The TV Series Review Vol. 3 No. 4: Declare your Independence, Vote for Kirkman; “Designated Survivor” Season 3 Review

Geek Rate: Sun god worthy (4 out of 5 stars)

Netflix to the rescue. After being cancelled by ABC, “Designated Survivor” returns for a third season.

“Designated Survivor” is a political thriller drama about Tom Kirkman, a lowly U.S. cabinet official who suddenly ascends to the most powerful position on earth. He was declared as U.S. president after an explosion during the State of the Union which killed everyone ahead of him in the presidential line of succession. Hastily sworn in as president, Kirkman will have to uncover the truth behind the attack, help build his country from the ashes, while dealing with the politics in Washington.

Did I mention that he is not a politician but an ordinary contractor tapped as a Housing secretary? And he’s not a Dem or a Rep. Crazy, right?

As for now, there are no restraining rules in Netflix that prevented the show to dwell on the issues at hand, and effectively affecting the depth of its narrative. Netflix is a free land, and “Designated Survivor” can say anything it wants to say, cast actors, white or not, who it wants to be in the White House, and show the uncomfortable truth.

148848_2764-1014x570Without the constraints of TV network rules, “Designated Survivor” has finally able to become the show it really wants to be. From day one, it wants to relay the politics in Washington, the real deal. It is tricky, but the reality of airing a show with social commentaries is not easy, more so the plain delivery of the good and bad sides of U.S. politics. To be fair, the first two seasons under ABC contains relevant political and social commentaries from Kirkman and the other characters of the show. But it felt constrained. Like it was afraid that someone was watching, which was the case of course. At times, it felt like a boring debate between actors sitting inside the Oval office. It lacked conviction. The lines in the third season were an improvement, but a bore to watch sometimes. The social commentaries from real people, the real pressing issues and problems they air on the show was a breath of fresh air. It gives the authenticity the show lacked on its first two seasons, at times stirring it in the right direction, when the characters feel lost or their lines were becoming monotonous and not authentic. The interviews with those ordinary people gave me chills.

The Characters


-Designated-Survivor-Character-Portrait-Tom-Kirkman-designated-survivor-39619239-2250-3000Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman is perfect as president. His demeanor and the way he interacts with the White House staff makes me wonder if I was watching a CNN live video or a TV series. He makes do of what he was given in the script, sometimes bland lines which make it more look like a political reality when delivered by him. Most times though, the script failed to capture the realness of a political speech, and often, it is a cringe worthy experience.

Seth Wright was sadly downgraded in Season 3. With less controversies and the focus of the show in the upcoming election, he has been given second grade status. The effort to introduce his biological daughter just felt so forced. 

Italia-Ricci-as-Emily-Rhodes-designated-survivor-39939332-2250-3000Emily Rhodes has been given a story boost, and her personal life intertwining with her new role in the presidential campaign is one of the bright spots in the show.

Aaron Shore suddenly became the new star of in this season, being picked as the new VP candidate. His character enabled the show to tackle the minority issue which was vital in how they spin the campaign and the plot as a whole.

Adan-Canto-as-Aaron-Shore-designated-survivor-39939333-2250-3000But Aaron was made bleak when teamed up with Isabel Pardo, the character that shone most in the show, apart from Lorraine Zimmer. The creation of her character was brilliant, and the way she navigated the scenes, from immigration, healthcare, to minority issues is riveting to watch. “Designated Survivor” is two times better with her character.

Mars Harper I think is something from old TV scripts: a white man who became powerful with wife problems. There’s something lacking with his character development which is a shame. Maybe we would see more in Season 4.

Maggie-Q-as-Hannah-Watts-designated-survivor-39939334-2250-3000Hannah Wells for the most part of the show was separated from the original cast, but the wait in how the subplot involving her character would merge into the bigger picture of the presidential campaign will have the audience n their feet throughout the entire season. It was just fitting to have her character play an important role and have her exit in such a grand fashion (sorry for spoilers).

Lorraine Zimmer the best thing that happened in Season 3. As campaign managers go, she’s fierce and funny, with a drive and experience to win the election. Julie White as Lorraine is perfect. There are few actors in TV series who fit their roles so perfectly they could be playing themselves in real life. White is one of them.

What’s new in Season 3?

4vpo5szijz231Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” delves away from the element of its very first season. Season 1 is about Kirkam as the accidental president, the focus of which is to find the plotters in the Capitol bombing. Season 2 is a bore, which led to its ABC demise: a bunch of political stuff and conspiracies that failed to excite the audience. To be fair, the show has network constraints which prevented it from portraying the issues it wants the American people, and the besieged world population at large, to watch on screen. Well, they snatched the opportunity in Season 3. I felt the production staff of the show were itching to have this season from day 1: the election. The purpose of which is to show the great American divide.

Critics call the show for its bias, showing too much criticisms against the Republicans and little against the Democrats. But the show couldn’t do anything more even if it tried. It would be a bore to attack the Dems. What could it show? That the party was too slow to act on anything? We all know that. The Reps on the other hand, there are soooo much to discuss about, the first and foremost is the fact that it is the party for the white people. All other issues against them stem from that, and man, there are many things wrong with that party that the show happily displayed on screen. Season 3 tried very hard to be a balancing voice, with varying degrees of success. For one, try as it may, Kirkman and his staff look more like Dems than an independent. But certainly not the Reps, thank goodness. Over all, the independent president theme holds for the next season, exemplified by the speech of Mars against the congressional leaders shortly after Kirkman was called the winner.

Geek Rating

helios-256“Designated Survivor” Season 3 obviously is better than Season 2. It managed to excel and soar from the plot of its first season which is a sign of good things to come. This show deserves a sun god worthy rating (4 out of 5 stars).

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