Boxset Binge: Designated Survivor – Season 2 Review

The second season of the ABC Political Drama Designated Survivor continues to be a highly watchable and exciting series, even if it does lack some of the pop and intensity of the brilliant first season.

Set over a year after a bombing of the Capitol Building murdered every politician in the US government, including the President, the second season of Designated Survivor follows the new President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and his team as they try to navigate their way through the threats to their administration, both internally and externally, in this new political landscape. Though it could be argued that there isn’t one clear plot threat in this season when compared to the explosive first and too many episodes are filler, there is enough excitement to make viewers carry on to the following episode. The threat of a hacker who shuts down national system and leaks sensitive material about the President to the public, as well as a tragic event that changed the lives of the Kirkmans forever, are both powerful enough to maintain political tension in the White House and exciting sequences involving FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q).

The lack of one clear narrative does mean that the pacing is affected somewhat. In comparison to the first season’s almost seamless building of tension, this one prefers to have several smaller events, including the discovery of Patrick Lloyd, the man responsible for blowing up the Capitol Building, an explosion in a subway station and the subsequent investigation into that, and finally the discovery of the hacker who has been causing much pain for President Kirkman’s administration. Every time once of these smaller narratives come to a close, there is a lull of two or three episodes before the pacing picks up again. The final two episodes encapsulate this perfectly; they are oddly lacking in a bold narrative, despite a rogue gunman targeting a member of the White House staff and Kirkman pondering with whether he should run again for President as an Independent candidate or lose his essence and run as one of the two major political parties. It would have been preferential for one or two of these small narratives to be left on the cutting room floor in favour of the major one, the hacking of the country. The two major questions left at the end of the season does mean that the series has somewhere to go in the future, but it is not as explosive at that which ended the first.

The acting this season is generally good, with Kiefer Sutherland at his best when a tragic accident leaves him as a broken man. There are several new characters introduced as White House staff and they all bring new elements to the show – most notably Paulo Costanzo as the very dry and socially awkward Political Director Lyor Boone. Though some of the personal growth is done well, such as Emily’s (Italia Ricci) desire to do whatever it takes to protect her President, there are a couple of cheesy relationships between staff members that don’t really contribute to much. Maggie Q is once again a force to be reckoned with as Agent Wells, especially when she gets involved with a handsome British agent (Ben Lawson). However the larger cast means some, such as Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), who was a major player last season, is reduced to doing very little indeed, which is a bit of a waste to his character’s potential.

ABC ultimately cancelled Designated Survivor after the second season, with Netflix picking it up for ten more episodes later on. Whilst it is true that this season did lack the spark and excitement of the first, it was a very tough act to follow. Though the focus of the writing did let the show down at times, it was still a season that was very enjoyable to watch, to the point where every episode was watched back-to-back. I will definitely still be continuing to watch the final season of the show, hoping that missteps aren’t repeated.

Star Rating: 4/5

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