I wondered, before the announcement that Designated Survivor had been cancelled; how I was going to feel it the decision was negative. I wondered if I was going to feel sadder for the lost possibilities or happier that this show wouldn’t get a chance to continue on a downward spiral.
You’ll probably be as surprised as I am to hear that I feel sadder than anything today.
Maybe not for the show – it’s been about a season and a half since this show has been truly exciting, groundbreaking television. But for the actors, for the possibilities, for the President we all wish we could have had.
Because that I will miss. The hope. The sense that governing is a thing that can be done, even with little experience, from a place of common sense, a place of empathy. The idea that public service can be a calling, and that not everyone in public office is looking out for number one, no.
So I will miss the idea of Tom Kirkman, probably more than I will miss the actual Tom Kirkman.
I will also miss this show’s matter-of-fact way of dealing with diversity, with a female Chief of Staff, who replaced a latinx Chief of Staff who went on to become National Security Advisor, and a brown Press Secretary who are never called out for being …well, not white men.
Sadly, that’s all I’ll miss. I won’t miss how this show basically turned their most badass character, Hannah Wells, into a lovesick plot device, or the way it turned Cornelius Moss into an antagonist without an actual reason. I especially won’t miss the way they killed off the First Lady or sidelined the President’s kids without ever giving them a chance to shine.
And that’s probably why the show got cancelled. Because I’ll miss the possibilities more than I’ll miss the actual reality of Designated Survivor.
This episode perfectly exemplifies everything that didn’t work about this season, and everything that could have worked, and in a way, it’s fitting that this was the series finale. The whole Seth & Lyor subplot was boring and unnecessary; Michael J. Fox’s guest appearance completely wasted in a character who never seemed to have clear motivations, Hannah’s every second of pointless sentimentality was cringe-worthy and what was even the point of last week’s cliffhanger if it was all going to be solved in 0.2 seconds – or worse, if this show meant to set up Emily as the bad guy two seasons in?
In a way, I’m thankful I don’t have to figure out. I’m thankful I don’t have to spend one more second worried about this show’s wasted opportunities. I’m thankful this is the end.
But, as always – especially for a show that, at times, did an exemplary job of making you relate to some characters, there were bright spots. Leo Kirman, for example. I’m sad he never got the backstory from the original version of the Pilot, and I’m sad we never saw more of Kirkman’s family life after those first few episodes, because I think there was so much there that could have been explored in ways that would have served the show more than whatever it is Michael J. Fox did in the past few weeks.
And, of course, there was Tom Kirkman, the man who we loved mostly because he was always what we wanted for in real like: someone who wasn’t there to play games, but someone who was there to do the right thing. Even if that was hard. Especially if that was hard.
It was nice to believe that could be real.
This is the end of the line, most likely, for Designated Survivor. Other shows have been saved, and there’s been rumblings that this one could be too. As much as I’ve loved some parts of it, as much as I’d vote for Tom Kirkman, as much as the thought of not having Italia Ricci or Kal Penn or Adan Canto in my TV every week hurts me, I don’t think it should be. At least, not without a clear way forward.
Shows like Brooklyn 99, Lucifer, and my beloved Timeless, who’s still hanging in limbo, those shows have many more stories to tell. This show has been telling stories it didn’t need to tell for way too long. It’s time to say goodbye.
Farewell, Designated Survivor. I won’t miss you.
I will, however, miss what you could have been.
Designated Survivor Season 2 aired Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC. The show was not picked up for Season 3.