Ben Mark Holzberg / ABC

The Designated Survivor Takes A Mulligan

Now that Kirkman has decided he would rather lead the country than react to crises, how will he ZZZzzzzzzz…

You may recall that, last week, President Kirkman delegated the investigation into the bombing conspiracy to Hannah Wells so that he could "focus on governing." That may be a great idea for a president, but it's a terrible idea for this series. Because it leaves Tom Kirkman wading through the swamp of politics, which is not really this show's narrative strong point (when I figure out what is the show's narrative strong point, I will let you know). Kirkman's big idea is to decide that the fabled "first hundred days" of his administration are actually starting now, and he's kicking them off with the most anodyne agenda he and his staff can come up with. Apparently the goal is to build up public goodwill by focusing on issues everyone can agree on (which includes immigration and climate change, in this fictional universe) while steering clear of political third rails. I know it sounds boring, and it would be, if things went as planned. But of course they don't. Which, tragically, is still boring. This show doesn't have the dialogue or characterization chops to pull off what it's trying to do. You'd get a better politics fix from having a fourth-grader summarize the plot of a West Wing episode.

Meanwhile, Agent Wells has been given all the freedom she needs to pursue her investigation, but none of the resources. Maybe that's why she's sucking at it so bad. For more details on that, check the power rankings below, in order of least to most effective, in line of succession format.

  1. First Family
    On the very day of Kirkman's big announcement, Alex responds to an unvetted question about gun control with an unvetted response, which runs counter to the administration's plan to turn the national conversation into a polite dinner table where certain topics are simply not brought up. So then she has to go on TV and say she wasn't speaking for the administration, only to have Tom take her argument even farther during his televised town hall after the fact. I hope she's learned her lesson, Meanwhile, Leo has been relieved of some of his hair and all of his personality, and I guess there's still a daughter in there somewhere.
  2. Secretary of Homeland Security
    Mike who?
  3. Attorney General
    Hannah Wells might as well be on a different show now, for all the interaction she has with what is ostensibly the main plot. And being a one-woman Culper Ring sounds cool except for the part where you still have to depend on your former coworkers to get anything done, and they suck more than they ever did when they were in the office. Sure, Chuck finds "The Mysterious and Calculating Dark-Haired Woman" (her actual designation on IMDb, which also happens to be the best thing about this show) by pulling a fingerprint off a cell-phone photo of her wineglass, but he also lets in a fake technician who plants a bomb that destroys his apartment. And when Wells calls upon her old boss Atwood to come along for the bust, it's more as a favor to him than any need she has, and it's a terrible idea in either case. In the end, she and Atwood have to shoot their quarry, but at least they recover their next clue: computer animations of other American landmarks blowing up! Egad, is there any atrocity these people won't create a cheesy digital simulation of?
  4. President of the United States
    He's trying to do a lot more leading: great! But he seems to think that means he has to do a lot more talking: not so great. Kiefer Sutherland has always had the kind of voice you could never get sick of listening to. Or so you thought.
  5. White House Staff
    In the wake of Aaron's resignation, this West Wing is down to two series regulars: Emily and Seth. To really wrap your mind around that, just imagine for a moment how President Bartlet would do if he had to rely on Kumar and Silver Banshee for everything. But they seem to have things more or less in hand as they relaunch the Kirkman administration and put out fires as they arise. Must be all the help they're getting from walk-on actors.
  6. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
    Kirkman and his staff become peeved when a pro-gun Republican senator from Montana takes up the very gun control fight that Kirkman had hoped to avoid until the hundred-and-first day on the fake calendar. Well, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Or, in the case of plans made by the Kirkman White House, with anyone at all.
  7. Speaker of the House
    Where would we be without Kimble Hookstraten? Well, we know where Aaron would be: unemployed and jogging around D.C. with a degreased head of early-retirement hair that makes him look like one of the Dead End Kids. But the Speaker knows valuable talent when it walks into her office asking for a recommendation, and she snaps him up on the spot. Of course, she's probably also planning to draw on Aaron's inside knowledge of the Kirkman White House to make moves against the president in the near future. But then, if Aaron doesn't already realize that, he's too dumb to be of any other use to her anyway.
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