Wednesday, 12 June 2019
Yeah this is just like that but instead of depressing and terrible it's happy and good
Designated Survivor is yet another politics show that gives fantasy solutions to real-world problems, and I found it funny that the show's solution to "fake news" was for the main character to announce that he was going to censor the internet and then he was cheered for this by a bunch of millennials, so if nothing else the show makes no bones about how its writing room is full of aging and reactionary white men, a fact that still escapes the many fans of The West Wing.
Telling the story of Keifer Sutherland's drastic miscasting, Designated Survivor followed the last surviving member of the American government after the rest were killed off by terrorism in a plot setup that likely sounds very familiar to the many fans of King Ralph, but after two seasons, even ABC decided it could do better and canned the show only for it to be picked up by Netflix, who apparently have more money than sense now. The Netflix-exclusive third season of the show is... surprisingly good.
I mean, it's still utter fluff, of course, there's no chance of it suddenly becoming The Wire at this stage, but there's some interesting things done with the idea of corruption in high office that I haven't seen in other shows, like a direct equivalence being drawn between political and moral compromise, and while he seemed like the last person who should be playing the part in seasons 1 and 2, here Sutherland's air of menace actually helps sell the idea of a man willing to compromise himself to retain power. He played so toothless and guile-free a character up until now that his turn to the dark side actually carries a bit of weight, and I was surprised after watching one of the earlier episodes to find myself genuinely disappointed in an unconvincing fictional character for the decision they made. The politics still straw-mans a lot of issues, and socialist ideas are obviously verboten in an American show, but I liked that many of the show's "no easy answers" cop-outs were for once at the expense of characters until now portrayed as Mary Sues*, and that copping out with the kind of resolution you'd expect to see in any US drama is actually something which damages the characters in the eyes of the audience.
Lots of effing and blinding in this season, too - there's one pre-credits sequence that's just Keifer Sutherland taking a dump while doing a Rubiks Cube and then giving up saying "these things are fucking impossible." More money than sense, I tells you.
* Yes I said Mary Sues uncritically - it doesn't stop being a legitimate critical term just because some Star Wars fans want it removed from the lexicon after internet man-babies used it poorly.
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