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Designated Survivor - The Final Frontier - Review

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Designated Survivor “The Final Frontier” was written by Jeff Melvoin and was directed by Sharat Raju. While this is the first episode Melvoin has written for the show, he came on as an executive producer halfway through the first season.

        This episode centers on a problem with the International space station, but more importantly, sees Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) come back to earth from his grief over Alex’s death and start to deal with the fallout. Hannah (Maggie Q) is forced to deal with the fact that Damian (Ben Lawson) is in fact a double agent and a traitor. Of course, Sutherland does his usual great job showing Tom’s emotional turmoil while it’s always hard to tell exactly what Maggie Q’s character is feeling – if anything (other than anger – she’s got that down). Actually, that is a little harsh – I did think we got at least some sense of her actually feeling hurt at the betrayal.

I have to say that I’m already tired of Damian drawing out what it is exactly that he knows. Please tell me that he’s not continuing as a regular to the end of the season in this way. I have mostly given up any thoughts of his actually still being in deep cover. He does tell them that both the Russians and the Americans have been hacked and conveniently, this was what he was particularly working on.

It turns out that we are going to circle back again to Lloyd and the Icarus plot. Lloyd was not in league with the Russians, but the Russians were involved with Icarus for about 30 years. Damian also confirms that the Russians had nothing to do with the attack on the Capitol.

With Damian’s warning not to launch the hacked rocket, Emily (Italia Ricci) tries to get Tom to call off the launch, but he feels he has no choice. They lose control of the rocket and have to destroy it. The only choice now is to get the Russians to help by using their own rocket. Tom calls in the Russian diplomat and tells him that he knows Russia has been hacked too, but they need their help.

Moss (Geoff Pierson) tries to step in to take over persuading Dimitri – his friend. When Moss strikes out, Tom has Seth (Kal Penn) hold a press conference and tell the press that Russia’s been hacked too. That gets Dimitri to commit to launching the rocket and working together while Aaron’s (Adan Canto) people work on fixing the hack on the docking system.

Kim Raver guest stars as Andrea Frost who comes to the White House to help with the crisis even though she’s currently suing the government for not paying her. It seems a little on the nose that “Frost” designed the coolant system… It was nice to see the old chemistry between Raver and Sutherland. It seems unlikely that we will see her back in a professional capacity.

Damian takes Hannah to see Rook Storm – who Chuck is convinced is a myth! Hannah has to be forced by Aaron to continue working with Damian. Storm tells them that the only one who could have done the hack is Empty Set – the leader of a hacker collective. Turns out Empty Set is an orchid nut, so they head to the flower show.

At the flower show, they end up in a chase after Empty Set, and when Hannah is pinned she has to give her gun to Damian. He saves her, and then gives the gun back – she’s clearly confused. Empty Set gives the information to Chuck. I loved him calling Hannah to geek out over the code – I didn’t love her shutting him down. He’s discovered that the hacks were done on site via unsuspecting employee key cards. In the US it was a janitor named Gillespie – who was killed 10 days after the hack. He was a gambler and not a techie. He didn’t know what he was doing and just did it for the money.

Hannah takes Damian to book him. She finally asks him what he was reaching for that day on the bridge. She asks if it was a gun. We all know it wasn’t, right? She’s clearly looking for justification for shooting him. He knows it and spares her the guilt. He tells her it really doesn’t matter now.

They need to get Chuck onto the Russian system and collaborate, but Dimitri balks. Moss again steps in to “sweet talk” him. He does convince him, but by promising concessions without consulting Tom! Tom calls Moss on it, and Moss reveals that he’s completely lost faith in Tom’s leadership abilities due to his over caution and bad decisions since Alex’s death. He thinks that Tom should have stepped away to deal with his grief. Moss also reveals that he’s been doing a lot of unauthorized back channeling for quite some time. Tom feels rightfully betrayed – rather like Hannah and Damian, so I appreciated that story mirroring. Tom points out that he stood by Moss during the Thorne investigation, but Moss doesn’t seem bothered by that. Tom fires him.

Afterwards, Seth points out that Tom can’t fire a former President and not expect fallout. Tom won’t throw Moss under the bus, and insists that they simply say Moss resigned and Tom appreciates his service. And the episode ends with Tom having much bigger problems – someone has leaked viral video of Tom’s meeting with Alex’s killer.

This episode had two side stories. One I liked and one was very irritating. Irritating first. Did we really need to listen to Lyor (Paulo Costanzo) whine about space camp the entire episode? Kendra (Zoe McLellan) makes him feel better about not going into aeronautics by pointing out that he’s more than just a spin doctor and is performing important work for the country. Are they putting these two together? And it should be noted no sign of the Emily/Aaron/Seth triangle…

The other side story is how Penny (Mckenna Grace) is dealing with Alex’s death. This story I did like. Sutherland is great with Grace who is an accomplished young actor. Tom tries to have breakfast with her, but she dodges him. She ends up getting in fights at school, and Tom simply assumes that she is acting out. A visit from Penny’s Principal sets Tom straight. Penny has been getting into fights with bullies to protect the kids being bullied.

Tom finally gets to sit down and have dinner with Penny. He tells her he knows what she did. She confesses that she didn’t want to see anyone else hurt. Tom admits that he was hurt by her mother’s death too. They share some sweet memories of Alex and pledge to help each other whenever they are having a hard time.

This was not the show’s best episode and felt a bit unfocused for me. I liked the mirroring of Tom/Moss and Hannah/Damian, but as seems to be the shows pattern, having both a spy plot and a political plot seems to bounce the story around a bit too much. They still don’t really have a good handle on that. I can’t say that I’m sad to see Pierson go as Moss, and I’m really curious as to how they are going to wedge Lawson into the rest of the season. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts – and speculations – in the comments below!

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