“Designated Survivor” thrives in premiere week
“Designated Survivor” delivers a president we could only dream of in 2016. The political drama follows Tom Kirkman, played by Kiefer Sutherland, in the unlikely turn of events that land him in the oval office.
The pilot episode wastes no time providing the audience with conflict. Armed with nothing but the knowledge that Kirkman is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but is being demoted to an ambassadorship by the current POTUS, a terrorist attack leaves everyone else in line for the presidency dead.
Kirkman is the designated survivor, the person who stays behind at the White House while the POTUS delivers the State of the Union at the Capitol. After the explosion he is swept away by secret service and sworn into office in a sweatshirt.
With the rest of Congress and the executive branch gone, Kirkman has to make a number of important decisions by himself. In a scene that closely resembles the gut reaction following the 9/11 attacks, Sutherland plays a confused and conflicted leader who just wants to do the right thing.
Catapulted into an office that he never wanted to be in, Kirkman seems to be performing the duty much better than real-life politicians. He prioritizes verified intelligence information over partisan views in response to the attack. Sutherland balances the shock of such an attack and the composure of a lifelong politician in a manner that is dreamy to the American electorate.
The actors are clearly still growing into their respective roles but the plot is engaging enough that, for now, viewers can overlook the occasional cheesy delivery of a line. Sutherland also brought a large fanbase to the show following his popular lead role in the TV show 24.
After the ABC series premiered to 10 million viewers, it tracked a record 7.7 million viewers in the first week of playback. With such great reviews, ABC gave orders for a full season of “Designated Survivor” after the first episode.
The popular fictional series is not lost in fact; it is based on the United State’s real continuity of government plan. There is actually a cabinet member who sits out of each State of the Union Address. The only time the plan has been fully deployed was after the 9/11 attacks when President George W. Bush was put on Air Force One, Vice President Dick Cheney was secured in an underground bunker, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was picked up on a helicopter and flown away from Washington D.C.
The plot of the White House being overtaken is not new to Hollywood. However, the high-drama combined with rash accusations made by some advisors, lack of trust amongst the remaining officials, and decisions being made behind closed doors resonates with Americans during this unprecedented election season.
In an era when many people want to eliminate career politicians and start over in the Capitol, this series offers an eerie image of what that looks like. The thought of it is so unnerving that viewers keep tuning in to see what will happen and how America will survive.
Written by Brooklyn Dippo, Editor in Chief