How ‘Designated Survivor’ Finally Made Tom Kirkman Compelling

Look, I’ve been a fan and a detractor of Designated Survivor’s Tom Kirkman in equal measure. A fan because, of course, the man represented everything we would ever want in a public official, he was honest, he was hardworking, he cared – in fact, you might even say he cared too much – and he was always thinking about the people he represented.

This made him an ideal candidate for public office, the President we all wish we would have, and all in all, a really, really bad character to follow, because there just wasn’t any nuance to him. What would Tom Kirkman do in a particular situation wasn’t really a question. You already knew the answer.

He would do the right thing.

And we can even add to that the caveat that he would do the right thing no matter the political or personal cost, either. That’s how good of a guy he was.

Now, of course, you could say that was part of the appeal of the character in the first place, but once the show switched from a mystery/suspense/family/politics balance hour to focus just on the political side, a little like The West Wing, the show needed either for Kirkman to become more grey-ish or for someone around him to do so.

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Season 3 finally delivers on that.

And no, it isn’t the always seemingly more easily corruptible Aaron or the loyal-to-a-fault Emily adding playing with shades of grey, but Tom Kirkman himself.

Color me not just surprised, but excited.

Now, I’m not going to say season 3 was perfect, shame on the show for never making a long-term plan to use the brilliant Maggie Q, who hasn’t had anything interesting to do since season 1, and whose character has, because of the plot, become so inconsequential that there are times I even forget she’s around.

In fact, did she even have any scenes with the rest of the regular cast this season?

Add to that the fact that, for all it’s good moments, the show is still not sure how to go fully political, except now the few moments where it tries to be anything else feel forced. Killing the First Lady was a mistake, in my opinion, but not letting us see the fallout from that, how Kirkman, and most importantly, his kids, dealt with it, was an even bigger one.

BUT, and this is a big but …at least, thanks to what happened in the season finale, I can no longer absolutely predict Tom Kirkman.

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This is likely the best news I could have given anyone who, like me, has watched every episode of this show. If I could vote for someone right now, then yes, give me Tom Kirkman, somehow take him from the TV screen, make him reality, and hell yes I’d vote for him twenty times over.

Since we can’t do that, though, at least let him continue on the path, not towards becoming a villain, I don’t want that either, but towards becoming, well …a human being with wants, and desires and flaws. Not just a robot with good intentions, which is what he was the first two seasons.

That’s, after all, the reason we watch TV.

And no, I’m not any less inclined to root for Tom Kirkman than I was before. In fact, I might like him even more.

Designated Survivor Season 3 is available to stream on Netflix.

Lawyer. Dreamer. Geek. Eternal optimist. Fangirl since the dawn of time. Hates the color yellow, olives and cigarettes. Has a recurring nightmare where she’s forced to choose between sports and books. Falls in love with fictional characters.