Designated Survivor Returns with a Spotlight on Its Villains

Photo Credit: ABC/Sven Frenze

“Warriors” Plot Summary:

Following an assassination attempt, President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) sends Secret Service agent Mike Ritter (LaMonica Garrett) to question Agent Wells (Maggie Q) about her knowledge of the attack. In the White House, Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman) is given greater power and begins to put his agenda in motion.

After everything that has happened politically in our country over the last few months, a fictional show about the presidency seems strangely less dramatic than the real life White House. But President Kirkman is still the POTUS our nation needs! Following its three-month hiatus (that’s a quarter of a year!), Designated Survivor picks up where the previous episode left off. “Warriors” (interestingly the first episode since the pilot to not include the word “the” in the title) quickly and efficiently reveals the aftermath of the cliffhanger from the show’s winter finale, but the payoff is unfortunately mixed.

I had a lot of theories going into this episode on who ended up taking the sniper’s bullet, so I’m somewhat disappointed the show goes with one of the safer options and spells out the character’s fate before the title sequence. Designated Survivor generally does an impressive job of setting up cliffhangers but has a disappointing habit of resolving these developments rapidly at the beginning of the next episode. I would have liked the writers to draw the situation out longer, creating a true sense of suspense regarding the target’s chances of survival. This situation had the potential to become truly heart-wrenching and tense, so I can’t help feeling that some more dramatic material was left on the cutting room floor. This feeling was also enhanced by the use of a rather ham-fisted flashback in the middle of the episode and a failure to give the shooting any long-term effects (that we know of).

That being said, having (spoiler warning!) Kirkman be the sniper’s target does have one major payoff. Until now, the show’s villains have been an enigma without a clear objective, strategy, or identity. “Warriors” finally gives us some insight into what role Peter and Beth MacLeish (Lara Jean Chorostecki) have in the Capitol bombing and overall conspiracy, even if their endgame is still shrouded in mystery. Peter MacLeish establishes himself in this episode as a fitting adversary for Kirkman; underneath his mild-mannered charm, the newly sworn-in Vice President is truly venomous. His verbal scuffle with Kimble (Virginia Madsen) is undoubtedly the standout moment from the episode, with Kimble proving she is not someone to mess with, even as Peter shows his fangs. Yet Peter still has clear reservations about the mission and self-doubt, and he relies heavily on his wife for guidance. As the show’s Lady Macbeth, the fittingly named Beth MacLeish exudes menacing ambition and a single-minded devotion to her goals, making her an incredibly enjoyable villain to watch. The MacLeish couple steal the show this week and elevate the plot’s tension to a level the episode needs following the cliffhanger’s lackluster resolution. Ashley Zukerman and Hannibal’s Lara Jean Chorostecki both deserve a standing ovation for their bone-chilling performances, and I can’t wait to see where they take these characters.

Next week’s episode also promises to bring the show’s two major plots together and give two main characters a chance to finally team-up. This development is a move I’ve been waiting for all season and am glad to see the showrunners are finally embracing. Designated Survivor continues to show a great amount of promise, but the series needs to start picking up the pace and step away from its typical slow-burn approach in order to keep viewers invested. While the show makes a number of questionable decisions in its return from hiatus, the ending of “Warriors” suggests Designated Survivor is ready to move to the season’s next narrative phase.


Josh Sarnecky is one of Pop Break's staff writers and covers Designated Survivor, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things. His brother, Aaron, is the site’s TV Editor, but Josh is the family’s reigning Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars champion.