Designated Survivor 1×02: “The First Day”

In Designated Survivor’s second episode, a second (Republican party-)designated survivor makes her appearance as Kirkman learns that his first presidential address didn’t inspire confidence in anyone; there is an outbreak of racial profiling that leads to the death of a teenager; Kirkman visits the site of the attack only to have violence erupt there too; and the shiny-haired, mumbly FBI agent played by Maggie Q tries to prove a theory that an undetonated bomb is a plant rather than evidence that terrorist group al-Saqqar committed the bombing.

Read on for a rundown of the highlights, and the moments that made us shake our heads.

Highlights

  1. A joke! “You don’t need to get up every time I walk into a room. I’m not the queen,” Kirkman tells a staffer. For some reason that cracked me up. (Look, it’s already fairly obvious this show isn’t going to be notably witty, so I feel this brief flash of humor deserves a mention.)
  1. Moments after we see two FBI agents agreeing that there needs to be heightened security around all high-value targets, we get to see what that means: Seth, the speechwriter played by Kal Penn, being stopped by police officers because he’s walking around DC with a backpack. “Stay safe,” they tell him politely after a long, tense scene in which they ask for his ID without giving a reason and stare at him balefully until it comes up clean.
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Kimble Hookstraten inexplicably googles Kirkman at the end of the episode. Are these the dreamy eyes of a woman discovering hidden depths in a man? The slitted eyes of a woman with an evil master plan? Both? I couldn’t really tell.

  1. Kimble Hookstraten, absurd as her name is, is a fun new character. As the designated survivor of the Republican party, she marches into the White House like she owns the place (a nice contrast to how the hapless Kirkman walks in, his eyes darting around, like he’s nervous to be there) and backhandedly insults his speech. She’s eminently competent and confident, which just makes Kirkman look more nervous and incompetent.

Headshakes

  1. Kirkman emerges in the morning and asks his guard “Which way to the West Wing – right or left?” OK, leaving aside the fact that he must have been in the White House plenty of times as a cabinet member, didn’t anyone give the guy a tour? How did he find his bedroom? Did he and his wife just sleep in the first empty room they found? Let’s review: this is a president who didn’t know what a designated survivor was until yesterday, and apparently, can’t find the West Wing in the White House. I feel very good about the future of this fictional America.
  1. Kirkman reveals to a giant room full of people he barely knows, including people who are literally from the opposing political party, that he lied to a governor to get people released from jail (he told him he’d accidentally rounded up three undercover agents in an ongoing investigation). Let’s guess how long that stays a secret.
  1. Kid is told to keep younger sister away from the TV. Kid spends hours playing cards with younger sister but then gets a call, says “I have to take this” like he’s a forty-year-old lawyer expecting a settlement offer or something, and leaves younger sister alone in a room with a TV. Like if you weren’t even going to try to do a good job on this, why bother playing with the little munchkin for the first three hours of the night? (And let’s not even talk about the fact that everyone in this family, even post-millennial Penny, apparently still gets their news from TV.)
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Maggie Q makes this face a lot while thinking about her missing boyfriend, a Generically Handsome White Man who already deeply bores me.

  1. At the end of the episode, there are shouts that a survivor’s been found in the rubble. Hannah Wells, Maggie Q’s hunch-having FBI agent, gets super excited that it might be her missing boyfriend, and the episode ends on that “cliffhanger.” Clearly the show thinks it’s done a better job of making us care about Hannah Wells’ boyfriend than it actually has.
  1. After that one reasonably subtle scene where he is questioned by the police, Kal Penn is repeatedly forced to spout what, on ABC, passes for wisdom as he observes the various ways in which American society is disintegrating in the wake of this attack. At one point, he says of the Michigan governor who’s apparently ordered police forces to round up Muslims in droves for questioning, “Why are you so surprised? Tragedy either makes people appreciate their fellow man or fear them.” The mismatched pronouns are probably the least embarrassing thing about this line.

 

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