Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor

Netflix Series
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Political intrigue, explosions, FBI investigations and terror plots are the basis for Designated Survivor but can President Thomas Kirkman conquer the White House and restore order to the United States?

If you're looking for a drama to get stuck into and somehow Designated Survivor passed you by, then go back and give it a watch.

It is a political thriller series created by David Guggenheim and it aired for three seasons. First airing on ABC, it then exclusively streamed on Netflix for the third and final season.

With a recent resurgence in viewers, Designated Survivor has become quite popular again but what is is all about and is it worth watching?

What is Designated Survivor About?

Thomas Kirkman, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is an American politician who on the day of the State of the Union address is told he is the ‘designated survivor'.

This essentially means that should anything happen to those in the line of succession, he will automatically become President of the United States.

Though he's never even heard of the term, he dutifully goes into lockdown to watch the address on tv during which a massive explosion takes out the Capitol Building and everybody in it.

Suddenly a very inexperienced Kirkman must rise to the challenge and step in as the new President while trying to uncover the truth behind the terrorist attack.

His problems begin almost instantly as his family had no idea that they would suddenly be upended and thrown into this craziness.

His wife, and now First lady, Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone, Halo) tries to make the transition to the White House as easy as possible despite how difficult their lives become.

Designated Survivor Official Trailer

Is Designated Survivor Worth Watching?

Of course, it is as far fetched as it sounds but somehow the show creators made it seem slightly plausible that every single senator and congressman could be wiped out in one swoop so if you can buy into it then you're at least halfway there.

Next, you have to wrap your head around the fact that one of the most important jobs in the world has just been given to the Secretary of Housing who looks after urban development.

And even if you accept that premise, you now have to believe that President Kirkman is also the most moral human being on the earth.

In the face of even more potential attacks he refuses to take action with anything less than a squeaky clean approach.

Honestly, the audience loves the character of Thomas Kirkman. For most, the idea that a truly good human being, who does all the right things, being in charge is the dream. A bit like Martin Sheen playing Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing.

Personally, I wish he had a bit more depth and didn't ooze the moral high ground as much. That said, President Kirkman is tempered by Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) and the investigation team which is hunting down a previously unknown home grown terror cell.

Overall Designated Survivor is a gripping political thriller and with executive producer Kiefer Sutherland also the star, the show really was in good hands. Worth a watch.

How Many Episodes Are in Designated Survivor?

The story of uncovering the terrorist cell is played out over all 21 episodes of season one. It was a huge hit on network television and ABC renewed the show for a second season which has 22 episodes.

Then ABC cancelled the show, despite great ratings. However, fans were outraged so in September 2018, Netflix and Entertainment One announced they had reached a deal to pick up Designated Survivor for the third season of 10 episodes.

So in total, there are 53 episodes with four characters appearing in every episode. They are Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland), Aaron Shore (Adan Canto), Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci, The Imperfects) and Seth Wright (Kal Penn).

The show was not renewed for a fourth season.

Why Was Designated Survivor Cancelled?

This is a trickier question to answer. ABC cancelled Designated Survivor after the second season due to a high turnover of showrunners and declining ratings.

A showrunner is the leading producer of a television series, and in the first two seasons of Designated Survivor, there were four of them.

The show was created by David Guggenheim, but creative differences on the set meant a revolving door of producers, and it all became a little chaotic.

Then it went to Netflix streaming service and fans were thrilled. On July 24, 2019, Netflix announced the series would not be renewed for a fourth season, stating that the third season made for a satisfying final season.

At the time Netflix said: “We’re especially thankful to star and executive producer Kiefer Sutherland, who brought passion, dedication and an unforgettable performance as President Kirkman.

“We’re also grateful to showrunner/executive producer Neal Baer for his guiding vision and steady hand, creator/executive producer David Guggenheim and EPs Mark Gordon, Suzan Bymel, Simon Kinberg, Aditya Sood and Peter Noah along with the cast and crew who crafted a compelling and satisfying final season.”

Who Is In The Cast Of Designated Survivor?

Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, the low level official who suddenly finds himself President Kirkman after a massive terrorist attack takes out Congress. A hugely successful actor, who can forget The Lost Boys, Flatliners or even 24, which ran for 13 years.

Adan Canto plays Aaron Shore, the Vice President-elect of the United States. Before being put on President Kirkman's ticket Aaron worked as Kirkman's first Chief of Staff.

Italia Ricci stars as Emily Rhodes, the spokesperson of Kirkman's presidential campaign.

Kal Penn (Smile) plays Seth Wright, the White House Communications Director who initially doubts Tom's abilities as President. He is known for his role of Dr. Lawrence Kutner in House.

Maggie Q takes on the role of Agent Wells, a CIA Case Officer who is assigned to investigate the Capitol bombing, eventually solving the case.

LaMonica Garrett (1883) plays Mike Ritter a Secret Service agent, assigned to President Kirkman's personal protection detail.

Recurring characters in Designated Survivor are incredibly popular including Michael J. Fox as Ethan West, an attorney hired by Kirkman’s administration to oversee an inquiry investigating Kirkman’s fitness to serve as President. And Geoff Pierson as Cornelius Moss, former President who decided not to seek re-election due to the death of his wife.


  • Maggie Q
  • The Premise
  • The Production


  • Soooo Drawn Out
  • Irritating Characters
  • Convoluted Storylines


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