If there’s anything Designated Survivor has to offer, it’s a president we can stand behind. Kiefer Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman is an upstanding Independent who wants to unite the country as much as possible and put the best interests of the nation above all else. Unfortunately, Kirkman fictional, and even in the show he’s not a career politician who would’ve been a strong candidate for president. The position fell into his lap, and as a man who’s not swayed by corruption or power, he truly is a leader for the people. But everywhere Kirkman turns there’s someone standing in his way, questioning his authority. This week, that opposition came in the form of the nation’s 50 governors, who come to Washington to help establish a new Congress. Here are the five best moments from “The Interrogation”:
We still know nothing about this guy. If the previous episodes have made anything clear, it’s that he’s going to be a traitor. Even though he’s got a Jake Gyllenhaal-esque charm and has an alibi for the bombing, there’s still something so shady about MacLeish, especially the smile he flashes when he says he’d be interested in becoming the Vice President. We’re watching you, MacLeish, we’re watching you…
While it doesn’t have much of an effect throughout the rest of the episode, the moment of the attack itself is gripping. Tom is delivering a speech in the White House to the U.S. governors, the only elected leaders left in the country, when there’s another attack, this one in the form of a barrage of bullets. (Tom can never have an easy day.) Even though Designated Survivor does little with the aftermath of the attack, the sequence serves as a reminder that nothing is predictable in this show. As Tom later points out, if the Capitol and the White House can both be attacked, what on Earth is next?
All this time, Nassar has been claiming his organization was responsible for the attack on the Capitol, and now we learn that he’s just a pawn in a much bigger game?! The plot thickens. We also learn the name of the veiled mastermind who’s really behind the bombing: Catalan. If Nassar was just a puppet, then how far does this web of secrecy go, especially considering that MacLeish may very well be a part of the conspiracy? And are there other characters we’ve met that are also associated with this shadowy terrorist group? Nassar came off as such a strong and menacing antagonist, and yet in the moment he reveals Catalan’s name we see him for the small and weak person he is.
This was by far Kirkman’s weakest—and most human—moment as president. It was hard not to feel so sorry for him in that situation, like a kid who gets picked on by the bullies and then runs away. Kirkman wasn’t going to resign and hand over the presidency (and thus end the show) right there, but after seeing him stand up to so many different people who’ve questioned his authority, it was a nice twist to see him give in for a moment. Instead of remaining steadfast and strong, Designated Survivor allows Kirkman a moment of self-doubt, and reminding us in the process that he’s not perfect.
Every episode so far has ended with Kirkman getting what he wants. After some opposition, Kirkman flexes his presidential muscle, and the episode concludes with him as the oh-so-wonderful and upstanding president that seems so rare in the real world. But in “The Interrogation,” for the first time, Kirkman compromises. The governors give him an ultimatum: Follow your conscience or compromise for the sake of keeping the government together.
There’s no easy answer, and in the end we see that Kirkman isn’t always going to convince others to see things his way. It’s something of a relief that Kirkman isn’t quite the hero of “The Interrogation”: Another week of Tom achieving victory and the show would risk becoming too formulaic. By not allowing Kirkman any clear option to fix the situation, Designated Survivor makes the point that sometimes there are only bad choices. The question now is, which one will Kirkman pick?