Everyone has those difficult ‘First Day of Work’ stories. Even presidents have those stories. None of them could possibly compare to newly appointed President Kirkman’s first day in the Oval Office. Being the President of the United States is not a job Tom Kirkman wanted or asked for. A terrorist attack which wiped out the Cabinet, House, and Congress changed that. He was not prepared to be the Designated Survivor, but now he has to find the strength to help all the other survivors.
President Kirkman, as he shall now be known, has the most emotional first day in office of possibly any President of the United States. Everyone in the White House is extremely edgy and grief-stricken. His first meeting his so chaotic he has to leave his own office! Not very presidential, but at least it got everyone to momentarily quiet. Once he’s away from the bickering, Kirkman actually does find some solutions to his ever-growing list of duties. He puts his former staffer Emily and former/maybe future Chief of Staff Aaron Shore in charge of building a new Cabinet. So much is going on that it’s good to take stock in whatever good news there is. Cue the arrival of the other Designated Survivor, from the Republican party Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten. She’s smart, compassionate, and admits to being half grief-stricken and half grateful to be alive like everyone else. Unlike the general who wants to unseat Kirkman, Kimble just wants to help the president rebuild what little is left of the government.
Seth Wright may have clearance to the most important building in America, but that seems to mean very little now. He is accosted by police on his way to work. It’s the beginning of a disturbing pattern that is spreading fast. The Governor of Michigan starts a dangerous chain of events when he orders that all Muslims in his state be rounded up, then refuses to take the president’s calls. He’s making the point that he doesn’t respect the President or the Presidency anymore. Wright explains very eloquently that a catastrophic event like this either gives people faith in each other or tears them apart. The latter is what’s happening. The police brutality against Muslims and minorities in Michigan is at DEFCON 1. A 17-year old boy is beaten to death on camera, and Kirkman is almost helpless to do anything. The lawyers from the Attorney General’s office give him conflicting advice on how to handle it. Not many people could find a solution that solves the problem while staving off catastrophic PR damage, but Kirkman does. He orders the Governor to release all Muslims he has rounded up, and adds incentive by saying that three of the people he arrested were undercover agents. The Governor can try to defy an Executive Order all he wants, but interfering in a federal investigation will land you in prison faster than you can say “you have the right to remain silent”. The governor gives in, and Kirkman earns some respect among his colleagues since the part about the undercover agents was a bluff.
The FBI is working based off the one faulty bomb which didn’t go off. They have a specific terrorist group in mind, but Kirkman is not comfortable with taking action on a 75% likelihood. When he gets pushback, Kirkman is done being polite. He orders the General and all Intelligence agencies to be 100% sure before he even thinks about firing missiles. Pushing aside her grief, Agent Wells looks closely at all the evidence and is not convinced either. Jason Atwood, Deputy Director of the FBI, is now in charge given that the Director is confirmed dead. He doesn’t share Wells’ thoughts with the President. He has no intention of doing so, at least not until they have more to go on.
The task Kirkman feels is most important to the American soul is to visit the new Ground Zero. I swear even as I type that it sounds disturbing. All of the chaos out of the Michigan debacle creates a dangerous situation where Kirkman is nearly trampled. Penny is terrified when she sees her father in danger on television, and Leo is suddenly thrust into more responsibility than he’s ever had. Now keeping your little sister away from the TV is hardly that difficult, but I get where he’s coming from. He knows that his life and his role in his family is never going to be the same. That’s difficult enough for the adults. Kirkman is going to take the time to do this job right. He’s not going to leave emotion out of the job. He checks on Seth after hearing about his morning, he calls the parents of the boy killed in Michigan, and he wears a baseball cap to the Capitol to personally thank every single person working into the night. When the world you know is turned upside down, all you have left is the human connection. It’s what keeps you going. It’s what keeps the rescue workers sifting through the rubble going until they find the one remaining survivor buried.
Is Tom Kirkman on the right path his first day on the job?
Designated Survivor Season 1 Episode 2 Review: "The First Day"
Designated Survivor President Kirkman manages chaos in the country while staying emotionally connected to his citizens.