During its first season, Designated Survivor appeared to struggle with trying to figure out what the show wanted to be, which may have been the result of high-turnover behind-the-scenes. The show was balancing the family drama, the daily governing of the country, and the massive series-instigating conspiracy. As the show moved through the season, the show's balance kept shifting with it all but dropping the family element, as they conveniently ended up in Camp David and trying to button up the central mystery of the show.
Keifer Sutherland promised the show had found its footing and that we should expect a major mid-season event. While there are various theories as to what that could be, the first two episodes of the second season don't make it obvious what's to come. What it does make clear is that the show has decided to focus on President Kirkman and his staff and deemphasize his family. The future of the grand conspiracy is a bit murkier as it seems to have mostly wrapped up, but Ben Lawson joins the cast as a MI-6 agent who is assisting Maggie Q's Hannah Wells.
The expanded White House roster includes Paulo Costanzo as White House Political Director Lyor Boone and Zoe McLellan as White House Counsel Kendra Dayne. Noticeably absent is Secretary of State Cornelius Moss, who was brought in midway through the first season. However, he may return as his absence was not explained.
So how does this reborn Designated Survivor perform? Instead of using the instigating incident as the main thrust of the series, it uses it as a plot device to give us a militantly non-political President. Kirkman is a proud independent who shuns any talk of being a Democrat or a Republican.
No matter where on the political landscape you lay, there is no question that the world of politics has become more divisive than it has been in recent memory. This has introduced a bit of wish fulfillment by giving us a President that nearly everyone could get behind and a staff that appears to be mostly above reproach.
Will this result in a show that is bland? Hard to tell as the country still faces real threats in each episode. Perhaps that is the best route to take in the current climate. Facing external problems keeps the show interesting while giving us heroes we can root for. If we want internal strife or political intrigue we can always change to CNN.
So will the audience continue to watch Designated Survivor while it continues its transformation? We are about to find out as Designated Survivor returns September 27 at 10/9c on ABC.