How many presidents must die?

By Ray Rahman
December 15, 2016 at 04:43 PM EST
ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg
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Who was behind the Capitol bombing? Will MacLeish become vice president? Is President Kirkman gonna get murdered?

There were a lot of questions going into tonight’s Designated Survivor midseason finale, and some of them were even answered. However, the show left us with yet another big cliffhanger, one that might forever alter the fate of the United States of America. Fun!

Let’s start with some politics. MacLeish’s confirmation vote is still supposed to happen, and while Hookstratten is doing her best to delay it until Hannah arrives, the other members of Congress are growing impatient. Hannah never shows up, so Hookstratten has no choice but to resume the vote. It goes down rather quickly: Within moments, the potential terrorist becomes the new veep.

Concerned, Hookstratten decides to take what little she knows straight to the top. She tells Kirkman about Hannah’s MacLeish hunch, causing Kirkman to furrow his brow. He pulls Secret Service Agent Mike aside to tell him he needs to see Hannah ASAP — which, you know, might be a bit of a problem at the moment (more on that later).

Separately, Kirkman starts researching the explosion-blueprint file he was given, starting with the computer guy who created it. Said Computer Guy is all sweaty and nervous, but he’s able to tell the president that, no, he’s not the traitor. Instead, he offers POTUS a solid tip: A couple years ago, he handed the file over to General Angryman. That’s right, the very same General Angryman whom Kirkman fired all those episodes ago — and the one whose objectives were ridiculously suspicious even back then. It’s all coming together now.

Kirkman has the general brought in for questioning. Angryman denies any knowledge of the file and claims he’s never seen it. In fact, his permission to see the file was denied by his superior and taken by someone above him on the food chain. As he tells Kirkman, the decision likely came from (wait for it) THE WHITE HOUSE. Who do we know that worked in the old White House? Right now, only a few people still living…including Aaron.

At this point, I should mention Aaron and Emily have started to make out literally instead of with just their eyes. So, when Kirkman comes to Emily with this information and asks for her help, she finds herself in a tricky spot. “Ugh, all the good ones are either taken, gay, or suspected terrorists,” she thinks to herself as she plots her next move.

Not all the drama is happening at the White House, though.

Last week’s episode ended with Hannah’s car getting pummeled by another vehicle, and tonight’s episode picks it up from there — beginning with Hannah in her car, injured and bloody, as some unnamed man tries to strangle her to death.

She manages to escape the would-be killer and immediately heads to the most secure location in D.C.: The apartment of her nerdy coworker, Chuck. There, Chuck tends to Hannah and gives her a place to rest. He even “glues” her wound for her, which I guess that’s a thing you can do.

Side note: He claims he learned about it on YouTube, but I find that a bit unlikely. Also, Chuck’s apartment is alarmingly nice, particularly for what I understand to be a somewhat lower-middle-level employee. Something might be up here.

Regardless, the ailing Hannah hits the road to track down the number of the person who’s been behind all this recent mischief. Her search takes her to some creepy house in the woods, where she finds none other than Peter Langdon, former White House chief of staff, rustling around in the yard.

But he might not be the bad guy? “Don’t trust anyone,” he tells her just before a shootout begins — not with him, but with another man hiding in the woods. Hannah shoots the guy dead and checks out the body. It turns out to the dude from the car crash who tried to strangle her. She searches his pockets for some ID. Instead, she finds a mysterious key card. The card, she discovers, belongs to a room in a building with a direct line of sight to the steps of the Capitol. That’s exactly where MacLeish’s swearing-in ceremony will be. It dawns on her: The plan is to assassinate President Kirkman.

NEXT: Maggie Q to the rescue?

Speaking of which: We see MacLeish and his wife getting dressed for the big event. But he’s starting to have second thoughts. “I don’t know if I can go through with this,” he tells her. “This is exactly what we’ve been working for,” his wife replies. “You were chosen to survive for a reason. You’ve been given a tremendous responsibility to restore this nation to the empire it once was and can be again.” Then she chillingly Lady MacBeths him into sticking to the treacherous plan.

If you saw all this and shouted “Whaaaat,” you’re not alone! This is a pretty big revelation, although it’s unclear what it even means, really. I guess we now know the overall conspiracy theory is, more or less, true: The plan is for Kirkman to die and MacLeish to become president. But why exactly? And who’s behind this? Are they even American? Is his wife secretly running whatever sinister organization is responsible for everything? Ah, so many questions!

But, of course, the most pressing matter right now is to prevent yet another presidential assassination. Enter Hannah: She races to the Capitol just as MacLeish is being sworn in. She looks up at the nearby building and sees an open window perfectly positioned for someone to shoot Kirkman. Indeed, there’s a grizzled-looking sharpshooter up there aiming his rifle right at the president.

Hannah runs into the crowd, points her gun up at the window, and shoots, but there’s a hitch: An agent with the Secret Service, which has been looking for her all day, pushes her just as she fires her weapon. Instead of going in the window, the bullet grazes it. This startles the shooter, causing him to pull his trigger. His rifle fires and the screen fades to black. We’ll have to wait until 2017 to find who, if anyone, he ended up shooting. God save the Kiefer.

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Stray shots:

  • The journalist Seth has a crush on continues to be a thorn in his side, and her intel seems to be getting startlingly precise. Might she somehow be involved with whatever group is trying to disrupt the government? Or perhaps they’re feeding her information? Something to keep an eye on.
  • Mrs. MacLeish has suddenly become one of the scariest people on the show.
  • Just before the shooting, Emily gets confirmation it was Aaron who made the call preventing General Angryman from obtaining the file. He’s probably a bad guy (he even shoots her the Bad Guy Look right after she finds out), but it could be a red herring. We’ll have to wait and see.  
  • Will General Angryman be vindicated? It’s starting to look like he might have been a good guy all along, someone who just had a different, more hawkish philosophy than Kirkman. He even offers to help Kirkman in a seemingly genuine, patriotic way. Maybe he’ll become an ally in the future.
  • Where is Leo this whole time? Is he listening to EDM? Does he still DJ? Tell us the truth, Designated Survivor!
  • Episode grade: B+

    Episode Recaps

    Kiefer Sutherland returns to TV in this ABC political drama. The 2016 new fall show follows his rise to president when all other cabinet members tragically die. Natascha McElhone, Italia Ricci, Adan Canto, Kal Penn, and Maggie Q also star.
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    • 09/21/16
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