TV Review – Designated Survivor ‘Pilot’

TL;DR –  A great opening episode, that advances the drama, grounds the show, and gives us the groundwork for an interesting mystery.

Score – 4 out of 5 Stars

Designated Survivor. Image Credit: ABC.


I’ve been looking for a while now for something to fill The West Wing sized hole in my life and lot shows have tried. Homeland is a critical darling, but I found it a bit meh, Commander in Chief had a good start, but could not escape its premise, House of Cards is brilliantly done, but too depressing for the inner optimist in me, in fact the closest I have got to this is Parks and Rec. So I was really interested to see if the new Designated Survivor could be that show, and from the first episode the signs are quite positive.

A designated survivor is the term used to describe a Cabinet official that is specifically left behind at the State of the Union to maintain the Presidential Line of Succession in the case of a catastrophic event. In Designated Survivor our designated survivor is Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (13th in the line of succession for those playing at home). Tom does not have political background as most of his colleagues as he came from the academic world before he was appointed, and indeed he pays attention in cabinet meetings, which must mean he has superpowers because sitting in those type of meetings is death in itself. He of course has his wife Alex Kirkma (Alex Kirkma) who works as an attorney whilst trying to raise a family. Like all political TV show families, he of course also has a rebellious teenager at home, who like selling drugs to make money, so I’m sure that will not have any drastic repercussions. This is part of the show I can’t help but roll my eyes at, because it is so cookie cutter, whilst the rest of it is at least trying to be a bit fresh. So as well as the Kirkman family, we have the staff at the White House, the Secret Service, the FBI investigating the blast, the Armed Forces (who some would prefer to be running the country) and this creates an interesting mix of character to draw from.

From a production stand point the opening played really well, you know from the title of the show and the opening crawl that the vast majority of the government was about the be killed in some kind of attack, and since the show knows that you know it plays on that by having this slow build of tension, waiting for that moment the TV coverage cuts out. As well as this, I like how it subverts a lot of your expectations, for example when chaos is reigning the Presidential Operations Centre, you are expecting Kirkman to take control, and instead he ends up vomiting in the bathroom. I would like to see a little bit more work with the special effects, they do look a bit fake around the edges and night time can’t hide all your sins.

I really liked this opening it peaked my interest by setting everything up but also by setting it up in a way so that does not become overwhelming. My big hope is that they don’t fall into the Lost trap of having answers to mysteries just present more questions whilst not actually solving anything. So I’ll be watching this season through to the end (hopefully) and I look forward to seeing where it goes because the opening pilot was a strong foundation to build from.

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you Seen Designated Survivor?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.

Directed by – Paul McGuigan
Written by – David Guggenheim
Created by – David Guggenheim
Staring – Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, Tanner Buchanan, Kal Penn & Maggie Q


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