Last night’s episode of Designated Survivor took on a different kind of storyline than usual. Instead of Kirkman facing a standalone issue of the week, this episode focuses mainly on Hannah and her attempt to uncover the conspiracy against Kirkman and the nation. It’s a plot device we’ve seen countless times before—person tries to uncover conspiracy while the rest of the world hunts them down. Throughout this season, Hannah’s character has always felt somewhat out of place, given that she’s the one character of note that’s never interacted with Kirkman. Yet this episode drew Hannah and Kirkman’s storylines closer to each other than ever before. Only last week did Kirkman even become aware of Hannah’s existence. After this week’s episode, it’s likely they’ll finally have a face-to-face meeting when the series returns in March.
1. Hannah Escapes from the Accident
Picking up where we left off last week, Hannah wakes up in her car to find herself about to get choked by a “concerned citizen.” In previous weeks, we’d seen that the terrorists were typical, friendly-looking citizens, but this was the first time we saw how it could be not just anyone, but anyone who could be anywhere at any time, ready to kill you. The writers have done a good job at finding good moments to make it feel as though the terrorists could be anyone, from a soccer mom to a kind man happening to pass by an accident.
2. Hannah Finds the Former Chief of Staff
While this is a clever way to convey just how afraid Hannah should be of the terrorists, her finding Langdon alive doesn’t have as much shock value as it could,since we only became aware of his existence earlier in the episode. Had his name been brought up before—in particular with reference to being dead, then Hannah finding him alive and in hiding would be far more compelling. His message to Hannah, while cryptic, makes clear that she’s probably the only person who’s aware of these terrorists who isn’t running to the ends of the Earth. Although Langdon doesn’t say it explicitly, his message is this: You can run, but you can’t hide.
3. “This Isn’t the Time for Weakness”
In the episode’s most surprising (yet simply treated) twist, we learn that MacLeish’s wife is aware of—and in on—the conspiracy. When we first saw her character, the writers painted her as someone who had no idea that MacLeish could possibly be a traitor, but truly anyone on this show, including minor characters from previous episodes, can be capable of awful acts. Between her and MacLeish, she’s the one who appears icier and without a conscience; by contrast, MacLeish continues to wrestle with his secret associated with the organization behind the Capitol bombing—the second time he’s done so, suggesting that he no longer wishes to be part of something so evil, and yet remains trapped by circumstance.
4. Emily Finds Out Aaron Might Be a Traitor
Speaking of anyone in this show possibly being in on the conspiracy, Emily discovers that Aaron sent the email, not his boss. We’ve known Aaron was up to something, that he has a secret or two, so this isn’t a complete twist, but poor Emily! Having developed feelings for him, this revelation ruins her trust and likely any and all affection, at least for the time being. It’s the emphatic punctuation mark on the episode’s core message: Trust no one. What’ll be interesting to see is if this moment sparks a game of cat and mouse between the two, and if Emily will use Aaron’s attraction to her to her advantage.
5. Hannah Shoots at the Sniper
Hannah misses and gets tackled by security, but the sniper manages to pull the trigger—and then the screen cuts to black. It’s a classic (if predictable) midseason cliffhanger, but it works very well. We’re on the edge of our seats wondering who got shot and yet we’re not going to know for three months! Of course, it’ll be a main character. It’s not going to have been some random bystander. (My guess is, it’s Kirkman’s wife, Alex). This was a great way to end the fall season and keep the audience guessing and throwing out theories until the series returns.