Bursts of red and blue pierce the darkness overshadowing the nation’s capital on a terrifying and somber occasion. As D.C. is attacked, Kiefer Sutherland (“24”) steps in, not to save the day as Jack Bauer in “24,” but to lead the free world as Thomas Adam Kirkman, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current president of the United States.
“Designated Survivor” premiered Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. on ABC. The episode began with a slow panorama of D.C. shrouded in the dark, accompanied by foreboding instrumental music as a text overlay succinctly defines a designated survivor. As callous as it sounds, a chosen Cabinet member is chosen to be sheltered in a safe location during the State of the Union and is next in line for the Presidency.
In the first 30 minutes, the scenes move swiftly after an explosive terror attack on the Capitol rocks the foundation of the United States government. The continuity of government is enacted, and Kirkman is whisked
away to be sworn in wearing his Cornell sweater, sneakers and Clark Kent glasses.
Soon after President Kirkman steps in, he finds himself in the bathroom vomiting — a natural and real reaction to becoming the most powerful man in the world. This leads to an embarrassing interaction with speechwriter, Seth Wright (Kal Penn, “House”), as Wright does not realize that it is Kirkman he is talking to over the stall and reveals his honest and very low opinion of Kirkman, saying he has “no business running the country.”
The temperate hand of President Kirkman riles many of those working around him, like the deputy chief of staff and U.S. army general. His seconds old title in the Department of Housing and Urban Development makes him ripe for gibes against his credentials, experience and constitution to take upon the presidency.
An added bonus to the list of characters is the introduction of Maggie Q (“Nikita”) as FBI Agent Hannah Wells who is responsible for the investigation of the terror attack. As plot twists go, series creator and writer David Guggenheim will have a wealth of added drama to work with.
What may be a weak subplot is Kirkman’s drugged-out teenage son. With all the action of the main storyline, this added drama seems a bit distracting and should have been waiting in the wings as a potential story if needed.
Overall, the show boasts an extraordinary cast, an interesting plot and has a lot of potential. The episode introduced many interesting arcs such as conspiracy, terrorism and drug dealing. It was very fast paced and the production was alluring — the fire and lights in the middle of the night in the heart of D.C. made for a very surreal feeling. It is always a pleasure to see Kiefer Sutherland and Maggie Q on TV, and the intrigue will keep the audience at the edge of their seats. “Designated Survivor” had a great pilot, and hopefully it can keep the momentum running for the rest of the season.