Designated Survivor – The designated survivor is an individual in the line of succession to the presidential role who is chosen to be within a safe, secure location when the President and other top leaders are gathered at a single location.
Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland), a low-level politician is thrust into the role of President of the USA after a terrorist incident wipes out the majority of the government. He’s faced with multiple issues and fractures in the country both political and violent acts of terror, threatening his position, life and the country.
The series as a whole has a lot of strong points. Kiefer Sutherland provides a strong and likeable performance as President Kirkman, although often feeling a little two-dimensional at times, due to the writing.
The highlight for me however was Maggie Q as Hannah Wells, an FBI agent who certainly grows into her role throughout the series. She becomes the lead action role of the series and does so very convincingly and entertainingly.
Furthermore, the mixture of political thriller and spy espionage and action techniques, plot lines and conventions does work spectacularly well. It really shows the frantic nature of the turmoil the country is put into, on both a physical and political level.
There is no let up for Kirkman and his team, with tough situations and decisions around every corner, not always being able to please everyone. His family life definitely suffers a knock due to this, however this could be explored much more. They drift into the background as the spy thriller plot takes over, but the family aspects which are so important to Kirkman’s character should be much more relevant.
The episode structure itself is strong, providing an enticing opening to demand attention, then allowing a lot of the political aspects to settle in the middle before grabbing the audience with a cliffhanger ending. This isn’t a new concept, and is certainly a structure shows like The Walking Dead follow in order to keep fans coming back every week. However, this leads some episodes feeling more deflated than others in the middle, bringing the quality of the overall series down.
This for me is the main problem with American series such as this. They’re structured in the style of a box set, that the more episodes there are is for the better. This isn’t the case. If a series narrative requires twenty episodes, then that’s how it should be, but most do not need this much time to tell their stories and instead end up full of filler.
Along with this, a few problems concerning dialogue, writing and acting within the series certainly drew me out of my engagement with the series. There’s a few too many cheesy lines or poor deliveries that ruin moments. This is something I often find with these types of American dramas and I always struggle with, unlike say British dramas such as Broadchurch.
In conclusion, the series stands on it’s interesting, engaging and exciting plot which doesn’t fail to entice and entertain. However, there are a few issues regarding writing and series structure which often left me finding myself on my phone (which is never a good sign).
Very enjoyable, but with improvements to be made.
(I will be returning for season 2 later this year)