Designated Survivor is a political drama which seems to be trying for a mash-up of terrorism thriller Homeland and the political intrigue of West Wing.
While it achieves neither, Designated Survivor’s combination of the two results in an interesting, if uneven, result.
The story is centred on Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland), a minor government official who is suddenly thrust into the role of president when every other US congressperson and senator is wiped out in a terrorist attack.
The story is split into three general threads: Kirkman trying to adapt to his new position; investigating the attack; and dealing with your standard “Scandal of the Week” filler.
Survivor is at its strongest when it’s following the investigation thread. These moments are genuinely interesting and involve a number of recurring characters, all of whom are fleshed out pretty well.
The rest, sadly, is not as good, especially when it tries to tackle hot-button issues. While the series tries to appear nuanced, it just isn’t deep enough to properly tackle these problems and inevitably comes off as a milquetoast “both-sides” position that doesn’t offer anything meaningful to say.