Revelations Abound on Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor Poster

‘The Confession’ Plot Summary:

Following the crisis in Michigan, damaging leaks and political power plays threaten the integrity and strength of President Kirkman’s (Kiefer Sutherland) administration. Meanwhile, the First Family struggles with its own dilemma.

Three episodes in and picked up for a full 22-episode season, Designated Survivor has a lot going for it. Emmy winner Kiefer Sutherland, the cast, and the overall storyline continue to impress. It’s been thrilling so far, though we still have a long way to go, of course. However, the series is falling into a trap of sorts.

Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg
Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

As previously discussed, General Cochrane (Kevin McNally) is more of a stereotype of a warmonger focused on vengeance at this point in time. Now in this episode, the congressional designated survivor, Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), begins to vie for power and undermine Kirkman. Their positions are not necessarily weaknesses. These are very logical obstacles to put in the President’s way. However, they are underwritten. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I can’t analyze these characters decisions. It’s just that I wish I didn’t have to as much to explain my point, instead of just saying something I like.

In Hookstraten’s case, the Republicans in Congress chose her because they wanted someone to represent them in the new government. It makes sense that she would position herself in a way to help her ideology thrive. If most of the federal government were destroyed, you would think your party’s vision would be the way to secure the future. Therefore, you’d have to go out and get it. She’s also an elected official, albeit only by one state, as opposed to Kirkman. She could claim she’s more qualified to run the country than him.

Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg
Photo Credit: ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

Speaking of which, Kirkman’s qualifications come into serious question when he’s asked in a televised interview whether or not his predecessor fired him. Although his answer gets off to a rocky start, he actually handles it pretty well. Perhaps one thing that the show should not answer is whether or not he has any business being Commander-in-Chief. It instead allows us to ponder the validity of the designated survivor system with the possibility of an appointed official becoming President. It’s certainly not a question I would have thought to ask otherwise.

If’s there’s one good reason why Kirkman should remain President, it’s to prevent Cochrane sending the country to war prematurely. Kirkman’s decision to sit on evidence linking a terror group or not reminds of the decision to go to war in Iraq. It could also be the desire for an outside group to take responsibility in hopes igniting a larger conflict between Islam and the West and radicalizing normal everyday Muslims. At the same time, Kirkman can wield his temper when pushed enough but he prefers to avoid confrontation at all costs. You can at least kind of see how Cochrane might perceive that a flaw in this situation.

Designated Survivor might have a soberly cynical view of post-crisis Washington, but with such interesting questions, and some genuine exciting moments like the FBI investigation, Kirkman dealing with his confession and the leak of the terrorist video, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Seeing them deal with the drug issue in his family, I really hope they don’t mess it up in the future, because it could be a good storyline if handled correctly. The same goes for the apparent coup d’état next week.


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.