Take 9/11 and multiply it by a thousand, and that’s the recipe going into ABC’s new drama Designated Survivor. Suddenly the world has turned upside down, and our only hope is the man who was on his way out the door.Â Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. We meet him on the day he gets fired, which is also the day he becomes the most powerful man in the world. He can’t quit because the whole world in watching, and he can’t run because there’s nowhere to run to. You can’t have a country without a leader, so what choice does he have?
Up until this point he’s a normal, happy go lucky guy. Though he’s a member of the Cabinet, he’s a goofy dad to two kids with a happy marriage. Alright, the fact that his son is a drug dealer is not so great, but other than that things are okay. Tom Kirkman is an idealist. He believes in the people more than the agenda. His Chief of Staff Emily is more of a proactive bulldog than he is. Because he is on his way out the door with the consolation of an ambassadorship, Kirkman becomes the Designated Survivor during the President’s State of the Union address. Kirkman is bestowed this role because nothing has every come of it, until now. The State of the Union is barely a few minutes in before the screen goes black and a bunch of Secret Service agents swarm Kirkman and his wife Alex.
Kirkmn opens the window and sees a giant black cloud where the Capitol building stood moments earlier. No one in or around the building ever had a chance. It’d be easy to dismiss this as an unthinkable situation, but remember 9/11. We all thought that was unthinkable, and this entire hour takes us back to that place. Everything is in chaos, no one knows what is or isn’t safe anymore, but this time there’s the added element of having no clear leader. Yes, Tom Kirkman is the designated survivor so by law he automatically becomes the President. He’s just never been a leader.
A leader is exactly what the country needs as not even those in positions of power who survived within know exactly how to handle things. Kirkman fully admits he has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s the only option. Even the new president’s speech writer Seth White has to remind others that this law was set in place for a reason. A good country has to think about the unthinkable, the absolute last resort. Actually dealing with it is something else entirely. Kirkman can try to be confident, but he’s more scared than anyone else. He can’t even process the enormity of the lives lost because within the hour he is sworn in, must prevent a nuclear incident with Iran, and rally his strength to address the world in his first speech. The new president handles his duties as honestly as he can while making the slow transition into a leader. It may not matter how hard he works since those remaining in power are already thinking of ways to get him out of office.
You think you’ve seen the worst, but FBI Agent Hannah Wells isn’t so sure about that. In fact, given how abnormally quiet the usual suspects have been, Wells believes the attacks are just beginning.
Though Tom Kirkman was never officially elected, does he have your vote?
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 1 Review: "Pilot"
ABC’s new drama Designated Survivor sets the stage for Kiefer Sutherland, and the rest of us, to face an uncertain future.