Designated Survivor’s ‘Misalliance’ Delivers a Crowded, Disappointing Plot

Photo Credit: ABC

“Misalliance” Plot Summary:

Captured by Patrick Lloyd’s (Terry Serpico) men, Agent Wells (Maggie Q) finds herself in greater danger than ever as her allies search for her. In Washington, President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) tries to defend a piece of legislation, while Speaker Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) fights for her political life in an ethics hearing.

“Misalliance” stands out as an example of an overstuffed episode. While the previous installment set up several compelling plot points (including a cliffhanger involving a major character) that are addressed this week, those storylines either didn’t seem to get the full attention they deserved or were somewhat lost among the other (typically minor) developments. There were only three areas (Hannah’s capture, Hookstraten’s hearing, and Lloyd’s scheming) that truly needed to be explored in this latest episode, and I can’t help feeling disappointed that two of the three had such little screen time.

Seeing Kirkman stand up for something he believes in and try to flex some political muscle is always fun, but his attempts to save funding for the arts in public schools was largely a combination of filler and a sudden lifeline for Hookstraten (more on that later). Likewise, Seth’s (Kal Penn) giddiness about going on Air Force One and Alex’s (Natascha McElhone) conversations with Tyler Richmond (Colin Woodell) were unnecessary distractions. I suppose I should be thankful, though, that we avoided any further cases of blatant product placement.

While the series is called Designated Survivor, I don’t think the show should be this afraid to pull the focus away from Kirkman. Having an episode where Kirkman’s storyline is only a minor plot point or he only appears tangentially may be difficult to pull off, but I’d prefer it over having the show rely on filler for Kirkman this late in the game, especially when we could be spending more time with Hannah. Moreover, Kirkman’s efforts to convince Congress to renew the funding for the arts were relatively boring.  

On the other hand, Hannah’s imprisonment had so much potential that went unrealized (at least in this episode). “Misalliance” had the opportunity to be a fun bottle episode that demonstrated Hannah’s FBI skills and gave Maggie Q a chance to flex her acting muscles, yet instead we only got three short scenes from her sitting silently in a storage container. Even the tricks Hannah does come up with are not particularly inspired. Here’s hoping that Hannah will get an opportunity to go full action hero next week; if not, this plot point will stand out as major disappointment.

Likewise, after finally revealing that Patrick Lloyd is orchestrating the conspiracy, “Misalliance” sadly did not do much to flesh out his character. While the last episode briefly mentioned his business and military background, we still don’t have a clear understanding of what motivates him. This week was poised to address this matter when Lloyd gave a speech to his supporters, but the speech was ultimately generic; the most I can say about Lloyd at this point is that he appears to be the love child of Emperor Palpatine and Donald Trump (“We will take America back” sounds a bit familiar). Though Serpico still manages to instill Lloyd with an unsettlingly fanaticism, we still need the character to have a clear vision and defining moment.

That being said, Lloyd and the Pax Americana group have once again proven how formidable they are thanks to (SPOILER WARNING) the apparent murder of Jason Atwood (Malik Yoba). Killing off the primary agent’s partner or ally just as he comes closer to the truth than anyone else is classic thriller fodder, and appropriate given where we are in the season and how good the conspirators are at tying up loose ends. If this episode was in fact the end of Atwood, though, I’d say his death was rather unceremonious. Notice that I said “apparent” and “if” however; Atwood may have been shot twice in the chest at point blank, but I don’t know if it was clearly established that he is dead. As stated in Sarnecky’s Law, a character should never be considered deceased unless that character’s death is clearly depicted on screen. Two bullets to the chest is pretty clear, but I won’t be fully write him off until Hannah, Lloyd, etc. examines the body and confirms his state.

Speaking of death, Hookstraten’s fight for her political life ended with more of a whimper than a bang, which I found rather unsatisfactory as a fan of the Speaker’s scrappiness and deft control of political battles. To see Hookstraten essentially roll over after her ethics hearing didn’t go well felt somewhat out of character. She and Kirkman were still able to come up with a clever pseudo-victory, but her efforts simply didn’t match the snarky, cunning political powerhouse that we have learned Hookstraten to be. The silver lining is that Hookstraten doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, thanks to the solution she found.

After some intriguing developments last week, “Misalliance” proved to be one of Designated Survivor’s weakest installments. I am entirely confident that the show can bounce back from this disappointing chapter, but the writers will need to cut some of the fat off the meat of the story as we reach the final course of the meal.


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.