Ladies and gentleman, I am here tonight to deliver some very somber news. Something terrible has happened in Washington, D.C., and it threatens to compromise the very integrity of the country. I regret to inform you that our nation’s capital has been infiltrated by…dubstep music.
But believe it or not, a late-night EDM warehouse party full of glow-in-the-dark youths isn’t even the scariest thing to happen in Designated Survivor’s action-packed premiere (even if it did chill me to the bone). The insanity comes early and often on this show, so let’s start at the beginning, right when the president — and most of his cabinet, and Congress, and presumably all nine Supreme Court Justices — are blown up.
We first meet Tom Kirkman in his natural state: kicking back in a comfortable pair of dad jeans with his feet on the table and a beer in his hand. At first glance, Kirkman looks a lot like your classic relatable Everyman, someone who could walk through a CBS sitcom starring Kevin James without anyone noticing. But upon closer inspection, there are some very subtle details that give him away as someone more important. His sweatshirt says Cornell! He’s played by Kiefer Sutherland! And are those Warby Parker glasses?
Turns out, Tom Kirkman is the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. That makes him a pretty important person in the larger scheme of things, if not in the sharp-elbowed halls of D.C. — the guy couldn’t get an invite to the president’s State of the Union address, or even convince POTUS to give a shout-out to his housing initiatives in the speech. In fact, the White House tried to fire him earlier that day and send him up to Canada to be an ambassador. So, he’s watching the SOTU on TV, and to pour salt in the wound, the powers-that-be made him the “designated survivor,” a.k.a. the person who becomes president in the event something happens to all the actual important people who got invited to the party.
Of course, ABC didn’t hire Jack Bauer just to play some mid-level Cornell dork, so something does happen to all the actual important people. The SOTU telecast cuts out abruptly, Tom and his wife’s phones start buzzing like crazy, and their security detail bursts into the room demanding they turn over their government-issued Blackberrys. Confused and frightened, Kirkman opens the nearest window and discovers the truth: Washington is on fire. Secret Service Agent Ritter confirms to Kirkman the capital has been attacked. “Eagle is gone. Congress, the Capitol — none of them made it.”
Just kidding! Now that Kirkman is president, he has to start president-ing super-fast, because there’s some serious sh-t going down out there.
There’s a problem, though: Kirkman is not very good at president-ing. He was barely any good at secretary of HUD-ing! No one respected him back then, and as Kirkman quickly learns, it’s hard to be a leader when the people don’t respect you. One White House staffer even scoffs at Kirkman’s old Cabinet position, calling him “a glorified real estate agent.” And while that person seems to fundamentally misunderstand the role of the HUD Secretary and the mission of housing policy and social justice in general, her point was made nonetheless — this guy’s a nobody.
NEXT: Who wins in the battle of POTUS vs. General Angryman?