This week’s episode of Designated Survivor manages to breathe energy back into the series. With “The Results,” it felt as though the series’ procedural formula was starting to get a little too mundane, but this week’s installment shows us that said formula can also be used to create great drama. This week’s crisis focuses on an NSA whistleblower, à la Edward Snowden. Not only is the topic reflective of the real world, it also helps advance the series’ story arc in an excitingly unpredictable fashion.
Gabriel Thompson, the whistleblower, forfeits his life and career just so he can talk one-on-one with the President?! With a story like this an involving a whistleblower, we might have expected Thompson to have disgraceful dirt on Kirkman, or to harbor designs on breaking apart an already fractured government. It’s not only an unforeseen moment—it also portrays Thompson in a human way. We see that he’s not some lone anarchist, but a man on a mission who might actually have something important for the President’s ears only.
It’s been a mystery as to how someone like MacLeish, a well-respected veteran and congressman, could be in so deep with the terrorists—and now we know. It makes so much sense now! MacLeish is not simply a bought congressman: He knows the man responsible for the Capitol bombing personally, having served in the same combat unit,. When Hannah sees the picture of the two of them together right after hearing all those appraisals of MacLeish, we realize he’s far more powerful and sinister than we might have guessed.
Every week Kirkman seems to do something grand that outwits some opponent, and this week it takes the form of saving Emily’s job. When Kirkman approached the senator holding a file containing all of Thompson’s dirt on him, we know he’s hit another one out of the park. And even though these moments might seem repetitive, it never gets old. Kirkman’s adversaries come from various occupations, each with his or her distinct angle of opposition to him, and so Kirkman must always be on his toes to figure out how to beat them. This time, it’s even more special, as he does it to help Emily—one of the most likeable characters on the show.
As if we never saw this moment coming. Since the pilot, their relationship has been less “will they/won’t they,” more “sooner or later”: If two good-looking people spending nearly every waking hour together (and sometimes getting on each other’s nerves) doesn’t spell “network romance,” I don’t know what does. Even though it was predictable that something would happen between them, Aaron asking Emily out to dinner was cute and fun—as opposed to a crass, popping-buttons-over-the-office-desk moment. We’ll see if they continue to keep it classy.
This was the moment that made the use of a whistleblower character so fantastic. The writers could have had Thompson hand Kirkman personal secrets or information for a future B-plot. Instead, we got to see something much better, putting us in as much shock as Kirkman when he sees the blueprint files made by the Pentagon concerning how to blow up the Capitol. This was by far one of the best moments of the series, showing us that Designated Survivor still has plenty of shocks and twists in store for us. Even though we as the audience have known there’s a traitor, Kirkman finally realizes there are forces working from within the government against the nation. We’re on the ninth episode of the series, and as this moment conveyed, this show plans to go much deeper into the mystery.