Netflix UK TV review: Designated Survivor: Episode 11
Ivan Radford | On 15, Mar 2017
Warning: this contains spoilers. Not caught up with Designated Survivor? Read our spoiler-free review of Episode 1 here.
So, where were we? If you haven’t read our spoiler-filled look at the end of Designated Survivor’s first half, or somehow forgotten what happened in the midseason finale, the current state of Kiefer Sutherland’s enjoyably ridiculous political thriller can be summed up in five words: the President has been shot.
Yes, President Kirkman, the random housing secretary who accidentally became Commander in Chief of the US of A, after a bomb wiped out most of the Capitol, was shot by a sniper working for Vice President Peter Macbeth – sorry, MacLeish – who is scheming to take the top job himself, literally moments after he was sworn in as VP. But this is Kiefer Sutherland we’re talking about: Kirkman may be shot, but he’s not dead. However, he does have some shrapnel in his chest, which means he’ll have to go under the knife (and some anaesthetic) for several hours – and, even more dramatic than that, he’ll have to invoke the 25th amendment, which temporarily puts the VP in charge of the country.
Yes, for the second time in the course of only one season, an unqualified man has unexpectedly become the President of the United States. Because if you’ve got a theme, might as well stick with it, right?
Macbeth, though, isn’t like Kirkman: he’s a Bad President. Fortunately, anyone with half a brain has realised, and so Hookstraten agrees to keep an eye on Macbeth in case his does anything, well, Macbeth-like. Lady Macbeth – sorry, Macleish – is even more dangerous than he is, reminding her husband that their plan to oust Kirkman hasn’t failed at all, because he’s still the VP of the most powerful country in the world. “Blood doesn’t wash, it stains,” she tells him, when he suggests washing their hands – just in case we haven’t clocked how nasty the Macbeths are. Add in a cheerful comment that maybe Kirkman will die in surgery and you have a wonderfully despicable couple.
“I’ll be watching you,” insists Hookstraten (the brilliantly pushy Virginia Madsen). “Are you threatening me?” Macbeth asks. “Absolutely, Sir,” she replies.
Nonetheless, Macbeth wastes no time in making the most of his power as Acting President, promptly ignoring all the experts in the briefing room when they suggest closing down the stock markets to avoid panic. When the CIA tells him that they’ve tracked down the shooter (Catalan, remember?), he automatically orders them to shoot to kill, rather than attempt to arrest them. The plan, then, is pretty straight-forward: turn things into as much chaos as possible. You know, a bit like a certain someone in a certain White House in real life.
Now that Macbeth’s actually in charge, though, we get a hint that Aaron Shore may not be as cruel as we thought. While he continues to press Emily for information about her secret exchanges with Kirkman – Adan Canto and Italia Ricci’s chemistry remains a highlight of the show – he’s also shocked by Macbeth’s decision to kill Catalan and wipe out a loose end. Is that because he has a conscious after all? Or is just afraid that this spells his own death further down the line?
And so you have it. We’re through the looking glass and firmly into ludicrous territory – and if Kiefer Sutherland has been the key to keeping things grounded so far, we don’t have to wait long until he’s back on our screens. After his initial scenes crying out, while covered in blood, he’s much more composed when he comes around after his operation, immediately wanting to get back to the business of stabilising the country. And so he stumbles up to the window of the hospital, cracks it open and (wearing his sexiest dressing gown) waves to the crowd of journalists and citizens trying to get updates out of Kal Penn’s scene-stealing White House Press Secretary, Seth Wright. Even that wave alone is enough to bring things back into sensible land, with the cheers of the crowd even suggesting that his getting shot may have helped his approval ratings in the long run.
But the MVP of the show, come the midseason finale, wasn’t actually Sutherland but Maggie Q as Agent Wells – and she continues to be at the start of the season’s second half, refusing to crack under interrogation from Agent Ritter, until she gives him the name Catalan to do his own probing. And so we wind up with Wells being taken by Ritter to Kirkman in his hospital bed, both ready to talk about what they know about Macbeth. The result is an hour that manages to resolve Episode 10’s over-the-top cliffhanger without feeling like a cop out, only adding to the daft plot points, instead of undermining them. If it’s only a matter of time until Kirkman unmasks Macbeth, what could possible go wrong next for our unconventional Pres? If Season 1’s concluding episodes can keep up this pace and confidence, we look forward to finding out.
Designated Survivor is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US premiere.