‘Designated Survivor’ 2×13 Review: This Should All be Really Sad

…if we, you know, cared?

Harsh, I know, but had to be said. Designated Survivor’s winter finale ended with a not-so-shocking (if you’d heard the news of Natascha McElhone’s departure) death that feels way less emotional and anticlimactic than it should.

Add to that Hannah’s supposedly hard choice of confronting/shooting Damian after discovering he was a traitor, and Designated Survivor delivered two situations that, on paper, should have had us at the edge of our seats, and in reality, were just …things that happened to the people we actually care about.

Because, let’s face it. No one cared about Damian. We didn’t know him, we weren’t invested in his relationship with Hannah, and if there’s even a little bit of sympathy in us for that situation, it’s because Hannah – for reasons we can’t truly comprehend – seems to be hurting. Nothing more.

The First Lady is a different story. We did care about her, once upon a time. Season 1 made great use of Natascha McElhone, and though she wasn’t as prominent as Kiefer Sutherland, we were still invested in her story, in their family.

Not anymore. And it’s not because she hasn’t been around in Season 2, she has – it’s because the storyline that they’ve given her has made her look irrational, at times, and borderline unlikeable at others. She has been the character that has suffered the most of plot contrivances that exist merely to prop up other characters, with the unfortunate result that, right now, as we lose her, the stakes are just not as high as they should be.

Plus – there’s always the bitter taste in our mouth – the one that says, yes, this is somewhat uncharted territory, yes, this is an interesting storytelling avenue, but why do female characters always have to die to advance a man’s storyline?

Even that complaint feels a bit perfunctory in this case, because truth is, in this show, everything exists to prop up Tom Kirkman, and though it’s good that we care so much about the main character, that we identify so much with him, it’s also bad that we only seem to muster up emotions when it comes to him.

Sure, Emily (and Italia Ricci, in general) is a breath of fresh air and it feels particularly refreshing that the show never treats her as somehow less capable of doing her job just because she’s young, beautiful and female. Yes, Aaron is compelling in almost anything, because Adan Canto exudes energy and because the glimpses we’ve gotten of the man behind the mask make us yearn for more. And yes, Seth is still compelling at times, even if he’s not as charming as he was in season 1.

But that’s about it. Lyor has his moments, but it’s that, moments. Same goes for the kids, who are rarely present, and who we have to assume will be more important from now on. Hannah is one of our favorites, when she’s falling for people we can’t even understand why she likes. Mike is stoic and kind of endearing, but distant.

This is a problem because the story this show intends to tell after a shakeup of this magnitude, the story of what comes after, the story of finding a new normal, the story of mourning, is a story that requires us to care about Tom Kirkman, yes, but it’s also a story that requires us to connect with the people around him, and so far, in that respect, particularly in Season 2, the show has failed spectacularly.

But hey, it’s a 2.5 month hiatus. A lot of things can be fixed in such a long time. Let us hope with 2018 comes enough character development to make us care about more than the President.

Other things to note:

  • I could probably make this review one thousand words of Adan Canto is so hot, but to be honest, Adan Canto is too hot for words.
  • When a show goes out of its way to make a character too likeable or too unlikeable, you know something’s coming.
  • And not something good.
  • Chuck finally says what we’re all thinking about Damian.
  • Chuck is more interesting to me than Damian has ever been.
  • Why is Hannah so desperate to believe in Damian? WHAT HAS HE DONE TO EARN HER LOYALTY?
  • “You’re toast, mate.” MOOD.
  • Being mean to kids, and on Christmas. You should be ashamed of yourself Lyor. Also, you should KNOW better. Isn’t the whole reason you’re around that you’re the kind of person who knows insulting kids on Christmas is a bad idea?
  • So Hannah just shot a guy, walked away and went to a bar? Is that how it works now? No police, no looking for the body, no questions, nothing?
  • If I’m going to suspend disbelief, at least let it be for something important.
  • The music at the end made it about 7364567432 times worse, and that’s coming from someone who figured this was coming.
  • Kiefer Sutherland made it worse too. Because Kiefer Sutherland can act. Also, Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman is, as I’ve said many times before, our favorite.
  • Also, talk about ruining Christmas.

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

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