The term "change" will forever be linked to President Barack Obama, but President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is getting really close to making it his own.
Designated Survivor has undergone so much change in just 22 episodes already that it's hardly surprising the show will face its biggest change as it heads into Season 2. Wednesday night's premiere painted a good picture of that change: new tone, new showrunner (The Good Wife's Keith Eisner) and new characters (hello, annoying political director Lyor Boone!). But is this change we can believe in? Spoiler alert: it's too early to tell.
One thing is for certain, though. "One Year In" was a bumpy ride, but that's expected for a show transitioning from one season to the next under new leadership and with a new directive. Eisner told TV Guide at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that the show would be largely contained to the White House, and aside from some Euro-hopping by Hannah Wells (Maggie Q), that's exactly what we got.
But did it work? Is there too much change going on? And will this change sit well with fans? That's going to be the big question early on in the season.
Let's recap what we learned in "One Year In."
Kirkman Is Still Under Fire, Still One Stubborn S.O.B.
We jumped forward to one year into Kirkman's presidency, and whereas Season 1 was about a new guy learning the ropes, Kirkman seemed pretty comfortable in his oval-shaped office. But that doesn't mean everyone else is on board. As is the case with every president, there's vocal opposition to his presidency. We don't actually see it, but it's talked about by characters. That's not as effective as putting Kirkman in the line of fire (metaphorically), but it does turn the show into more of a straight political drama. He's no longer dealing with new president problems, he's just dealing with regular president problems. However, he's handling them like he always did; by being a really nice guy who believes in "the American people." Did you see him charm the pants off that political satirist who hates him?
As for how he's doing as president, the crisis of the week was a plane hijacking in Chicago by Ukrainian terrorists. Some clues later, Kirkman figured out that Russia was behind the hijacking in order to have pretext to invade Ukraine. So Kirkman bitched out the ambassadors of both countries like a boss. For as moderate as Kirkman is, he didn't hold back when it came to putting people in their places. Not going to lie, I stood up and saluted Kirkman after that.
Washington D.C., Has Access to the Best Contractors in the World
The Capitol Building was completely rebuilt already! It took 11 years to rebuild back in 1815. Someone give those guys an A+ rating on Angie's List.
The New Political Director Is Annoying, Right
The big new addition to the White House this season is Lyor Boone (Paulo Costanzo, who you may remember from Royal Pains or one of the many stoners in Road Trip), and he's going to be a real test of the dynamic of Kirkman's closest staff. You probably know someone like him: egotistical, socially awkward, but frustratingly smart. He has good ideas, most notably to help Kirkman change his image (a president for everybody!) and shape up the ship. But his methods are the worst! He doesn't like the smell of Emily's (Italia Ricci) goji berry kombucha, so he bought every bottle of it in the area and sold it to someone in another state. That's annoying. That's Lyor. The episode leaned heavy on the annoying part early on before redeeming him at the end as he told the others what they were doing wrong and proved that he's right for the job, but was it enough? Ehhh... we could have stood to be impressed a tad more, I'd say. Still, I like Costanzo a lot, and the heart of the character should mean good things moving forward.
President Curse-man Is Back and More Potty-Mouthed Than Ever
If you had the (dis)pleasure of reading my recaps last season, then you know I'm all about a president who talks like a drunken sailor who just stubbed his toe. That, plus the fact that Sutherland's trademark "Dammit" from 24 is something I'll never tire of, lights me up every time Kirkman drops the D-word or other PG-13 lingo on air. And we got three in the premiere! A "damn right," a "son of a bitch," and a "where the hell is the secretary general?" Thank you, Designated Survivor writers, for hearing me out. You guys are *$@#ing great.
Patrick Lloyd Is Still Out There Somewhere if You Care
Remember Lloyd (Terry Serpico)? He became the big bad in Season 1, the man behind the conspiracy to blow up the government and install a noob president who didn't know what he was doing. In the Season 1 finale, he stole a bunch of American intelligence and booked it to Europe, where Hannah was in the Season 2 premiere in her effort to hunt him down. While Hannah was in Amsterdam chasing leads on Lloyd's computers, the final frame of the episode showed that Lloyd was back in D.C. planning something no good. Lloyd's never been the villain the show needs, but Eisner told me that his story would wrap up quickly. Like, Episode 2 quick. What will the show do after he's gone? How will Hannah fit into the story? These are BIG questions.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
Designated Survivor will no doubt take a few episodes to readjust and find its new groove, but the question remains about it overcorrecting itself. Will it abandon the conspiracy portion which kept much of the first season interesting? Can it be another West Wing with its White House-centric focus? We'll have to wait and see.
Designated Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.