Chaotically Reassuring – Designated Survivor Pilot Review

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Chaotically Reassuring – Designated Survivor Pilot Review

Kieft Sutherland may not be the President elected, but he may be the one we deserve – Designated Survivor Pilot Review

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR - "Pilot" - Kiefer Sutherland stars as Tom Kirkman, a lower-level cabinet member who is suddenly appointed President of the United States after a catastrophic attack on the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union, on the highly anticipated ABC series "Designated Survivor," airing WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT). (ABC/Ian Watson) KIEFER SUTHERLAND, NATASCHA MCELHONE

KIEFER SUTHERLAND, NATASCHA MCELHONE

Designated Survivor is about Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) who becomes the President of the United States after what appears to be a terrorist attack on the Capital Building. The attack takes the lives of most of those in power thus the duty falls upon Kirkman. Before becoming President, Kirkman was about to be transferred from his job and become an ambassador because of his unwillingness to play the political favors game. This serves to show that Kirkman is not a politician who panders for popularity but also serves to justify why so many others think he unqualified to be POTUS. This sentiment is served on a silver platter via a white house speech writer (Kal Penn) who shares his honest opinion of Kirkman as President to the stranger in the next bathroom stall over. That stranger turns out to be Kirkman of course, and Kirkman gives a convincing “you might be right, but we have to deal with it” speech that seems to begin to win over the embarrassed speech writer.

Aside from the main plot of a low-level cabinet member becoming president, there are also the family issues of having a teenage son that Kirkman has to deal with. Though not resolved in the pilot, the issue of his son sneaking into clubs and dealing drugs will likely come into play. I put my money on it hurting his public image, which is likely how his son will present the case while Kirkman is approaching it from a concerned parent.

Externally, we have the FBI agents played by Malik Yoba, Arjay Smith, Alex Quijano, and Maggie Q.  Who are working to discover who is behind the terrorist attack. However, only Maggie Q’s character seems to have any competence or independent thought. Her character is the only one to think outside of the box, and put together any of the evidence available. In their defense, there is not a lot of evidence to work with and Q’s character, Hannah Wells, is able to draw clues from the absence of them. I’m sure this is to show her aptitude and competence, despite her mediocre rank. Also, I’m fairly certain they will explore the relationship with Wells and Atwood (Malik Yoba).

The Verdict

Designated Survivor is chaotically interesting. The premise is intriguing, and the cast is strong. The multitude of setups and fast cuts help to create the feeling of uncertainty and confusion that happens after a disaster. The show expertly creates an atmosphere of chaos, that still has a strong train of direction running through it. However, it might have stretched too far too fast and also feels a bit predictable. I feel the show would have greatly benefitted from a 2-hour premiere, as nothing feels resolved at the end of the pilot. This might be part of the show’s brilliance, so it can go both ways.

The show’s predictable feel comes from adding multiple perspectives to the main conspiracy while overlaying dramatic cliches for each character. It feels like it’s checking off the checklist of what makes a drama while trying to craft this unique story. This might be a personal distaste because I watch too much television and it feels vaguely familiar. Despite that, Designated Survivor does deliver a great performance and an intriguing concept. If things go bad this November, we may be wishing for a similar scenario. The episode ends a bit abruptly, but it really pulls you into the conspiracy, and you just know that the conspiracy they’re all working on is only a small piece of an even bigger one. Needless to say, I can’t wait for the next episode.

Designated Survivor will premiere Wednesday, September 21st at 10pm EDT on ABC.

Designated Survivor Pilot Review
  • Score
3.5

The Verdict

Designated Survivor is chaotically interesting. The premise is intriguing, and the cast is strong. The multitude of setups and fast cuts help to create the feeling of uncertainty and confusion that happens after a disaster. The show expertly creates an atmosphere of chaos, that still has a strong train of direction running through it. However, it might have stretched too far too fast and also feels a bit predictable. I feel the show would have greatly benefitted from a 2-hour premiere. The show seems to be adding multiple perspectives to the main conspiracy while overlaying dramatic cliches for each character. Despite some personal distastes that I acquired from watching far too much television, the show delivers all the makings of a hit expertly. It does not deliver too much, leaves the audience begging for answers, and likely holds even bigger conspiracies in the shadows. Needless to say, I can’t wait for the next episode

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