By Karina Andrianova
Imagine the Capitol is blown up and the less experienced person is the only one who can fix it.
After a massive explosion at the Capitol, low-level White House cabinet member becomes new president of the United States. Ordinary guy Adam Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) used to be the Housing and Urban development secretary before the Capitol with America’s leaders inside was blown up.
From the beginning it feels like the viewer should know at least something about the US political system. Designated Survivor is chosen to guarantee continuity of government in case of a catastrophic event that kills top officials.
An American TV series started in the right time because Trump became the president in January. So, this year two versions of presidency will unfold and no one knows which one is going to be a better one – real or fictional. It would be interesting to compare Kirkman and Trump as both of them have to rule the country with no experience in politics.
Being 12th in the regular line of presidential succession, Kirkman is not the best candidate for the job. It is obvious from the first episode that he has no idea how to deal with on-going political issues such as terrorism and Islamophobia.
Comparing to 24, we see Kiefer Sutherland as a completely different character. Jack Bauer is self-confident and brave while Adam Kirkman feels lost in his new position. However, Bauer and Kirkman have one thing in common – they are smart. Adam finds the best solutions for the political issues, despite lack of knowledge in this sphere. Each episode people around him change their attitude as he shows that he has a backbone.
Kirkman’s wife Alex (Natasha McElhone) supports Adam. “Past presidents didn’t have it all gured out, either. They were just people like you trying to do their best.” The series focuses a lot on this fact until the middle of the season. Fortunately, they stop at the right time when the repetition becomes quite annoying.
While her husband is busy serving the country, Alex takes responsibility of looking after their young daughter Penny (Mckenna Grace) and son Leo (Tanner Buchanan). A strong and smart lawyer, Alex is ready to make decisions and be responsible for the consequences.
Series creator David Guggenheim said: “What Kirkman is going through with his family and how he deals with that with everything that is going on is really important. We do spend real time with Natasha and the kids.”
At the same time the FBI is on the case with agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) trying to find who is behind the death of the America’s leaders. While everybody else thinks that explosion was prepared by terrorists, Wells believes that it could be an inside job. However, Designated Survivor does not focus on the death of the president and congressmen a lot, it shows what happens after the explosion.
After House of Cards and Homeland, it is difficult for any political drama to bring something new. Producer Jon Harmon Feldman said: “There are a few tones at play in the show. There is a West Wing component of a man governing and his team governing our nation at this critical time, it’s also the Homeland aspect of investigating the conspiracy. It also has a House of Cards component, which is the characters and the business of govern- ment through the eyes of these characters.”
There was quite a big challenge for screenwriters not to turn Designated Survivor into a worse version of West Wing. However, they have been doing good so far, developing an unusual content.
First episodes may seem predictable but the longer it goes, the more complicated the plot becomes. Audience does not know a lot about Kirkman, his family or colleagues. Also, there are no flashbacks or background. The viewer just dives into the place.
“What is unique about Designated Survivor is that there has been nothing similar in the TV show industry before.”
It gives the screenwriters an advantage to develop the story in a completely new way. Designated Survivor is not for everyone. As the season goes forward, many questions remain to be answered. However, lack of action and long conversations make some of the episodes boring. If you love political dramas such as House of Cards or West Wing, Designated Survivor is what you will enjoy watching this spring.
Designated Survivor, every Wednesday on ABC and available on Netflix.