For weeks, there has been something missing with Designated Survivor. The show hasn’t been bad, not even close to bad, and the level of emotion Tom Kirkman routinely manages to elict in me, in us, is about as high as it’s ever been, but since Season 2 started, and maybe, before that, since the back half of Season 1, I’ve been wondering …what else is there?
To be fair, the show struck gold not just with Kiefer Sutherland but with the writing/interpretation of the character of Tom Kirkman, especially in the current political climate. That being said, though, the show hasn’t hit the highs it did when the conspiracy was at the center and we thought everyone was a possible suspect in a while, and I’ve been trying to find the words to explain why for weeks.
Now I get it – it’s because we’re not connecting to anyone else.
It’s good for the show that I figured it out just as they deliver their best episode this season, and perhaps it’s best since the midseason finale last year. Now I can’t just talk about the bad things.
So, let’s go over what the show was doing wrong, what they did right in “Two Ships” and what they need to do moving forward.
WHAT THE SHOW WAS DOING WRONG
Be honest with me – do you care about anything other than Tom Kirkman? Do we know enough about them to really care? I like Aaron, Emily and Seth, but like is about as far as I’ll go. I don’t know enough about Lyor or Kendra, I haven’t seen Leo in ages, Penny is never around enough and the First Lady is this ethereal character who’s there to support Tom, and now, her mother, but who doesn’t really exist in our consciousness as an individual.
And yes, the show has still done pretty decently without us caring about anyone else that much, but in the long run, that’s just not sustainable. We’re still in exactly the same place as we were in episode one – if a bomb goes off, I’m more concerned about Kirkman than anyone else, and at this point, my list of people that need to be saved should be at least up to five.
WHAT THE SHOW DID RIGHT
The one consistent thing, as I’ve said before, has been Tom Kirkman, and he was, once again, the best part of this episode. His scenes with the newly appointed captain of the Verona were some of the most emotional Designated Survivor has done, and both actors played them perfectly, so much so that I found myself emotional in a way I didn’t expect to – as I had no personal experience or could relate in no way to the situation. That’s the mark of good writing, and of course, good acting.
But, the show did one better today, it gave Emily a compelling, interesting backstory – one that made us relate to her in a human way, and, of course, it attempted to correct something I’ve been asking for weeks now, the lack of OTP.
Now, I’m not sure I’m aboard the Seth/Emily ship, if there’s such a thing, but I’m glad the show seems to at least recognize that we need to care about more than the day to days of the White House and that they need to give us a romance, because, honestly, love is a part of life and an exciting part at that and they’re missing out by not showing that.
Also, they just need to give Italia Ricci all the emotional scenes because that woman is a powerhouse and I’ll buy whatever she’s selling, all she needs is the right material.
WHAT THE SHOW NEEDS TO DO MOVING FORWARD
Develop the secondary characters. Delve into Aaron’s background more. Pursue the Seth/Emily thing, if you must. Give Seth more of a backstory, while you’re at it. Focus on these three if you have to, but make me care about something other than the President.
Also, for the love of God, bring back Leo. There were so many interesting possibilities with him around, and the show just …dropped him. I don’t know if it has to do with actor availability or what, but a little glimpse at Kirkman’s family life that doesn’t revolve around the mess with his mother in law would be appreciated.
So, I guess my point is – you’ve proven you can do it, Designated Survivor. We care about one person. We really, really, care. Now make us care about someone else. Please.
Other things to note:
- “You know what I think?” “That for 6 billion the thing should be able to levitate?” “Damn straight.”
- HEY, WE AGREE.
- First time Seth says something I think the current real life President would agree with: he called the press corps the hyenas.
- “My lack of sleep is profound.” And yet you look like an angel, Emily.
- Kirkman geeking out with Will about the ship is my aesthetic.
- I’m with Hannah, there is absolutely nothing to talk about, Damian. NOTHING. I FEEL NOTHING.
- Seth is back to delivering actual wisdom, thank God.
- I really didn’t expect Designated Survivor to make me tear up, but there I was, holding back tears at the final conversation in the bunker.
- As for Emily’s father, can we hit him?
- Not sure about Seth/Emily, really, really not sure. But I guess I’m open to the possibility – though it feels like a waste to set up Aaron/Emily to then drop it the way they did.
- I can’t say I dislike the shady Secretary of State thing. This show needs to up the stakes again, and I’d rather sacrifice him than anyone else.
- Mike is my absolute fave.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.