Designated Survivor: Things to Know Going into Episode 4


Hello all!

Designated Survivor is a great new show that I’ve just started watching. With episode 4 airing tonight, I figured I would share some of the more important things to consider before you watch it.

This is not “24: Jack Bauer’s Back, Baby“.

Designated Survivor Capital Hill

Capital Hill after the explosion

The premise of the show is Thomas Kirkman, a low level cabinet member played by Kiefer Sutherland, is the highest ranking member of the federal government after a catastrophic explosion wipes out Capitol Hill. Previously the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Kirkman is no hotshot politician. In the show, they refer to him as nothing more than “a glorified realtor”. Still, experienced or not, as the designated survivor he’s immediately sworn in as the President of the United States.

One thing to understand. This isn’t an action show. It’s full of political intrigue and drama, but it’s not 24, by any means!

Tom Kirkman is a good guy

Designated Survivor

Kirkman with his kids

From the start, you like Kirkman. He’s just a good family guy with a typical family. A loving wife who’s a D.C. attorney, a teenage son who’s aloof and moody (oh yeah, and selling drugs…but who isn’t these days), and an adorable little girl who’s too young to know exactly what’s going on or why they live in the White House now. Throughout the show, the now President is obviously concerned with making the morally right decisions, much to the chagrin of a General Harris Cochrane. Immediately after the swearing in, Kirkman is taken to the situation room where he learns Iran is moving in on American oil interests overseas. General Cochrane recommends decisive action. Attack now! Destroy them! Show the world the U.S. is still strong and not taking crap from anyone!

He doesn’t even try to hide his contempt towards Kirkman, who won’t make a show of force until that’s his last option. Instead, Kirkman meets with the Iranian ambassador. Stressed, anxious, but still cordial, the less than 5 hours old President doesn’t mince words. He tells Iran to back down… or else. And they do.

It was pretty sweet.

Modern Day America

The show does a good job of making us feel like we’re in today’s world.  Technology is what we’re familiar with, social media is the fast and powerful double-edged knife we’re used to, and the fear and anxiety towards ISIS and members of the Muslim community is as real as it gets. They show the brutal nature of this fear in the second episode, when the Gov. of Michigan starts rounding up Muslims to “protect” his citizens. He ignores Kirkman’s federal authority with a dismissive sneer when the President tells him to stop.

We see it come to a head when a video of a Muslim teen being beaten to death by police goes viral. The PR backlash is sudden and severe. Kirkman sits down to a video conference with the Governor and once again solves the problem with strong, confident words, albeit with a bluff.

Again, it was pretty sweet.

Kumbaya? More like Kumbanope

For a man inexperienced in politics, President Tom Kirkman handles himself well. He is aware of current situations and the correct way to address them. He’s tactful, polite, and willing to make hard decisions. He just doesn’t have the public’s full support yet. He’s not seen as “president material”.  And there are several people who plan on taking advantage of that!

Here are a few main contenders.

Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten

Designated Survivor Hookstraten

Virginia Madsen as Congresswoman Hookstraten

She is the GOP designated survivor. Although she professes support to Kirkman’s presidency and advocates unity, she has already made moves to put herself in good public standing. Hookstraten tells Kirkman that she will run against him for presidency when his term is up. Indeed, she’s definitely a long-game player, and I doubt the President will trust her much anymore. Fool me once…

General Harris Cochrane

Designated Survivor General Cochrane

Kevin McNally as General Harris Cochrane

We’ve already discussed him. He mistrusts Kirkman 100% and has already tried to get the Chief of Staff to undermine him He seems intent on taking certain matters into his own capable hands. Will he be a huge obstacle or can President Kirkman win him to his side?

White House Chief of Staff Aaron Shore

Designated Survivor

Adan Canto as Aaron Shore

We see Aaron’s opportunistic side a couple of times, with the President having to put him in his place on occasion. Little things, like visiting the bomb site – “it’s not a photo-op, it’s just the right thing to do”. That sort of thing. Cochrane has approached him for support but Shore seemingly refused. I thought at first that he would be a small support character but episode 3 changed my mind. After Shore leaks a video of terrorists claiming the attack, the President confronts him about his direct insubordination. Shore plays it off as a bid to unify the nation behind Kirkman against the enemy (which worked).

However, at the very end, Shore meets a shady woman who hands him a file with the President’s name labeled.

“Is it good?” Shore asks.

“Depends on whose side you’re on,” she cryptically replies.

What does this mean? Is Aaron Shore a friend or foe? Hopefully we find out soon!

Not all is as it seems

Designated Survivor Agent Wells

Maggie Q as Agent Hannah Wells

One more thing to know. Hannah Wells, the FBI agent investigating the attack, is definitely onto something. Her theory is that the attack was designed to draw attention away from the real culprit. Not only that, but while reviewing some of the footage from the moment before the attack, she realizes not everything adds up. Peter Macleish, the sole surviving Congressman present at the attack, might be hiding something. One moment he’s in his seat, the next he’s gone, only seconds before the bomb went off. What is his connection to the attack? Is there a reason he survived beyond sheer luck? A sinister reason?

Well, hopefully this quick summary of the last three episodes gives you an idea of what to expect for tonight. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend catching up as soon as humanly possible!

What are your thoughts on the show? Who orchestrated the attacks? Will President Kirkman be able to rally the fragmented government behind him?

Comment below and share your thoughts and theories!