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Season 3 of 'Designated Survivor' Debuts – On Netflix
June 7, 2019  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

Key members of President Tom Kirkman’s administration are resigning in waves. The Senate is about to vote down one of his hardest-fought and most important bipartisan initiatives. His own staff doesn’t seem at all convinced he has a shot at winning re-election.

And then just when you think things can’t go any further South, his tween daughter Penelope tells him she doesn’t want him to call her “Little P” anymore.

Welcome to Netflix, President Kirkman.

Designated Survivor, which stars Kiefer Sutherland as President Tom Kirkman and played out its first two seasons on ABC, has moved to Netflix, where its 10-episode third season becomes available Friday.

A few of the changes are modest and predictable. Certain words that would be broadcast-unfriendly make several appearances, including from the mouth of Penelope (Mckenna Grace). 

Other changes may have more profound implications.

For starters, Kirkman has hired a new chief of staff, Mars Harper (Anthony Edwards), following the resignations first of Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) and then Kirkman’s long-time trusted aide Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci).

Harper is a no-nonsense sort of fellow who strikes fear into the heart of almost everyone who serves at the pleasure of the president. That includes press secretary Seth Wright (Kal Penn).

At the risk of a spoiler, however, fans need not fear that Kirkman’s whole posse will disappear. The big news here will likely be the additions, including people to run the independent presidential campaign he has decided to conduct.

Given Kirkman’s lack of connection to the Washington insiders who tend to run most of these campaigns, don’t be surprised if he ends up with someone who’s a bit more of a wild card.

It’s also not clear what will happen with Hannah Wells (Maggie Q), the FBI agent who was instrumental in pursuing the disturbing truth about the terrorists whose bombing of the Capitol made Kirkman president in the first place.

What seems clear is that the show has shifted its focus inward. Where the first two seasons were a cascade of crises, many involving international incidents and threats from malignant global forces, the first episode of the new season focuses almost entirely on domestic politics.

Kirkman, who renounced party allegiance in an attempt to bring a shaken America together, is being challenged on the Republican side by Cornelius Moss (Geoff Pierson), a former president and Kirkman ally who now wants the job back for himself. There will also be a Democrat, and both those candidates will have formidable party machines in place.

Kirkman must consider, then, whether to make an interesting argument: that the system he leads is so broken only someone with minimal institutional ties can represent what the people really want.

If that second clause sounds like Donald Trump’s playbook, Designated Survivor largely stays away from real-life references. Even a small subplot about disaster aid to Puerto Rico focuses on the logistics of that aid, not a battle over it.

Perhaps as part of keeping a little space between this TV-show presidential campaign and the real one that’s already underway, the new season of Designated Survivor also spends more time on the personal lives of its characters.

Admirers will call it greater character development. Skeptics may think it’s getting a little soapier.

In either case, with the new season only having 10 episodes, the pace will likely speed up, meaning some resolutions may arrive more quickly.

Through it all, President Kirkman still seems to be the same man who was thrust into this job like a deer into the headlights. He’s essentially decent and fair-minded. He’s also flawed. He can be impulsive, and he makes rookie mistakes. But we trust him and find him essentially honorable.

If he can maintain that aura through what’s sure to be a nasty election campaign, perhaps that’s the main message Designated Survivor wants to send to real-life America.

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President Kirkland is no President Bartlett.
I will try the Netflix series, after leaving the broadcast version, when it kept falling into Flag, Mom, and apple pie framing.. Then it was not for me.
Perhaps this undercurrent of aggressive Patriotism will be toned down.
Jun 10, 2019   |  Reply
I binged season 3 these past couple of days as it drew me in. Well done - thought provoking - worth the watch. Sorry that Hannah is gone but loved most of the new ones. Thank you and will look forward to a possible 4th season.
Jun 9, 2019   |  Reply
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