This review contains spoilers for Designated Survivor Season 3. If you haven’t watched the entire season, turn back now!
Designated Survivor Season 3 is definitely feeling right at home on Netflix. The cursing fits into this world absolutely perfectly. I mean of course people in politics curse up a storm. How could they not? It’s a coping mechanism.
Overall, this is a solid season.
The series does some course correction and focuses on the core team a bit more, which is fantastic to see. The interpersonal relationships of the White House staffers are also more prominent.
Seth: What does it say that her drink is manlier than mine.
Aaron: Everything really.
There aren’t that many disasters/issues of the week that Kirkman has to handle, which frees up a lot of time to focus on the campaign and more of the day to day life of those in the White House.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair share of crises during Season 3, but the series seems more comfortable straying away from that procedural element. It’s definitely for the best.
There are some problems, but Designated Survivor Season 3 is a definite improvement from Season 2.
There’s so much to cover, so let’s dive in!
The Personal Lives of the White House Staffers
Hello, new people!
The newbies — Mars, Lorraine (technically she doesn’t work for the White House, but I’m throwing her in here for simplicity’s sake), Dontae, and Isabel — fit in well.
You almost instantly like all of them. They round out the team well, and it’s always good to get some fresh blood in the mix.
It’s a lot of fun to get to watch the newbies forge new relationships with our regulars.
Seth and Isabel develop a great friendship towards the end of the series. Hopefully, it doesn’t turn into romance because Seth and Aaron need to stop dating the same women. I mean, seriously.
Mars is a much better Chief of Staff, and it is a relief to hear that just because Emily is back does not mean that Mars is going anywhere. It’s also nice that Seth sings Mars’ praises, even though Seth has nightmares about the guy.
Mars: Why are there so many goddamn television sets in this goddamn place?
It would’ve been brutal to get introduced to the new guy only to have Emily swoop in and take his job. Also, it would have been pointless to make the introduction at all if he wasn’t sticking around.
One of the faults of Designated Survivor Season 3 is that it thinks we care enough about everyone’s personal lives to follow them home.
For the newbies, especially, it is really hard to get invested in what’s going on in their personal lives. We don’t know them well enough to care (harsh but true). Honestly, it feels like we were supposed to get to know them better, faster, by seeing what they do in their off hours.
But it’s too much. The newbies are forced down our throats, and it detracts from their likability because you want to be watching any other storyline but theirs.
It isn’t just the newbies that we follow home, and just because we know Emily, Aaron, and Seth better does not mean that their side storylines were enjoyable.
All in all, Designated Survivor Season 3 spends too much time on after-hours personal storylines.
It would have been fine to learn about Mars’ wife’s addiction and how he was coping through conversations and moments at work. We don’t need to see him struggle with that at home, nor do we need to watch Seth awkwardly hang out with his sperm child.
Seriously, why is that a storyline?
The focus should be getting to know everyone while they’re on the clock, and Designated Survivor Season 3 does do a really good job of giving us these personal moments while at work.
It’s a fun way to check in with everyone, and it doesn’t detract too much from the main storylines of the hour. Plus, who doesn’t have personal chats at work? It’s realistic.
Seth: I’m going to have nightmares of that man chasing me through the west wing with talking points.
Some scenes are fun, like Seth, Emily, and Mars in the White House gym. There are also some hard chats and heart to hearts.
We gotta talk romance for a bit.
Isabel is good for Aaron. She pushes him and challenges him. But, man, is she right to break up with him.
You (or at least I) don’t really notice how dismissive Aaron is of her, but once she points it out, it’s hard to unsee it. She deserves someone who cheers her on and recognizes how incredibly talented she is.
Aaron: I know you think that’s stupid.
Isabel: Stupid is the nicest word I’d use.
The pregnancy is a predictable twist, but it will definitely do the trick and shake things up once everyone finds out next season.
This could pave the way for Designated Survivor to focus on some interesting issues because Isabel doesn’t strike me as a woman who goes back to her ex as soon as she finds out she’s pregnant.
Aaron has to work to win Isabel back, and at this exact moment, I don’t see why Isabel should have to settle for him. A baby won’t change how he treats her.
And now, on to the Emily and Aaron side of this love triangle. I will not apologize for cheering when Emily and Aaron hook up because IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!
Lorraine: And, you know him. You fucked him.
Emily: Um, no, I didn’t, actually.
Lorraine: Really? You let that get by you? Ouch. Gotta be a regret.
The erasure of their relationship in Season 2 was a huge disappointment, and so it is so nice to see them actually interacting and acting like the friends we know they are during Season 3. Sex aside, their relationship returns from the oblivion, and it’s fantastic to see.
Plus, they have so much chemistry it is ridiculous. Sure, their timing is absolutely awful, but I’m still happy that it happened.
What are your thoughts on this love triangle? Who do you ship?
Yes, The West Wing vibes are still going strong, especially during debate prep. Was I the only one who immediately flashed back to Bartlett and team debate prepping in a barn? Good times.
The campaign storylines work really well.
It never feels jarring or disappointing to switch from the White House storylines to the campaign, especially since the storylines are so intermingled (as they should be).
What really helps the campaign storyline is the addition of Emily to the campaign staff. And soon after Emily arrives, Dontae joins the team.
It is a lot of fun watching her and Lorraine work together. They are complete opposites, especially when it comes to how far they will go to win the election. Their dynamic is fascinating.
Emily does start to drift off to the dark side of politics, like when she leaks the Alzheimer’s news, and there’s something really refreshing on Lorraine calling her out on it.
Emily may be Kirkman’s moral compass and may try to pass herself off as the gold standard of ethics, but she isn’t perfect, and Lorraine really enjoys pointing that out.
Speaking of Lorraine, she is such a fascinating character.
Lorraine: Shave that pretty face and put on your big girl panties. It is do or die time.
You want to root for her because she’s on our team. She’s working to get Kirkman elected. And yet, she is crossing so many lines.
We are used to seeing Kirkman and his staff as these great, moral people, and so it is a little shocking to have someone like Lorraine in the mix, and I mean shocking in the best possible way.
She brings a different kind of energy to Kirkman’s team and the show, and she ends up being the bad guy that Emily sets her sights on catching (with Dontae’s help).
What are your thoughts on Lorraine and Emily? Did you enjoy the campaign?
Hannah Wells, CIA
One of the big issues with Designated Survivor Season 3 is that it keeps trying to hold on to remains of the suspenseful show it used to be back in Season 1.
Designated Survivor does this with Hannah Wells.
The problem is the conspiracy doesn’t really involve the president until the last couple episodes, so up until that point, following Hannah around is the most boring thing in the world.
There are far more interesting storylines at play than Hannah’s investigation, and every time we had to switch gears to focus on her, the momentum of the show halts a bit.
Look, I love Maggie Q and watching her in action has made me want to rewatch Nikita (if you haven’t seen it, it’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.), but she can’t carry an entire storyline that does not involve any other major characters.
The reason her storylines worked so well in Designated Survivor Season 1 was that she was investigating something that had direct ties to Kirkman and all of the White House.
That hasn’t been the case since then.
During Season 2, she was a little bit more connected with everyone else, especially Aaron, but her storylines still failed to captivate us.
When she’s fired from the FBI, there is this brief glimmer of hope that she could wind up working for the White House in some capacity, which would have been a great way to keep her involved with everyone else. We could have focused more on the Secret Service, maybe, which would have tied in Dontae’s boyfriend Troy a bit more.
Instead, Hannah joins the CIA, and we are forced to watch her investigate some threat with someone who isn’t Chuck. Dr. Eli Mays is a nice guy and all, but Chuck and Hannah were the dream team. Did anyone else really miss Chuck?
Eventually, Hannah’s investigation starts to affect the White House and the rest of the world, but it’s only after she dies.
Her death is shocking in the sense that that is how Hannah Wells goes out — alone, no dramatics, no life-saving heroics. Seriously?
Why bring her back if this is how she is going to be treated? Hannah Wells deserves better.
She should have not appeared at all this season, and we should’ve been left to assume that she is off being amazing somewhere where her talents are appreciated.
The only other thing Hannah does is sort of wrap up Emily’s involvement with Valeria that we learned about on Designated Survivor Season 2 Episode 22, “Run,” and by wrap up, I mean it is half-addressed and then never discussed again.
What are your thoughts on Hannah and her storyline? Did you enjoy them or would it have been better if she wasn’t in this season at all?
Where Do We Go From Here?
The decision to end the season with the results that Kirkman wins the election makes sense. It is a natural ending.
However, it is strange that the Moss issue isn’t wrapped up at all.
It feels really unfinished. No one knows about any of this, aside from Kirkman, Emily, and Lorraine. You know Aaron, Seth, and Mars will have a lot to say on the topic.
It would have been nice to have a bit more closure on the Moss issue before closing out Designated Survivor Season 3.
But, it does set up on hell of a Season 4.
Lorraine is right when she tells Emily that she tainted this Presidential win. She did.
It will be a constant battle for them next season as everyone and the media learns about what Lorraine did. If Kirkman is struggling now with this decision not to share the recording, imagine how he will deal with learning everything that Lorraine did to secure him that win.
The issue isn’t black and white, which is fascinating and exactly how issues in political shows like Designated Survivor should be. Politics, and life, operate much more in the gray than I think anyone is comfortable with, but that’s just how it is.
Speaking of the recording, I don’t know about you, but I think Kirkman was right not to share it.
Emily doesn’t tell him how she got it (understandable), and the recording basically shows that Kirkman was wrong to speak on the Moss leak, which he had no idea where that came from either.
Designated Survivor focuses more on the fact that Kirkman thought that sharing the recording would hurt his chances of winning instead of him being more concerned with presenting true, un-tainted evidence, but there’s a cause to be made that Kirkman wanted to be more careful with what he releases and publicly speaks on.
Kirkman: They say a presidential campaign is like an x-ray into your soul. This is just something I did, and this is who I am now. The next time I give a speech, there’s going to be some corner of my mind just whispering, “you are so full of shit.”
Kirkman definitely becomes more of a politician this season, and Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 10, “#truthorconsequences,” shows us that he’s aware of it.
It will be interesting to see if Kirkman tries to course correct or if he embraces this change as he continues to lead the country.
- So, are we basically just pretending Leo doesn’t exist? There’s only ONE mention of him.
- Sasha is a great addition to the story.
- It’s annoying that Mars’ personal vendetta against the drug company is rewarded and not an abuse of office discussion.
- Aaron finally opening up, owning, and sharing his history is such a fantastic moment/storyline.
- The documentary footage really helps ground the show and is just a great addition to the series.
- Chuck, please come back.
What did you think of Designated Survivor Season 3? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Designated Survivor is now streaming on Netflix.
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