Ooooooh boy we got ourselves a doozy of a conundrum of a pickle in Wednesday's Designated Survivor as President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) ordered a drone strike... on American soil! Granted it was mostly deserted soil, no civilians were in the area and the threat of domestic terror was looming, but still. Launching missiles within the United States?! That doesn't happen even with the most trigger-happy presidents.
The dilemma to fire or not to fire came when super (sexy) agents Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) and Hot British Guy (who Wikipedia tells me is named Damian Rennett, played by Ben Lawson) tracked big bad Patrick Lloyd (Terry Serpico) to his secret underground bunker clubhouse, where he threatened to fumigate Washington D.C. with sarin gas. The walls of the bunker were 18-feet thick and the corridors were booby trapped, so there was no easy way to tell what Lloyd was doing or what he had.
Obviously the military's solution was "blow him to smithereens." While effective, the optics are pretty bad. Launching a ballistic missile within the borders? I mean, recent presidents have shown that we can lob bombs in other countries like we're wielding a T-shirt gun at halftime of a basketball game, but in the U.S.? That's a big no-no.
But Kirkman made one of his biggest decisions as president yet when he authorized the drone strike, finally living up to the promise of the show's premise: Kirkman is an independent who will not lean to one side of the aisle. In Season 1, Kirkman was transparently more of a liberal Democrat than conservative Republican based not only on the decisions he made, but his opponents. The Senators making the most noise last season were red-state Republicans who challenged Kirkman's presidency and didn't recognize the government's power almost to a cartoonish level (or in the case of some senators, incredibly accurate level), and Kirkman routinely smacked them down. That was one of my biggest problems with Season 1. It didn't feel balanced after being hyped up as a show that aligned with the middle.
In this episode, the Senator who tried to block Kirkman's authority to use force against an American citizen (yes, Lloyd was a domestic terrorist but he also still an American citizen) was almost certainly a Democrat — it's never revealed what party Senator Cowling belongs to, but she screamed out Democrat to me — and that's a really good sign for things to come.
What's more, it's entirely debatable about whether or not Kirkman made the right decision. It turned out that Lloyd didn't have the gas, which was everyone's biggest fear. And as Aaron (Adan Canto) pointed out, the preference was to take Lloyd alive to find out what he's been working on, but now Lloyd is a pile of ash and bone fragments, and his big project — which in the final scene was revealed to be uploaded to the magical internet cloud in the sky — remains not only a mystery, but alive and well.
Designated Survivor needs to make strides to live in that gray area as much as it can instead of flag-waving "for the American people" B.S., and this episode took a huge leap toward that. Politics, like morals, aren't black and white, and if Designated Survivor wants to reflect the current political climate, it needs to work both sides.
Also, thankfully we're done with Patrick Lloyd. He was a pretty terrible villain.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.