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Designated Survivor - The End of the Beginning - Review

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Designated Survivor “The End of the Beginning” was written by series creator David Guggenheim and was directed by Mike Listo, whose other credits include Nashville, How to Get Away With Murder, and Boston Legal. At first, I thought this was a curious title for the episode – perhaps better suited to the episode that finished off the series fall run, but the shocking conclusion to the episode really drove the title home. It was a bold and really surprising move to kill off both Peter (Ashley Zukerman) and Beth (Lara Jane Chorostecki) MacLeish).

This episode really ramped up the tensions between characters, especially between Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) and Alex (Natascha McElhone). I thought it bad form for Emily (Italia Ricci) to be sharing sensitive information with Alex in the last episode. However, it’s going to be interesting to see how she takes Tom clearly starting to shut her out of parts of his life – but that goes with the job. As a lawyer, someone whose job deals with matters of confidentiality, she should completely understand, so I’ll be interested to see how the series handles that.

Hannah (Maggie Q) finally tells Tom and Mike (LaMonica Garrett) everything she knows about the bombing and MacLeish, including that Langdon is still alive. Mike wants to keep Hannah in the shadows so as not to tip their hand. Hannah does fill Forstell (Reed Diamond) in, and the two go to work together.

They still don’t have enough information to nail MacLeish – and they also still don’t have an Attorney General with which to arrest him. Hannah suggests using the Dark Haired Woman (Mariana Klaveno) – but they need to get Atwood’s (Malik Yoba) help.

Hannah goes to Atwood and tells him the President knows everything – there’s nothing left for him to protect. Except there is because Luke is still missing. I have to admit that I was also shocked when they found Luke’s body. Yoba was terrific in the episode.

Emily tells Tom that Aaron made the call and that Aaron was upset when he found out she was looking at his records. Neither of them really think he’s a traitor, but they have to keep their guard up until the can prove it. I really loved the scene in which Aaron finds Emily playing the piano – she plays to relieve stress. Aaron apologizes to her because Tom has told him that she was doing background checks on everyone. She accepts the apology but breaks the moment between the two of them, and it’s clear to Aaron that she’s pushing him away.

I also really loved the irony of Tom telling Mike that he’d never been so angry – he’s finding it very hard to be civil to MacLeish. He tells Mike he’s never so much as punched someone – even in grade school – he was always the peacemaker. The irony is if you ever saw Sutherland in 24 – Jack Bauer was all about punching people! Mike reassures Tom that MacLeish is a prisoner in plain sight – he’ll make a mistake that they’ll nail him.

Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) goes to Aaron, demanding to see the President. She won’t tell him why, and I admired that she was firm in not betraying Tom’s confidence. Aaron has to tell her the President won’t see her, and Hookstraten presses him on why the shooter was killed. She finally does betray the confidence when she says that Tom has doubts about MacLeish – didn’t he fill you in? Aaron lies and says yes. She wants to know who Aaron is protecting, after all he pushed to get MacLeish for VP. Aaron tells Hookstraten that killing the shooter was all MacLeish and that he told him the President would want him alive.

Hannah follows the lead of the other men in MacLeish’s army unit. She tracks down Alvin Joyner, and he’s clearly a weak link. I loved the sign on the mailbox as a signal to get in touch – nicely subtle, show! Beth doesn’t want Peter to meet with him. She also insists that Joyner is just a casualty of war – whether he dies now or he’d died in the actual war. Beth chillingly tells him “no victory without sacrifice.” They’ve totally drank the kool aid…

There’s a great scene between Seth (Kal Penn) and Emily. She goes to him for a drink, and she’s clearly struggling over what the reality of this level of government is. Seth tells her that when he first got to the White House, he was totally in awe that he was even there. But then reality set in and he became jaded – until he ran into Tom in the bathroom and he turned his world around. Here was service over ambition and integrity over self interest – Tom embodied the ideals he’d once venerated. He tells Emily that they’re all sad over what happened and to go home and get a good night’s sleep.

I thought it was particularly stupid for Hannah to be running around questioning Joyner when Forstell wouldn’t let her expose herself to look for Luke. The Dark-Haired Woman ends up going to the jail and discovers Hannah isn’t there and calls Beth. As soon as Beth gets the call, she calls whoever called Peter on his secret burner phone. She goes after Peter.

Hannah is in the process of arresting MacLeish for perjury after he admits to Joyner that he lied to Congress. However Joyner jumps Hanna, and Peter makes a break for it. Beth shows up and shoots him – before turning the gun on herself! I have to say I was shocked to lose both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth!

As the episode ends, Tom is leaving the hospital when he’s stopped by Mike who delivers the news about the MacLeishs. Aaron suddenly discovers that his network access has been denied. Which also seemed odd given Tom’s insistence that they were trying to clear Aaron, not bury him, and that he didn’t want Aaron to know he was a suspect at all.

All in all this was a fast-paced episode that tied up some of the loose ends from the beginning of the season while getting us heading in new directions. And what about that crazy dream that Tom had? How much of a toll will the shooting and all the other violence be for Tom going forward? I’m really hoping that Aaron is going to be exonerated sooner rather than later – he certainly looked upset – and confused by being denied access – and by Emily’s suddenly cooling attitude. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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