‘Designated Survivor’ 2×07 Review: The Prodigal Son Returns

Ten minutes into this episode of Designated Survivor, I thought, well, maybe the show is on an upswing. Twenty minutes in, I thought, this may very well be the best episode of the season. Thirty minutes in I said yay, balance at last! By the time “Family Ties” was over, I was actually pretty upset about the fact that this show wasn’t airing a new episode next week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Designated Survivor has never exactly been bad. It just hasn’t been as good at it was during the first few episodes of Season 1 in a while, and though this episode still doesn’t get to those heights, it’s a good sign that it managed to make me care about the Kirkman family storyline, the Hannah storyline AND the political storyline.

Probably helps that, even if we haven’t really seen that much of him in ages, I’m infinitely more invested in Leo than I am in the First Lady’s Mother. It also helps that the Hannah storyline is not all about her, Damian and Chuck going after an unknown anymore, but that Secretary Moss is involved.

And yes, it helps that the Turkey mess got President Kirkman mad. Mad Kiefer Sutherland is my aesthetic.


Even if I have to suspend disbelief regarding absolutely everything that has to do with Turkey, because no way this would ever happen in real life.

Still, that’s one minor gripe in an otherwise excellent episode, so let’s discuss “Family Ties”:



Leo Kirkman is alive and well!

Yes, it really was necessary to start this section like that. We hadn’t seen or heard from Leo in all of Season 2, and saw very little of him in the back half of Season 1, so I was starting to worry about him. Especially considering he’s, BY FAR, the most interesting of the Kirkmans, and yet all we get is Alex, Alex, Alex and some cute shots of Penny.

Now, I should have known that when I asked this I would only be bringing Leo pain. And yet, I’m not even sorry about that, because in this regard, at least, Designated Survivor was pretty damn realistic. No, it’s not easy or fair to be the President’s son, and no, Leo didn’t ask for this, or had time to prepare. In fact, considering all of that, he’s actually handled this like a champ so far. But that, of course, was never going to last.

BECAUSE THIS IS FREAKING HARD. And terrifying. And Leo Kirkman is still a teenager, just one whose issues seem bigger and more important. That’s the drawback of growing up in the public eye.

So, all in all, I was happy we got to see him, not that upset that he had issues, but more importantly, somewhat confused as to why the show made Leo a completely different person by cutting a scene from the Pilot. See, in the original Pilot, Leo was seen kissing a guy, and that was an angle I always really, really wanted them to explore.

That’s what made me interested in the character. That’s what made me connect. And though the scene had been cut, I still sorta hoped they’d picked that up somehow.

Obviously, they didn’t, and Leo Kirkman is a least interesting character because of it. Sullen teenager with girl problems is overdone. Even if that sullen teenager is the son of the President of the United States.



This is a small moment, but considering the recent allegations that have rocked Hollywood and what feels like the state of the conversation about the treatment of women, it’s something that struck me profoundly.

Because, think about it, we have the assistant of a murdered politician supposedly hiding information that could lead to her murderer because she’s worried about her boss’s reputation. Her dead boss’ reputation. Because, as a woman, even if you’re getting a divorce, the appearance of impropriety sullies everything else you are, everything you think.

In the end, that’s not what the story is about. She’s most likely hiding the information because she’s the actual killer, a plot point I can’t say is at all surprising or important, but the issue remains that if Designated Survivor thought to make this point her alibi for keeping secrets, it’s because, as absurd as it is, it’s believable.

No, the world isn’t fair. Neither is it equal. And though this show makes no actual commentary on whether this is a right or wrong, just the fact that these behaviors are being brought to light, and the fact that we’re talking about them is important.

Equality doesn’t start here, but equality cannot be true equality until we place the same expectations on men and women, until we consider their thoughts and ideas separate from who they are in their personal lives – or we don’t, but we do it the same way for everyone.

And TV can lead the way.

Other things to note:

  • “You mean give the bastard some oxygen”
  • Am I the only one who saw Moss in that video and thought OMG TRAITOR instead of OMG AFFAIR? No, right?
  • Angry Tom Kirkman is my aesthetic.
  • She went to “freshen up”? Who uses that expression?
  • “One man matters. One man can make a difference.”
  • Was Eva actually IN the meeting already while they were contemplating the interview? There is such a thing as a cell phone.
  • I’m never getting a mention of what happened between Seth and Emily or what?
  • Well, I never did get one about Emily and Aaron, so I guess that’s on par for the course.
  • While we’re on Aaron, can I just say, again, that the hair gel hurts my heart?
  • Emily has “Come to Jesus” talks with people.
  • Emily’s in charge. She’s not just an important part of this White House, she’s vital.
  • It’s beautiful.
  • Not feeling Hannah/Damian still. Nope.
  • I like Moss. I’m glad he’s not leaving. That being said, that was a tad anticlimactic.
  • Me at the end of the episode: YEEEEEEEEEEEES!
  • Which I realize makes me sound like a masochist, but I like stakes.

Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.

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