Designated Survivor - Early thoughts

Designated Survivor - Early thoughts

Series Premiere Date: 21 Sept 2016.

Episodes available: 4 (via @netflixANZ) – weekly release schedule

Skipped pilot and full 22 episode first season has been ordered.


The designated survivor is someone from the US presidential line of succession, that is locked away in a secure location when the President and the America’s other top leaders get together at the State of the Union, presidential inaugurations and other such events.
At this point, it doesn’t take an enormous crystal ball and Nostradamus-like predictive skills to guess that Designated Survivor, the new show on @NetflixANZ leverages this little known US political practice to create a fascinating political-action-drama, where an explosion totally destroys the Capitol Building, killing all in sundry (if that’s a spoiler, this show probably isn’t for you).

The show is centred around the designated survivor, bookish nothing-man Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland), as he is quickly sworn in as President of the United States and “leader of the free world”.

It’s quite the change given that less than 24 hours earlier (see what I did there) Kirkman was contemplating quitting politics.


The first 4 episodes make a promising start. They’re well-paced, the various plot threads provide interesting contrasts (e.g. between the political gamesmanship and the on-the-ground FBI investigation), the cast is strong, there’s enough spots of humour to lighten the mood, and the long-term storyline has massive potential for interesting twists and turns.

On the downside, the compulsory annoying teenager plot line that network’s insist on weaving into shows like this, is ever present. I only hope that it tests poorly and they let it die off quietly.

If like me, you’re a massive Jack Bauer and 24 fan, you might spend the first few episodes in a twilight-zone like state somewhat confused why Kirkman doesn’t punch that annoying bureaucrat in the face for getting lippy or not following instructions. I think this role has enough potential to eclipse Bauer and put 24 to bed permanently, although one viewer in our household did ponder whether Sutherland has a bit of a god-complex only choosing roles that involve saving the world….

I’ve read another review online that describes the show as mixing the political concerns of West Wing with the paranoid conspiracies of Homeland. If Designated Survivor gets anywhere near those two classics, then it’ll be a great watch.

[+] Ravens

  • Kiefer Sutherland returns to the small screen
  • Political drama and terrorist conspiracies in the same show
  • A welcome change of pace from brutalist survival horrors

[-] Ravens

  • Annoying teenage son plotline
  • New episode every 2 weeks or so - Too long to wait

Author: @simon_ob

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