If there was any promotional material for the second season, I missed it. The show also didn’t pick up any Emmy nominations. I always knew it was a long shot, with the field as strong as it was, but I hoped Emmy winner Kiefer Sutherland might charm the academy again. Oh well.

Though I was initially surprised by the premiere’s time jump, it’s not that unusual for shows to try to keep themselves in line with the real world calendar. Still, Designated Survivor had previously been hazier on its timeline. This also means that the good guys are still chasing Patrick Lloyd, six months after he stole a wealth of classified information. Talk about dropping the ball. At least Agent Wells is resourceful as ever.

President Kirkman is dealing with a lot of the same problems. Besides Lloyd, the public and the press are giving him a hard time. While I can understand their frustration, he did pass major gun control legislation, rebuild the Capitol, appoint the entire Supreme Court, and unravel most of Lloyd’s conspiracy, all in a year’s time. That’s got to count for something. Of course, his flaky new political director, Lyor Boone (Paulo Costanzo), disagrees. All I’ll say about him is he could be a great addition to the cast or a detriment. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

In the premiere’s main storyline, Ukrainian terrorists take numerous hostages on a Russian plane on American soil. Their ulterior motive is to force Russia to invade Ukraine. Russia has even paid them to do so. Unfortunately for Kirkman, Ukraine is also reluctant to end the hijacking. It’s curious that with Russia in the news so much lately that we’ve forgotten about the situation in Ukraine. The political unrest didn’t stop with the annexation of Crimea. But I digress.

The rest of the plot plays at pretty cut and dry, except for one wrinkle: Kirkman has a friend (David Storch) on the plane. They never spell it out, but one can assume that this was planned as leverage against the President. Nevertheless, all the hostages make it out, except his friend, who dies in an accidental explosion of an oxygen tank. I assume this is actually retaliation against Kirkman, but no one says so. If it’s really an accident, it feels too random to be a proper ending. Even though we don’t know his friend enough to care much, Sutherland sells Kirkman’s pain.

Designated Survivor is the same show that you remember, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve missed Kirkman and company. Sure, I expect there’ll be many more side-stories to pad the season, but there’ll also be some surprises. The real test is how the conspiracy plays out. This will be a make-or-break season.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Good)

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR AIRS WEDNESDAYS AT 10 ON ABC

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.