With the third season of Designated Survivor.
Designated Survivor seemed done for good back in May 2018 when ABC announced its cancellation after two seasons. Rumours of a rescue amounted to nothing for months, and fans had every reason to give up hope up until the official renewal order came down from Netflix in September 2018. The new season comes with a new platform, a new set of challenges for Tom Kirkman and a way new, “edgier” style, now that it’s a Netflix show.
When I reviewed this show back when the second season ended, I said that the show is “a faster-paced House of Cards with more action and explosions”. This time, it turns around to be more of a West Wing mixed with a little of 24. And that, to me, seems like a good progression to the show, not letting it stale due to the same format.
The show still continues back where the last season ended, with the President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) running for another term, one that he earns on the campaign trail this time instead of becoming President by default, like he did the last time.
We see President Kirkman being confronted with a problem and him having to chose between the morally right decision and the politically right decision. Kirkman, obviously, is running for the president as an Independent which is obviously an anomaly, but that makes him not at all confined by the policies of either the Democrats or the Republicans; nor makes him under the control of external lobbyists or businessmen. More often than not, we see Kirkman choosing the principled decision and then spinning that off as an act of a rebellious independent. Although the occasional political decision by him cost him the respect of his close white house staff.
Well, as the previous seasons did, there also exist a terrorism sub-plot this year, to give Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) something to do. The season-long arc this time involves a white supremacist group trying to unleash a biochemical virus targeting people of colour. The story though, runs as a side-plot this season rather than being the focus of the series.
A big change that the move to Netflix brought to the show is the active cursing. Finally, the show isn’t restrained with the rules that the cable networks need to follow for their shows. In fact, the cursing is so prevalent that at times it feels gratuitous, but who cares! It’s a better representation of how profane Washington D.C. is than ABC’s sanitized version.
As the Kirkman campaign takes the pulse of America to see what people think of issues, there are several scenes of “real people” giving their opinions on topics from voting to transgender rights. Well, turns out those are REAL real people, because producers took documentary crews out in the wild and let regular citizens talk about the same issues that episodes cover in their issue-of-the-week storylines. They were cut together and thrown into the episodes for authenticity, and it’s a cool way to make each episode more topical.
It’s a comfortable change, to view a show that validates our aggrieved feelings towards the political scenario that exists in the US, and it’s a nice change to see a President taking the morally right decision, or even at least struggle to, even if we see this in a fictional environment.
We all know about the death that was the part of the season 2, but that’s nothing compared to what happens this season. The big goodbye in Season 3 is even bigger, with a major character leaving the series for good in a yes, they are definitely dead kind of way. Though one could argue the death is long overdue because of this character’s storyline and its place in the show, the character is still one of the best of the bunch. People will be sad about it, no doubt.
The staff members all have their own personal issues to contend with, as well, to give Designated Survivor some more drama. This season, the MVP of the show, the Press Secretary, Seth Wright (Kal Penn), has a shocking genealogical surprise. Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), who plays the National Security Advisor, is now the running aid to Kirkman as a Vice President candidate, but is struggling with his own identity — he is nominated by the campaign and Kirkman to secure the Hispanic vote, but he has spent much of his life trying to distance himself from his heritage — which as a struggle even intensifies for him with his girlfriend also being LatinX. We also see, Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) return to work on the campaign, but her drama involves her mother dying of cancer at home who wants her daughter to help her end her life (assisted suicide being legal in some states). Meanwhile, the wife (Lauren Holly) of the Chief of Staff (Anthony Edwards) is an opioid addict. Sasha (Jamie Clayton) also appears in a recurring role as the President’s transgender sister-in-law.
Overall, the season 3 is much better, compared to the much weaker storyline that the season 2 had after an amazing season one. Considering that the show is currently ranking high on IMDb and is one of the most binged shows according to TV Time, there are high chances for Netflix to continue with a season 4, and I really can’t wait for the same.