Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / Designated Survivor

Go To

  • Acceptable Targets: Kimble Hookstraten is basically the Token Good Teammate of the Republican Partynote . Also mitigated somewhat in that the Democratic Party is occasionally shown to be equally sleazy and corrupt, like with former President Richmond or Peter MacLeish.
  • Author's Saving Throw: The long-vacant vice-presidency is finally addressed in "In The Dark" in Season 2, when new character Ellenor Darby, the mayor of Washington, D.C., is introduced and impresses Kirkman with her handling of a major power outage crisis.
  • Broken Base:
    • The post-MacLeish half of the first season. As opposed to the first ten episodes, where the entirety of the cast is focused on capturing the Capitol bombing terrorists, the second half delegates those duties almost exclusively to Wells and Atwood's storyline. As a result, Kirkman's storyline has shifted to more policy-of-the-week based plots. It also doesn't help that Aaron's resignation basically throws out the West Wing character dynamics that, for some, made the initial episodes so interesting. At the same time, a common complaint about the early episodes were that they were too focused on The Conspiracy — with little hope of much progress, given the length of the season — and there was not enough exploration of the political realities of getting an entire country's federal government up and running again after such a calamity.
    • Advertisement:
    • Also, over whether or not the series has a case of Writer on Board pushing it to a liberal viewpoint:
      • On one hand, basically every prominent Republican in the series has been an antagonistic jerkass, The Starscream, or Designated Villain — except for Kimble Hookstraten, who ended up catching Chuck Cunningham Syndrome for the second season — and The Conspiracy that drove the first season turned out to be a bunch of Right Wing Militia Fanatics. Meanwhile, the show spends plenty of time dwelling on current issues like arts funding, gun control, or wage inequality.
      • On the other hand, Kirkman is actually a registered independent, the traitorous Vice-President Peter MacLeish was a Democrat, and other Democrats continually cause problems for Kirkman in the second season, to the point of ganging up with their Republican counterparts in Enemy Mine situations to try and arm-twist him into doing what they want him to do. If anything, Kirkman is portrayed as more liberal, under normal circumstances, than the Democrats in the House and the Senate (except when he orders a retaliatory strike on Kunami).
  • Advertisement:
  • Catharsis Factor: The mysterious Smug Snake woman who speaks for The Conspiracy gets shot dead by Agent Wells and by Jason Atwood, whose captive son was murdered by her and her associates.
  • Critical Research Failure: Kirkman's big moment of risking his life to vote is undercut a bit by how Washington DC, not being a state, only has ballots for a single non-voting delegate in the House. Kirkman would have to travel to his home state of New York to cast his full vote.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Aaron Shore gets a bit of this, for being The Cynic and occasional Only Sane Man in the midst of President Kirkman's new administration.
    • Kimble Hookstraten is a secondary character, but is quite popular for being a highly level-headed Republican Speaker, when the show could have just as easily written her as being an outright jerkass like many of her colleagues in the House, the Senate, and the state-level leadership. It's a shame she didn't return for the second season.
    • Abe Leonard, sleazy as he is, seems to be fairly popular for being a much more three-dimensional Intrepid Reporter than any of the other media personalities shown before him.
  • Growing the Beard: As the show got into the middle and latter part of the first season, a number of unpopular plot points (like Leo Kirkman's drug troubles) were dropped and flat characters were written out, while newer, more well-developed characters (Senator Bowman, Cornelius Moss, Abe Leonard, etc.) were introduced and the main storyline began to expand beyond its focus on The Conspiracy to encompass more of the political realities of governing the USA in the wake of the Capitol catastrophe. This shift appears to have been gaining the series better reviews and more stable ratings.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Several events that happened in this series also occurred during Trump's presidency:
    • Governor Rivera's refusal to take in 300 refugees strongly parallels Trump's "Muslim Ban" where travelers (including green card visa holders) and refugees from six countries note  are detained in airports and deported back to their countries. There were also reports of travelers from countries that are not from the said banned countries and even U.S. citizens (Muhammad Ali Jr.) being detained in airports and with extreme questioning from border agents.
    • In the second episode, "The First Day", Michigan Governor James Royce ordered the state police to round up and arrest every Muslim. Relating to the first point, many travelers, green visa holders, and U.S. citizens who have been detained at airports happen to either be a Muslim, Arab, or African descent, highlighting the heavy Profiling under the Trump administration. In the domestic side of things, ICE agents have been targeting immigrant communities (particularly Latinos) where people are arrested without charges, even legal immigrants or immigrants without any criminal record.
    • The Hun Chiu arc is one for the Korean Peninsula, given that Kim Jong-Un has threatened to use nuclear missiles against the US.
    • Kirkman orders a massive military strike against targets in Kunami in an episode that aired scarcely more than a week before Trump ordered a cruise missile assault against several military sites in Syria following a suspected chemical attack on civilians.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Fans said Jack Bauer would be a good President. Then this was announced with Kiefer Sutherland as President of the United States.
    • Less than a week after Kirkman fired his Secretary of State, the real life Secretary of State was fired.
  • Idiot Plot:
    • In "Misalliance", Jason Atwood makes a significant investment of time and effort bugging Patrick Lloyd and tracking him to his home with listening technology to hear all about the plans of The Conspiracy when Lloyd meets with The Mole from the White House. Atwood completely neglects to bring any backup, and gets abruptly shot by Catalan in the woods on the property.
    • The conspirators kidnap Atwood's son to force him to make a false confession. Then they kill his son anyway, which means he does not have any reason to stick to his confession and very good reason to tell the truth. This seems to serve no other purpose than to Kick the Dog and prove how evil they are, which didn't really need any reinforcement by that point.
    • In "Overkill", FBI Agent Hannah Wells is sent as Kirkman's envoy to a group of rebels in the mountains of Kunami. She's still clearly distraught and enraged over Director Forstell's death in the D.C. Metro bombing, and needs to get talked out of Revenge Before Reason by a S.E.A.L. team member. What is she even doing half the globe away from the States? Was everyone in the CIA unavailable?
  • Memetic Mutation: Some viewers are asking where the heck is Jack Bauer when he's needed.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The conspirators cross this in the very first episode by bombing the U.S. Capitol and killing a thousand American citizens to further their own power. This is only reinforced when they get wind of Atwood's investigations, abduct his son, and blackmail him into taking the fall for Nassar's murder. And then the conspirators attempt to murder Agent Wells, followed by President Kirkman, in "The Oath". Taken Up to Eleven when they murder Atwood's son as of "The End of the Beginning", just to Kick the Dog even further.
    • Arguably Majid Nassar as well, even though he wasn't behind the bombing itself, when he takes children at gunpoint as human shields and threatens to execute them in the face of a Navy S.E.A.L. team. He is not missed when he is poisoned shortly thereafter in prison.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • The entirety of "The Mission".
    • Also the death of Nassar in "The Interrogation".
    • The conspirators abducting Atwood's son in "The Traitor", complete with a Smug Snake operative taunting him about it. And later they execute his son anyways.
    • Langdon's car navigation system being hacked after he refused to play ball with the conspiracy.
    • All the myriad cyberattacks throughout the mid-to-later second season, even if Hollywood Hacking is involved.
  • The Scrappy: Leo, whose extremely stock "troubled teen" story early on in the series was quite jaw-droppingly out of sync with the political and conspiracy-thriller tone of rest of the show. It had many reviewers wondering if the writing team seriously thought the "designated survivor" concept itself couldn't make for a good enough story all on its own. To the show's credit, Leo's plotline was dropped in short order, but it remains to be seen if it will return at some point.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The tendency to blame the "scary brown people" for terrorism is thoroughly nailed to the wall, in a quite timely message.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The fact that Alex's death resulted in Penny technically becoming by far the youngest First Lady in American history has not once been brought up.


Example of: