Designated Survivor Season 3 Review


Chris Chalker, Managing Editor

On June 7th, Netflix released the third season of Designated Survivor, a political drama in which Tom Kirkman, a lowly cabinet member, becomes the president of the United States after a catastrophic incident leaves every other successor for the presidency dead. Kirkman was labeled as the then-president Robert Richmond’s designated survivor, thus the name of the show. ABC originally owned the series, but cancelled it after its second season due to numerous showrunners leading the show down diverging and conflicting paths thatlimited storytelling for the series. Since then, Netflix was able to purchase the rights to the show and with that comes the rights to produce future seasons of the show. Netflix purchasing the show seems natural given how successful House of Cards, another Netflix political series, has been and the decreased limitations on what Netflix can do with the series compared to a broadcasting company such as ABC. What exactly happened in the newly released third season and what are some of the numerous takeaway life lessons the show has left us with as we await the fate of the series in terms of a fourth season? Let’s get right to it.


Major spoilers ahead! Turn back now if you do not want to be spoiled! You have been warned!


The third season of Designated Survivor, while only being 10 episodes, delivered some of the best content the series has to offer in terms of the political storyline. The story seemed strong especially when it comes to how Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) deals with the campaign for re-election and national issues as he is still the president. Sutherland’s performance as Kirkman is memorable, and he is certainly one of the best actors on the show. With that being said, the season’s investigative story was far weaker than it had been in seasons one and two. Former FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) gets sidelined as she leaves the FBI and joins the CIA, working to uncover the truth behind a flu that targets specific racial groups. Unfortunately, Hannah ends up being ambushed and killed with some sort of gas. The “racist flu” plotline is intriguing, but seems very unrealistic for the show to follow. While we are on the subject, Maggie Q is a phenomenal actress and her character is easily one of the greatest the show has to offer, so the fate of her character is a bit disappointing, but she gave her all for her country and the show will not be the same without her.


The campaign storyline is very well done and tackles issues in a way that ABC never could have. We watch the characters we know and love (except for Lyor Boone, which is bittersweet becaus ehe didn’treally seem to fit but his character grew on me as annoying as he was) return and we even meet some new characters as well. Mars Harper is President Kirkman’s new chief of staff. Isabel Pardo serves as a political activist who is up and coming in the White House, she is also in a relationship with Aaron Shore, who is coming back into the fold as Kirkman’s Vice President. Dontae is a skilled techie that helps with the campaign and works with Seth over the season. Lorraine Zimmer becomes Kirkman’s campaign manager who is hell bent on winning over sticking to morals. In the meantime, Emily Rhodes returns to help out while she struggles with her own personal life (her mother has terminal cancer and she contemplates assisted suicide). Seth Wright tries to track down his parents and uncovers that he has a daughter he never knew about.


Overall, I would give the third season of Designated Survivor an 9.25/10 rating. The story was great except for the investigation bits with Hannah, which is unfortunate given how great of a character she is. Hannah’s death is tragic and the show may struggle without her, but the show can easily work without Hannah, although the investigative angle of the show seems important as well. The characters we met were really fascinating and very well developed. Development didn’t stop there, because the character we knew in seasons one and two changed in numerous ways in an effective way. Overall, the season was great and I wish there were morr than just 10 episodes, but Netflix made it work exceptionally well.


With that out of the way, it is time to examine the life lessons this season clearly exemplified.


  • A Win Is Not Always A Win


Going into the campaign for re-election, Kirkman had the odds stacked against even be re-elected in the first place. First and foremost, he was an independant who had no ties to either political party and thus he had no party to back him in the campaign. Secondly, Kirkman’s entire administration was scrutinized from the get-go, with people referring to him as an illegitimate president, unfit for the job, and so on. Thirdly, Cornelius Moss was a well liked and well respected former president, which would make winning the presidency against Moss a daunting task. Fourthly, Kirkman had next to no experience on campaigning. All of this and more meant that the odds of Kirkman winning were marginally slim right from the start, but his determination never faltered and even at the end, it seemed as though Kirkman wouldn’t be able to pull off the win, but he managed to pull out a clutch win… but at a cost. In order to win and keep Moss from winning, Kirkman had to sit on the recording he uncovered that proved Moss was not tied to the racist plot his colleagues led to sterilize minorities and keep whites in the majority instead of having them become the minority as studies had presented to them. Kirkman did this to come out on top but at the cost of his own morality and a newfound sense of deep guilt. The lesson here is that the good guys can win, but they don’t win in every aspect. In this case, Kirkman is the president-elect, but he feels as though he didn’t earn it because of the things he did to get there.


  • Kirkman Is An Example For People In Real Life


In a world with fake news, consistent scandals, extremely high public distrust of the media, slanderous claims and allegations, doctored footage called “deep fakes” becoming far more common, and the spread of radical ideologies which the media and the primary political parties pay far too much attention to, it seems hard to navigate the political landscape we currently find ourselves in. That’s why Tom Kirkman is an example for all of us to follow, even if he is just a character on a TV show. Kirkman is an independant, so he doesn’t let either party define him and is also able to realize when he fits in with one end of the political spectrum over another on a pressing issue. Regardless, Kirkman lets his morality and sense of duty to the country allow him to determine what is best for the country, not whatever the biased party lines would prompt him to do or his own predetermined agenda. Kirkman is also able to understand that neither party is correct on the issues that press our country, but rather that the correct solution is to find a compromising middle ground between both ideologies despite their varying differences. If the message of this season is taken into the heart of most of these extreme debates, then a common ground could easily be found. It’s a great piece of advice for both conflict with people in general and with politics, to compromise, even if that means no one will end up 100% happy with the outcome. Both politicial parties demonize various acts or life decisions such as being transgender, owning firearms, being an illegal immigrant, access to abortion, when really, they should be working to find a goal to end these problems because the cost of not doing so is human lives, human rights, and the safety of our country. Kirkman establishes a sensical way of running the country and dealing with issues that just is not prevalent in today’s society. As Kirkman said during his speech at the start of the season, the system is broken, he’s correct in saying that, and we did break it. The system is broken because we have been electing ineffective leaders into positions of power, allowing these elected officials to abuse power and serve themselves and their interests over serving the people, like they should. That and the partisan ideologies of the conflicting political parties have done nothing but agitate the situation between people who disagree with one another. It has made us far more polarized and disconnected with one another, further perpetuating the system being broken.


  • Honesty Is Always The Best Policy, Even If It’s Difficult To Be Honest


With trust in the media faltering and a natural distrust between people becoming more prominent, people today need to be able to trust those around them. Given certain circumstances, there are varying degrees of just how honest and open people can truly be to those around them. This becomes far trickier with politics thrown in the mix. Dontae, a skilled techie who starts to work for Seth Wright in the first episode of the season, decides not to tell his lover that he has HIV until after they have already slept together. Naturally, when the liver finds out, he is extremely hostile and confrontational. Regardless, the two men stay together but had the truth been revealed far sooner, things could have progressed at a much healthier rate over a far shorter time period. The message is clear: staying honest keeps you out of trouble for the most part and softens the blow of things that are hard to get off your chest. The best example of someone confronting the truth before it is blown up as a lie is when Aaron Shore admits to his girlfriend, Isabel, that he slept with Emily Rhodes and cheated on her. Isabel takes the news hard and it devastates her and her relationship with Aaron, which effectively ends. Isabel and Aaron remain on rocky terms


  • Nothing Good Comes From Unresolved Conflict


Leaving things unsaid may sounds better in theory, but in all actuality, leaving things unfinished and unresolved only adds to the workload of things that must be resolved later on. Take any relationship that matters to you and imagine any sort of conflict that can cause tension or create drama. Leaving conflict like that unresolved is a good way to damage relationships and hinder any efforts made later on to smooth over the issue at hand. Things become gunnysacked when they are unresolved, meaning instead of one issue being presented at one given time, numerous issues are brought to light and further tensions, drama, and issues are created. In this case, not facing conflict can derail personal relationships and damage political images