Well, I’ve carried on watching and have now finished Ep 15 (of 22). I’m not really excited about it, but I’ve paid for the whole series so I’m determined to get my money’s worth. Besides, I am mildly curious about how the story will pan out.
The US has turned out some excellent TV series – The Americans, The Wire, Mad Men, West Wing – but DS is nowhere near that standard, I’m afraid. The writing is pretty poor, with each eopisode settling into a formulaic action/family soap/drama/action pattern. And there’s little attention paid to what should be running storylines. For instance, are Muslims and other minorities still being persecuted? What happened to the arrested Michigan governor? How is the country managing with the loss of its entire Government? These and other questions are never addressed at all.
And then there’s the ongoing family soap. Kirkman’s teenage son started out as a typical teenager, lying to his parents,going to raves, selling drugs to his friends, being a total brat at home. Plenty of material there for some interesting plotlines and character development. But no, just a week or so of living in the White House turned him into a squeaky-clean angel. Oh, there was that episode-and-a-half half of overworked histrionics about who his real dad was, but that ended in gallons of schmaltz. tears and “Love you guys…(sniffle)”. And the cute young daughter? She could have been played by an animatronic dummy – and that’s NOT being mean to the kid playing her, who did a perfectly good job with very poor material.
Thankfully, the kids have now been despatched to live somewhere else – Camp David, or their Granny’s place, I’ve really not cared enough to pay attention. I suspect that the writers realised that the soapy family drama really wasn’t working and so sent them off to a nice farm somewhere where they’ll have a lovely life playing with the animals….
And the writing…! Oh dear, oh dear….. To give one example – the Prez is in the War Room with his generals, coping with the latest international-crisis-of-the-week; a Lords Army-type gang of murderous African rebels is headed towards a town where thousands of refugees have gathered; said refugees will get horribly genocided if US/UN forces don’t stop the rebels; something or other (I wasn’t paying attention) is stopping the Western forces from bombing the crap out of the rebels before they reach the town. So Kirkman grabs a map; crying “I used to be an urban planner!” he points to a couple of bridges. “The rebels have to cross these to get to the town, don’t they?” he asks, and the generals nod. “So,” he exclaims in triumph, “Why don’t we BOMB THE BRIDGES?”
The generals don’t quite step back and gasp in amazement at this civilian’s uncanny grasp of military strategy, but they come close. And, kids, that’s how thousands of African refugees owe their lives to a middle-aged US urban planner!

Maggie Q in Designated Survivor

Maggie Q

However, it’s turning into a surprisingly good thriller, due in large part to actor Maggie Q, who plays FBI agent Hannah Wells. She is basically Jack Bauer in a well-fitting pantsuit. She may be mourning the death of a lover, but she keeps the tears firmly under control and works though her grief by going totally hard-bitch on the asses of any nearby bad guys. She is honestly just brilliant at the action stuff; and really, action stuff is pretty much all this series has going for it. Also, there are enough twists and turns in the conspiracy storyline to keep me watching, just to see how silly it gets.

So, watch this if you want a decent action thriller with a kickass female lead. Just don’t expect 24 Hours: The West Wing.