‘Designated Survivor’ Moves to Netflix and Turns Up the Political Heat


Image courtesy of Netflix.

The political drama Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland as a reluctant politician thrust into the Presidency after a catastrophic bomb kills everyone above him in the chain of succession, has moved to the other side of the aisle. And we don’t mean politically.

ABC canceled the show after two seasons, but it was rescued from oblivion by Netflix shortly thereafter.

This isn’t the first time Netflix has stepped in and resurrected a popular show canceled by one of the networks. Recently, the streaming service acquired fan favorite Lucifer from Fox and gave it two seasons. While Lucifer has mostly remained true to its network vibe, season 3 of Designated Survivor is not the Designated Survivor of standard network television.

At the beginning of season 3, it didn’t take long for one of the characters to drop an F-bomb. Throw in the brief nudity and mature subject matter, and suddenly the show becomes a far more realistic vision of the Washington, DC it’s dramatizing. Aside from that, the Netflix version of the show now centers around a political re-election campaign (instead of dealing with a national tragedy) and discusses some of the most topical and polarizing issues America is currently facing; topics like transgender rights, the high cost of prescription drugs, voter apathy, and child marriage are all addressed within the first few episodes.

New executive producer and showrunner, Neal Baer (ER, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Under the Dome) has shaken up the network model and taken a slim-line approach. Season 3 of Designated Survivor is only 10 episodes, cut down from 22 from the previous two seasons. This makes the storytelling tighter and leaner, which moves the story along.

Another new approach for Baer is that he’s put in actual documentary footage from real people talking about political issues. These brief snippets of footage bring these issues from a broad scale thought to a personal level, and they resonate in ways that the actors, in spite of their talent, cannot.

Most of the principal cast is back for season 3. Some of them are wearing different hats at the White House now, but Baer has added a few new characters in the mix, too. Television veterans Anthony Edwards (ER), Lauren Holly (NCIS), and Julie White (Nurse Jackie, Transformers) lend their substantial acting cred to the cast, bringing in new storylines to fold into the continuing saga of President Kirkman’s (Sutherland) presidency and subsequent campaign.

Another impressive addition to the cast is actress Jamie Clayton. She plays President Kirkman’s transgender sister-in-law, Sasha. Thrust into the spotlight by the opposing camp during the political campaign, Sasha and the President must decide what privacy means and what it doesn’t when Sasha’s identity is used against the President.

Clayton, a transgender woman herself, plays the role with authenticity and realism and brings fresh life to the new character.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is still around too — only she’s moved from the FBI to the CIA and is following a harrowing case that literally kept me up most of the night last night.

All 10 episodes of season 3, plus seasons 1 and 2, are streaming on Netflix now. There’s been no word on a season 4 yet, but if things follow true to Netflix form, that word should come sometime around late June or early July.

Michelle is Young Adult fiction writer, professional fangirl, and card-carrying nerd. (Her mint collection of Empire Strikes Back collector cards prove it.) She spends her days expanding young minds in a classroom and her nights glued to the television, where you'll find her watching her fave sci-fi/supernatural (lowercase) shows, Supernatural (upper case) or binging an obscure show from another country. In addition to her fictional work, she’s written for a local newspaper, corporate website, and pretty much every one of her husband’s papers in college. You can follow her on Twitter @EmCeeCollins

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