Designated Survivor (season 1)

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Designated Survivor (season 1)
Designated Survivor season 1 dvd.jpg
DVD cover
Starring
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes21
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 21, 2016 (2016-09-21) –
May 17, 2017 (2017-05-17)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of Designated Survivor episodes

The first season of the American political drama series Designated Survivor began airing on September 21, 2016 on ABC. The series was ordered straight to series by ABC in December 2015,[1] with a formal announcement of 13 episodes in May 2016.[2][3] Eight days after the premiere, on September 29, 2016, ABC gave the series a full season order.[4] The series is produced by ABC Studios and The Mark Gordon Company, and is filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The series was renewed for a second season on May 11, 2017.[5]

Premise[edit]

On the night of the State of the Union, an explosion claims the lives of the President and everyone in the line of succession except for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Thomas Kirkman, who had been named the designated survivor. Kirkman is immediately sworn in as President, unaware that the attack is just the beginning of what is to come.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Recurring[edit]

  • Mckenna Grace as Penny Kirkman, Tom's daughter and Leo's younger sister.[6]
  • Peter Outerbridge as Charles Langdon, the former Chief of Staff and one of the survivors of the Capitol bombing who provides Wells with information about the conspiracy.
  • Malik Yoba as Jason Atwood, the Deputy Director of the FBI who initially spars with Wells over her investigation into the bombing but quickly becomes one of her most trusted allies.[7]
  • Kevin McNally as General Harris Cochrane, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who refuses to accept Tom as the new Commander in Chief and attempts to take matters into his own hands.[8]
  • Virginia Madsen as Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten, a Republican from Missouri and the designated survivor for the Republican Party who supports Tom's authority while secretly harboring her own agenda.
  • Ashley Zukerman as Congressman Peter MacLeish, a third-term representative from Oregon who becomes a national hero following the bombing but struggles to hide a dark secret.[9]
  • George Tchortov as Nestor Lozano, a former CIA agent and wanted mercenary operating under the name "Catalan" who is heavily involved in the conspiracy.
  • Reed Diamond as John Foerstel, the current Assistant Director of the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and the acting Attorney General who occasionally assists Wells in her investigation.
  • Michael Gaston as James Royce, the Governor of Michigan who openly defies the Kirkman administration and tries to establish his own supreme authority.[10]
  • Mariana Klaveno as Brooke Mathison, a clandestine operator in league with the people behind the Capitol bombing.
  • Jake Epstein as Chuck Russink, an FBI analyst who occasionally assists Wells in her investigation.
  • Lara Jean Chorostecki as Beth MacLeish, Peter MacLeish's wife and a member of the conspiracy who goads him into following through with their agenda.
  • Rob Morrow as Abe Leonard, a disgraced investigative journalist determined to expose the Kirkman administration's secrets.[11]
  • Geoff Pierson as Cornelius Moss, a former President of the United States whom Tom appoints as his Secretary of State.[12]
  • Mark Deklin as Senator Jack Bowman, a Republican from Montana who seeks to raise his national profile by opposing Tom's legislative agenda.
  • Terry Serpico as Patrick Lloyd, the CEO of a defunct private military firm and the mastermind behind the conspiracy.
  • Nick Massouh as Majid Nassar
  • Paulino Nunes as Director Carrera
  • Melanie Scrofano as Lisa Jordan
  • Jeff Lillico as Wyatt
  • Vanessa Burns as Shelly

Guest

Episodes[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUS viewers
(millions)
11"Pilot"Paul McGuiganDavid GuggenheimSeptember 21, 2016 (2016-09-21)10.04[14]
When an explosion destroys the Capitol Building during the State of the Union, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman is sworn in as President after his predecessor and all others in the Presidential line of succession are killed. As he adjusts to his new role while questioning his capacity to lead the country, FBI agent Hannah Wells begins to investigate incongruous factors related to the attack.
22"The First Day"Brad TurnerStory by : Jon Harmon Feldman
Teleplay by : David Guggenheim
September 28, 2016 (2016-09-28)7.97[15]
When civil rights abuses in Michigan reach a fever pitch and Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten, the designated survivor for the Republican Party, comes forward, President Kirkman deals with his first challenges as Commander-in-Chief. Agent Wells suspects discoveries at the bomb site are false and misleading and are intended to point the FBI in the wrong direction; a member of Congress is the lone survivor of the bombing.
33"The Confession"Sergio Mimica-GezzanJennifer Johnson & Paul RedfordOctober 5, 2016 (2016-10-05)7.05[16]
A press interview leaves many questioning the legitimacy of Kirkman's presidency. A leaked video claiming responsibility creates negative fallout; Agent Wells questions Congressman Peter MacLeish, the bombing's sole survivor, only to realize he is not truthful; First Lady Alex Kirkman deals with a personal crisis when she discovers a bag of pills in son Leo's bedroom drawer.
44"The Enemy"Paul EdwardsDana Ledoux Miller & Jon Harmon FeldmanOctober 12, 2016 (2016-10-12)7.00[17]
President Kirkman continues to deal with the issues of civil rights violations in Michigan and finding Majid Nassar, the terrorist leader believed to be responsible for the bombing; Hannah continues to investigate Congressman MacLeish's actions on the night of the bombing; Alex seeks help from an unlikely ally; speech writer Seth takes on the job of Press Secretary.
55"The Mission"Paul EdwardsSang Kyu Kim & Michael Russell GunnOctober 26, 2016 (2016-10-26)5.96[18]
A team of Navy SEALs is dispatched to Algeria and apprehends Majid Nassar as he eludes custody; Wells learns the truth about MacLeish's movements on the night of the bombing and shares it with her superior; someone from Alex's past makes a damning allegation; Aaron and Emily offer MacLeish the position of Speaker of the House which he declines.
66"The Interrogation"Michael KatlemanBarbie Kligman & Jenna RichmanNovember 9, 2016 (2016-11-09)5.56[19]
Tentative plans to elect a new Congress are put in jeopardy after an armed shooter disrupts a critical Governors' Summit at the White House; soon after Wells and Atwood interrogate Majid Nassar about his purported role in the Capitol bombing he is poisoned; Aaron and Emily offer MacLeish the position of Vice President which he accepts.
77"The Traitor"Frederick E. O. ToyeJennifer Johnson & Michael Russell GunnNovember 16, 2016 (2016-11-16)5.52[20]
When a famed sports hero is arrested by Russian officials, President Kirkman attempts to negotiate a three-way spy trade with Saudi Arabia and Russia; Alex confronts the man who claims to be Leo's biological father; Wells pursues a lead from the Majid Nassar interrogation and uncovers a shocking secret.
88"The Results"Chris GrismerPaul Redford & Sang Kyu KimNovember 30, 2016 (2016-11-30)5.45[21]
Following a bioterrorism threat in Kansas City, President Kirkman is forced to consider canceling the Congressional elections; Leo confronts his parents about the scandal revolving around his parentage; the investigation into Majid Nassar's death takes a devastating turn as Atwood confesses to protect his kidnapped son.
99"The Blueprint"Richard J. LewisDana Ledoux Miller & Michael Russell GunnDecember 7, 2016 (2016-12-07)5.18[22]
A security breach at the NSA and Emily's past disparaging words about a Senator combine to bring her to the verge of resignation; Wells and Russink gather information from MacLeish's military buddies and uncover a connection to the Capitol bombing; MacLeish warns Kirkman to be wary of Agent Wells.
1010"The Oath"Frederick E. O. ToyeDavid GuggenheimDecember 14, 2016 (2016-12-14)6.18[23]
A car crash leads to a shootout in the countryside; an old file confirms suspicions of a traitor in the previous administration; Wells learns of an assassination plot and prevents a clear shot; MacLeish is sworn in as Vice President.
1111"Warriors"Stephen SurjikPaul Redford & Carol FlintMarch 8, 2017 (2017-03-08)5.86[24]
President Kirkman is wounded during MacLeish's swearing-in; Wells is interrogated about her involvement in the shooting; Emily avoids Aaron in the wake of a devastating revelation; Kirkman sends Secret Service agent Mike Ritter to talk to Wells; MacLeish uses his time as Acting President to conceal his involvement in the failed assassination attempt: Wells tells Ritter to find Chuck Russink; Wells meets Kirkman.
1212"The End of the Beginning"Mike ListoDavid GuggenheimMarch 15, 2017 (2017-03-15)5.74[25]
Agent Wells is provided a secret room in the White House and works with John Forstell to learn more about MacLeish's involvement in the Capitol bombing; Emily's keeps Aaron at arm's length; the president tightens his inner circle; Aaron and Kimble meet; Atwood's sons body is discovered; Hannah witnesses MacLeish's wife killing him and then committing suicide.
1313"Backfire"Tara Nicole WeyrSang Kyu Kim & Pierluigi CothranMarch 22, 2017 (2017-03-22)5.21[26]
As he prepares for a press conference, President Kirkman deals with the fallout from MacLeish's death; Atwood buries his son; Wells unearths information about how MacLeish became involved in the conspiracy; Emily replaces Aaron as Chief of Staff; Seth clashes with Abe Leonard, a discredited reporter bent on exposing the administration's secrets; Alex decides to reside with the kids at Camp David.
1414"Commander-in-Chief"Frederick E. O. ToyeMichael Russel GunnMarch 29, 2017 (2017-03-29)5.15[27]
Former President Cornelius Moss works with Kirkman to organize his Cabinet and prevent a genocide in an African nation; Wells interrogates former Chief of Staff Charles Langdon about his involvement in the conspiracy; Aaron makes a decision about his future in the White House.
1515"One Hundred Days"Kenneth FinkDana Ledoux MillerApril 5, 2017 (2017-04-05)5.19[28]
Kirkman announces his intention to officially initiate his first hundred days; Alex makes a statement that threatens to jeopardize the administration's agenda; Wells and Atwood find the mysterious woman responsible for his son's murder; Hookstraten presents Aaron with an enticing offer.
1616"Party Lines"Mike ListoJenna RichmanApril 12, 2017 (2017-04-12)4.82[29]
The Kirkman administration struggles to assemble a bipartisan coalition in order to pass a controversial gun control bill; Wells and Atwood travel to North Dakota and uncover evidence that suggests the conspirators are planning more attacks; Aaron is on board with Congresswoman Hookstraten.
1717"The Ninth Seat"Frederick E. O. ToyePaul RedfordApril 19, 2017 (2017-04-19)5.06[30]
The new Supreme Court is ready for confirmation but Kirkman is forced to improvise when Republican Senator Jack Bowman blocks one of the nominees; Wells and Atwood investigate a clandestine group and make a shocking revelation; Aaron and Emily discuss naming Hookstraten Vice President; Seth learns that Leonard is writing a story that reveals the truth behind the Capitol bombing.
1818"Lazarus"Chris GrismerJennifer JohnsonApril 26, 2017 (2017-04-26)5.11[31]
Atwood and Wells escape gunfire in North Dakota; Kirkman's plan to nominate Hookstraten as Vice President is threatened when one of her old rivals begins a smear campaign; Forstell and Wells confront Patrick Lloyd, the mastermind behind the Capital bombing; Leonard receives information from a White House insider; Wells is kidnapped.
1919"Misalliance"Norberto BarbaDana Ledoux Miller & Jenna RichmanMay 3, 2017 (2017-05-03)4.62[32]
Jay Whitaker, Homeland Security advisor, text messages Lloyd. Moss and Kirkman prepare for a NATO summit; Hookstraten defends herself at an ethics inquiry; Atwood tracks Lloyd and secretly collects intelligence on two high-ranking members of the conspiracy; Lozano discovers Atwood and shoots him; Wells finds herself on an ocean cargo ship.
2020"Bombshell"Sharat RajuSang Kyu KimMay 10, 2017 (2017-05-10)4.92[33]
Wells escapes and looks to send a "mayday"; the NATO summit is thrown into chaos when Abe Leonard publishes a story with damning allegations; the Secret Service trails the traitor to the White House; Wells prevents a catastrophe.
2121"Brace for Impact"Frederick E. O. ToyeDavid GuggenheimMay 17, 2017 (2017-05-17)5.07[34]
Kirkman authorizes a national manhunt for the mastermind behind the Capitol bombing; Wells sets out to prevent the conspirators from orchestrating another attack; a series of dangerous events culminates in a discovery no one saw coming.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Designated Survivor was ordered straight to series by ABC in December 2015,[1] with a formal announcement of 13 episodes in May 2016.[2][3] A month later, ABC revealed that the series would premiere on September 21, 2016.[35] Eight days after the premiere, on September 29, 2016, ABC gave the series a full season order.[4]

Created by David Guggenheim, the series is executive produced by Simon Kinberg, Sutherland, Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood, and Nick Pepper. Paul McGuigan directed the pilot episode. Amy B. Harris was set to be the showrunner in February 2016, but after the series' official pick-up in May, it was announced she would be stepping down due to creative differences, and that Jon Harmon Feldman was in talks to replace her.[36] In July 2016, Feldman was confirmed as showrunner/executive producer.[7] In December 2016, Jeff Melvoin was hired as showrunner, replacing the departing Feldman.[37] Kal Penn, formerly associate director in the White House's Office of Public Engagement, serves as a consultant for the series as well as acting in the main cast.[38]

Writing[edit]

Producers Jon Harmon Feldman and Guggenheim described the series as more than one genre, drawing inspiration from other political thriller-dramas, with Guggenheim explaining, "There is a West Wing component of a man governing and his team governing our nation at this critical time. It's also the Homeland aspect of investigating the conspiracy. It also has a House of Cards component, which is the characters and the business of government through the eyes of these characters."[39][40]

Casting[edit]

Kiefer Sutherland plays the lead role, Tom Kirkman

Kiefer Sutherland joined the cast in December 2015, playing Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who suddenly becomes President.[41] Sutherland had previously no intention of doing television again, but changed his mind after reading the first script of the series, saying, "I remember getting to the end of the script and thinking I was potentially holding the next 10 years of my life in my hands."[40]

In February 2016, it was announced that Kal Penn, Maggie Q, Natascha McElhone, and Italia Ricci had been cast as Kirkman's speech writer; Hannah, the lead FBI agent on the bombing of the Capitol; Kirkman's wife, an EEOC attorney; and Emily, Kirkman's Chief of Staff, respectively.[42] Shortly after, Adan Canto had joined the series as Aaron Shore, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff.[43] In early March, LaMonica Garrett joined the cast as Mike Ritter, Kirkman's Secret Service agent,[44] and Tanner Buchanan and Mckenna Grace had been cast as Kirkman's children.[6]

In July 2016, Malik Yoba was announced for a recurring role as Jason Atwood, the seasoned Deputy Director of the FBI, to appear in seven episodes,[7] while Virginia Madsen had been cast in the recurring role of Kimble Hookstraten, a conservative Congresswoman and the designated survivor for the rival political party.[45] A month later, Ashley Zukerman joined the series in a recurring role as Peter MacLeish, an Afghan War veteran and popular third-term Congressman.[9] In September 2016, Mykelti Williamson was cast as Admiral Chernow, a career military man and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[13] On November 4, 2016, it was announced that Mariana Klaveno had been cast for the show as the Dark-Haired Woman, a clandestine operator in league with the people behind the Capitol attack.[46]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the first season an approval rating of 85% based on 52 reviews, with an average rating of 6.98/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Kiefer Sutherland skillfully delivers the drama in Designated Survivor, a fast-paced, quickly engrossing escapist political action fantasy."[47] Metacritic reported a score of 71 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[48]

Terri Schwartz from IGN gave the first episode a rating of 8.0/10, saying, "Designated Survivor is a strong debut for a show that will fit well alongside Quantico and Scandal in ABC's government-set political drama lineup."[49] Variety said that the episode "does everything it needs to, checking off the necessary boxes for the unwilling American hero-president in efficient, compelling scenes."[50] Chuck Barney from Mercury News called the first episode "suspenseful".[51] Writing for TV Insider, Matt Roush compared Designated Survivor with other series as he said "fall's niftiest new drama has West Wing idealism, Homeland suspense and House of Cards political intrigue in its robust and compelling DNA."[52] Zack Handlen from The A.V. Club wrote positively about the show and the premiere, praising Sutherland's performance and commented on the symbol of Sutherland's glasses as he said, "The glasses he's wearing serve as a way to tell us this is a different kind of hero, but they're also a form of camouflage, making it easier for us to understand why so many people would underestimate this man."[53]

The editors of TV Guide placed Designated Survivor first among the top ten picks for the most anticipated new shows of the 2016–17 season. In writer Alexander Zalben's overall review, he pointed out the keys to one of the strongest pilots he had seen so far: "Designated Survivor is the rare show that delivers on the hype, and surpasses it," and later stating "It's shocking that a show can balance all of these elements, but credit a magnetic cast that hits the ground running, a crack script that makes the first hour feel like 10 minutes and, of course, Sutherland as the anchor that keeps it all grounded." Zalben's review concluded with this recommendation: "There's a reason Designated Survivor wasn't just the top pick across all of our Editors' lists, but also on the list compiled from TVGuide.com viewers' Watchlist adds: this is a show that delivers on its premise, feels timely, and most importantly, is a ton of fun."[54]

On the other hand, after watching the first episode of the first season, The Guardian's Brian Moylan criticized the dialogue, writing in his review that "this drama needs dialogue that won’t make the citizenry’s eyeballs roll", adding that the show features "meaningless platitudes" of a "we’re going to do this my way" attitude, and concluded by writing, "All we’re left with is a really great concept without the backing of a real leader behind it." Moylan also wrote that "there’s not enough family tension for it to be a domestic drama, not enough government intrigue to make it a political show, and not enough investigation to make it a procedural."[55] TVLine's Dave Nemetz drew references between Kirkman and Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland's role in drama thriller 24, writing that "Sutherland does a good job portraying Kirkman’s deep ambivalence about the situation he’s been handed. But when he has to play hardball with an Iranian ambassador, the tough talk comes too easily to him. It’s like Kirkman has been possessed by the ghost of Jack Bauer". Nemetz also questioned the series' longevity; "As compelling as Designated Survivor's concept is, it’s hard to see how it will sustain itself as a weekly series".[56]

Ratings[edit]

The first episode set a record for DVR viewers with 7.67 million, surpassing the September 25, 2014, record of almost 7 million set by the pilot of How to Get Away with Murder.[57][58]

No. Title Air date Rating/share
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1 "Pilot" September 21, 2016 2.2/8 10.04[14] 2.2 7.67 4.4 17.71[57]
2 "The First Day" September 28, 2016 1.8/6 7.97[15] 2.1 7.65 3.9 15.62[59]
3 "The Confession" October 5, 2016 1.6/6 7.05[16] 1.9 7.32 3.5 14.33[60]
4 "The Enemy" October 12, 2016 1.6/6 7.00[17] 1.9 6.89 3.5 13.89[61]
5 "The Mission" October 26, 2016 1.2/5 5.96[18] 2.0 7.07 3.2 13.03[62]
6 "The Interrogation" November 9, 2016 1.2/4 5.56[19] 1.8 6.36 3.0 11.92[63]
7 "The Traitor" November 16, 2016 1.2/4 5.52[20] 1.7 6.40 2.9 11.92[64]
8 "The Results" November 30, 2016 1.3/4 5.45[21] 1.7 6.50 3.0 11.95[65]
9 "The Blueprint" December 7, 2016 1.1/4 5.18[22] 1.7 6.69 2.8 11.88[66]
10 "The Oath" December 14, 2016 1.2/4 6.17[23] 1.7 6.19 2.9 12.36[67]
11 "Warriors" March 8, 2017 1.3/5 5.86[24] 1.5 5.80 2.8 11.69[68]
12 "The End of the Beginning" March 15, 2017 1.3/5 5.74[25] 1.4 5.53 2.7 11.27[69]
13 "Backfire" March 22, 2017 1.1/4 5.21[26] 1.4 5.66 2.5 10.87[70]
14 "Commander-in-Chief" March 29, 2017 1.1/4 5.15[27] 1.5 5.79 2.6 10.94[71]
15 "One Hundred Days" April 5, 2017 1.1/4 5.19[28] 1.5 5.68 2.6 10.87[72]
16 "Party Lines" April 12, 2017 0.9/3 4.82[29] 1.4 5.43 2.3 10.31[73]
17 "The Ninth Seat" April 19, 2017 1.0/4 5.06[30] 1.4 5.50 2.4 10.56[74]
18 "Lazarus" April 26, 2017 1.1/4 5.11[31] N/A N/A N/A N/A
19 "Misalliance" May 3, 2017 0.9/4 4.62[32] 1.4 5.42 2.3 10.04[75]
20 "Bombshell" May 10, 2017 1.0/4 4.92[33] 1.2 5.23 2.2 10.15[76]
21 "Brace for Impact" May 17, 2017 1.1/4 5.07[34] 1.2 5.30 2.3 10.37[77]

References[edit]

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