Last week, Designated Survivor started off strong, and proved itself to be a show with legs. What works so well for the show is that Tom Kirkman doesn’t come off as a character who’s a typical politician—he seems like one of us, an average guy, and a guy who never would have thought he’d be the Commander-In-Chief. “Day One” picks up where the pilot left off, and it’s now the first full day of Tom’s presidency. The media is bashing his speech, everyone working in the White House has their own opinion about what the next steps should be, and this week’s episode shows us that this will be a series that takes on social issues as well.
As Tom proceeds with what will prove to be a very long day, he is introduced to Kimble Hookstraten, a congresswoman who was selected by the Republicans to be their designated survivor. Based on her experience as a politician, it seems like she’s someone who may be better suited than Tom to be the president. Nevertheless, in a private meeting between the two of them, she is encouraging and offers her full support behind Tom. She tells him, “This is your house now. So make it your own.” But is Kimble really that supportive of Tom? No doubt, as a member of the opposing party, she’s likely going to prove to be something of an adversary down the road, especially if other powerful people conspire to make Tom give up his role as president.
In the situation room, Tom is told by the general and other important Pentagon folks that the FBI is 75% sure who was responsible for the attack, and so it’s time to publicly accuse them. Tom is shocked, feeling that 75% is not enough to point the finger just yet. After all, a 75 is still a C, as Tom says. The general tells Tom he’s giving him an enemy they can kill. Tom responds, saying, “Come back to me with more than 75 percent and I’ll launch the damn missiles myself.” In the end, Tom shows that when push comes to shove, he’s not afraid to fight to get what he wants.
Tom is brought to the bombing site of what was once the Capitol Building. The site is filled with various people at work—FBI, firefighters, military, policemen. Tom grabs a bullhorn to address the spectators. In what may have been a deeply moving speech, Tom’s address to the people is interrupted by a viral video catching everyone’s attention of a 17-year-old Muslim getting beaten up by a cop in Michigan. Instead of an inspiring moment, everything suddenly gets chaotic and Tom is evacuated out of the area as some of the spectators form into an angry mob.
Earlier in the episode we saw how terrible Governor Royce is. He’s allowing policemen in his state to arrest innocent Muslims, believing that while they may not be radical, someone’s bound to know someone who is. Now that there’s viral video out of a man getting beaten to death, Tom has to stop Royce. Royce doesn’t recognize Tom as the president, and so he is forced to flex his muscle once more. Tom tells Royce that undercover Homeland Security agents have been arrested because of Royce’s xenophobic actions, and that if he doesn’t stop the police from committing more arrests and demand the release of innocent victims, there will be consequences. Royce ultimately gives in, giving Tom another small victory against people who underestimate him.
That morning, when Seth was on his way to work at the White House, he was stopped by two policemen. Why? Simply because he was brown. They let him go, but they’d obviously committed racial profiling and were rude to him for no reason, even asking if “Seth Wright” was really his real name. Later that night at a vigil, Seth comes across another cop, who approaches him. Thinking he’s about to be harassed once more, Seth is surprised when the cop politely asks if he lost someone. Seth says he’s lost everyone. It’s a great, emotional moment that presents us with two people who come together to mourn over those lost.