Designated Survivor Season Finale Review: #Winning

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It's official; Kirkman is a politcian. 

The last leg of the race got ugly with so many people turning on one another, but Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 9 and Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 10 bookended the season with Kirkman embracing politics.

Kirkman headed down this path all season, but the closing scene of the season showed a man far more complex and different than the one we know.

Lorraine is Caught - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 9

But first, the question on everyone's minds days before the election was whether or not Moss knew about Phil's connection to the eugenics plotline.

Related: Designated Survivor Season 3 Episodes 7 & 8 Review: #Stay Woke

Lorraine is the standout of the season hands down, but amidst all the praise for her, Mars has to be acknowledged as well. He's a spectacular addition, and I loved the pressure he placed on the FBI to investigate the bioterror case and the Moss campaign's connection to it expediently.

Kirkman at his Desk - Tall - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 7

He didn't waste time reminding his contact how the FBI f*cked up the investigation in the first place since it was never on their radar. If not for Hannah, a large portion of Houston would have fallen victim to the genetically altered flu agent.

Hannah freaking died, so the least they could do was tackle the case like it was the national security threat it was, and if not for Mars lighting a fire under their arses, Phil probably wouldn't have been hauled in so soon.

Phil sang like a canary and outed Detwiler as the person who funded the entire operation. Lucky Mars was able to see the man he loathes get hauled into custody right after he laid into him and threatened to take him down. It had to be satisfying for him.

Tom: So, this is a long-term plan to change the demographic of the electorate?
Dianne: Engineered voter suppression.

Mars stayed winning in these final installments seeing the people he held responsible for his wife's addiction taken down, winning the election, making things right with his wife, and even encouraging her to run for the Virginia state senate seat.

As Eli mentioned, before disappearing without a trace for some reason (or because his role in the storyline came to an end and they no longer had use for him), the flu agent utilized wasn't about killing POC. Instead, it was far more insidious.

Eli Mays - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 3

The flu agent was supposed to sterilize POC to ensure they would no longer have children as some long-term, elaborate plan for voter suppression.

Imagine for a minute a world where instead of assuming people will always vote a certain way due to their race, those who were so concerned about who people of color would vote for would, I don't know, make a genuine attempt to address the interests of those demographics instead of eradicating them as a whole.

Karma's not a bitch. She's a freaking queen.


I mean, holy sh!t, is it that hard to put in the work to earn someone's vote instead of whitewashing the country to ensure you have the votes next time? Also, how presumptuous is it to assume that all POC will vote against the right, and all white people will vote for them?

Mars  - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 3

What kind of f*ckery is that? In believing that in the first place, aren't they confirming the stereotypes of certain ideologies? Wouldn't they have proven why some populations were right in not voting the way that they did? Even I have to acknowledge the bad generalizing here.

Related: Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5 & 6 Review: #FakeNews

Moss may not have shared the sentiment of Phil and Detwiler, but he still got in bed with them, and it wasn't a good look. He acknowledged Tom had an idealistic perception of campaigning and that he appealed to the baser instincts of the far right to ensure a win even if he doesn't believe the things they do.

On the Trail - Tall - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 2

Isn't that the problem? As Kirkman said, Moss didn't mind kowtowing to the most vocal members of the far right under the guise they are somehow the majority, when they are not. And that comes at the expense of disenfranchised parties.

How ridiculous is it that the Independent candidate has to tell the Conservative that the entire party isn's white supremacy and a false sense of nationalism? Shouldn't Moss know that as a Conservative, and if he believed what he said to Kirman, then what does it say about him?

Tom: What the hell happened to you? I used to respect you. You used to be a thoughtful, compassionate Conservative.
Moss: And how many of those unicorns have you seen lately? No, sir, I shifted right when my constituents did.
Tom: And I think you made a gross miscalculation. The people you're pandering to might be the most vocal, but they're not the majority of your party.
Moss: Son, you are sadly out of step with the times.

Despite the leaked footage of Moss speaking to his staff members about how white people will be the minority in 2050, and therefore "their interest" will disappear with the influx of brown people, he didn't know about the plot to sterilize all POC to ensure they stop reproducing and die out so white people could remain in majority.

Related: Designated Survivor Season 3 Episodes 3 & 4 Review: #TheGreatLatinoHope

I guess that's a relief. But the video was damaging, and Moss came across like a domestic terrorist who either orchestrated or at least got in bed with genocidal asshats, but Moss insisted he wasn't part of this plan and he would never do such a thing.

Emily Helps Campaign - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 3

Therein was Kirkman's moral dilemma when he found out later on about Pegasus and how the information was obtained and leaked. Kirkman prides himself on being a person with moral integrity -- a chronic do-gooder.

If he shared what Emily gave him with the public the day before the election, it could've cost him the election, and he wanted to win. He had to face the fact that he was willing to sit on the truth, which meant Moss' name would be associated with domestic terrorism.

Tom: Moss wanted to be president again. He knew in a three-way race the Democrats would run to the Left. I'd stay in the center. That left him with what?
Louden: The Right.
Tom: So he rebranded himself a hardline conservative. Surrounded himself with bigoted zealots like Detwiler and Brunton. He didn't believe in their nativist bullshit. But he knew that the hardline conservatives would vote in a block, and in a three-way race that might be enough to win.

In Kirkman's mind, it was for the greater good because if Moss associated with such people, even if he didn't believe the things they did, isn't he guilty by association? If nothing else this season was on-the-nose, then this moral quandary Kirkman weighed with his therapist was the truest to reality and form.

Even if Moss wasn't dangerous, his cohorts were. No matter how he tried to extricate himself from those ties, it doesn't change the image or people's impression. In that sense, it's possible even with the truth out, it would've cost Moss the election, but it also means his more radical constituents would back him further.

Addressing the Press - Tall - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 3

I loved the back and forth between Kirkman and his therapist as he tried to find a reason to justify his decisions -- a justification which painted him in a better light.

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No matter how he chose to spin it -- he was doing the best thing for the American people, he wanted to punish Moss for his actions, so on and so forth, it went back to the simple fact he wanted to win, and it was the best way to do so.

Kirkman Wins  - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 9

Kirkman had to come to grips with how he gave in to his darker, baser instincts. He became a politician and his reason for not clearing Moss' name despite knowing the truth was out of self-interest and purely selfish.

I loved his parting words intercutting with his speech addressing the people after he won. In the back of his head, from this point forward, he's going to be wondering if everything he's saying is bullshit.

You learn pretty quickly that politics doesn't run on reason, it runs on emotion. People vote their instincts and backfill arguments to fit them.


The crazy thing is, I believe Kirkman has accepted where he is now. He's succumbed to becoming a politician against his better judgment. We saw many inklings of it along the way.

Kirkman Is Back  Season 3 Episode 1

He caved to Lorraine's pressure when she suggested having Sasha introduce him in Texas was a mistake and too polarizing. It was surprising when he didn't put up as much of a fight as he normally would and found a creative way out of it.

Related: Designated Survior Season 3 Premiere: Edgier than Ever!

He told Sasha why it wouldn't work, and while he apologized later on after Penny guilted him into it, something was off. Kirkman lost parts of himself in the year of campaigning, and I don't know if he'll get those parts back. He doesn't know either, and as much as he hated to admit it, I don't think he expects to reclaim them.

It's interesting how Penny and Emily always had an unspoken task of keeping him honest. They were his moral compasses, and he knows and has acknowledged that, but by the end of the season, he couldn't appease them in the way he could before.

Trans Rights - Tall - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5

He thanked Emily for being a support for almost his entire political career, but he let her down, and he knows it. I won't say he doesn't care, but he almost accepts it as collateral damage.

They say a presidential campaign is like an X-ray into your soul. Is this just something I did? Or is this who I am now? Next time I give a speech, will there be some corner of my mind whispering "you are so full of shit?"


Emily didn't tell him about Lorraine's mole being Myles and her use of Pegasus (Israeli spyware) to gain information on Moss. It's a sh!tstorm waiting to happen when that gets out. It's only a matter of time before the ugly truth of it all is out, and the blowback on all of them is astronomical.

Emily and Dontae will already be in it deep for finding out about it and not contacting the FBI immediately. It will have a hell of an effect on Kirkman's presidency and will cause the people to turn against him, among other things.

Dontae  - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5

People like Aaron and Seth have trusted Kirkman, but this move he made is not something the man they know and love would've done. Moss already knows something is up, and he probably knows about Lorraine by now, and he doesn't intend to go away.

Politics are a hell of a beast, and not even Kirkman escaped unscathed. I’m curious how those close to him will handle this changed Kirkman who in some ways is foreign from the man sworn in years ago.

The next season should be good and messy!

Emily: You're a monster.
Lorraine: I know what I am. I'm someone who wins. What the fuck are you?

Speaking of messy, Isabel and Aaron’s relationship crashed and burned, but the final outcome was best (until the pregnancy reveal).

They say people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. In many ways, it felt like Aaron was trying to make a reason/season relationship with Isabel into a lifetime one.

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Her anger was palpable for some time, and she was hurt beyond words by his actions. But I was proud of her for thinking of the bigger picture and joining him in Florida for the campaign. When she saw him address the crowd, she realized how much he has grown since she met him.

Isabel and Mars Team Up - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5

When he interacted with her parents after their surprise visit, she saw the man she always wanted and hoped he would be. Her parents were ecstatic about their relationship and had no idea the couple was on the rocks.

To them, Aaron was perfect and exactly the type of representation they wanted even though they couldn’t vote.

It’s absurd that we cherry pick when we choose to count Puerto Rico as our own. They can’t vote in elections, and we drop the ball sending them aid during disasters, but we have no qualms about accepting their money and more.

Isabel: I can't be with you. I'm sorry. And it's not because of the infidelity. It's something deeper. Something that's always nagged at me under the surface. You never took me seriously.
Aaron: Isi, you can't say that--
Isabel: I don't mean as a romantic partner. I mean as a colleague. Someone substantial and considerable. You making VP now will only make that worse.

Who would have imagined Camila speaking about their future children would be foreshadowing? Aaron loves Isabel, and he hoped to make things right, but their relationship wasn't meant to be for them.

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I’m happy Isabel stood her ground when it came to their relationship. She didn't have a problem with Aaron's infidelity. She disliked how he treated her the same as the other men did in the Boy's Club.

Aaron Inspires - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 4

I understood her point to a degree, but more than anything the two were too different and incompatible. It made it difficult to root for them as a couple when it seemed like one or both of them always had to compromise who they are in some way or change to accommodate their relationship.

It’s not fair to either of them to do so.

Aaron came out of the relationship a better, more confident, and aware man. Hell, Isabel helped him through his Latino awakening and guided him through his identity crisis and embracing who and what he is. His gratitude knows no bounds, and Isabel has climbed the ladder and achieved so much too.

Camila: You'd certainly have our vote if we could vote. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens for the past 100 years, but we still can't vote.
Rafael: The government takes our money but not our ballot.

It’s OK if they only end up being friends, but this baby complicates things for both their breakup and her new job position. Mars saw things in Isabel she felt Aaron missed, and they were a dynamic duo all season.

Isabel earned her new position as deputy chief of staff. She put in the work, so it’s a bit frustrating that her obstacle is an unplanned pregnancy; it’s cliché.

Smitten Isabel  - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5

I enjoyed the moment she shared with Emily at the party. She apologized for taking her ire out on Emily instead of the man who cheated on her.

It’s too bad the two women couldn’t be friends right out of the gate, but their plans to have lunch sometime was promising.

They’re both smart, accomplished women with jobs to do, and there was never any need for a man to come between them forming a relationship or supporting each other in their male-dominated fields.

Emily: New York is still going to Porter.
Lorraine: Well, screw New York! If they're going to keep sucking Democrat balls, then I'm not wasting any more of my precious funds on them.

I enjoyed Lorraine's tirade against Emily while the authorities hauled her away. Lorraine had nothing which resembled a filter. She even threw the death of Emily’s mother in her face. I cannot imagine being that heartless.

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As expected, Carrie took matters into her hands and forced Emily’s hand. Emily was not trying to let her mom go otherwise. Their scenes together were gut-wrenching, and I could barely look at them.

Campaign Trio  - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 4

It was worse when Emily called the ambulance, and they made it to the hospital with doctors working to revive Carrie while asking Emily if she had a DNR.

Emily couldn’t let go, and if she could’ve avoided answering the question, she would have.

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Emily didn’t even get a chance to grieve before Dontae was calling her about Lorraine, and she got sucked into Tom disappointing her, with his actions.

Emily's Mom - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 5

I hope she finds peace in the next season, but I also hope she does learn something from Lorraine about politics too. She has to be more realistic and open to the bigger picture, and we know she's capable of it, so Kirkman is going to be susceptible to it too.

Emily has always mirrored Tom in a plethora of ways. They both hold the other accountable.

It’s no surprise she ended the season every bit as lost as he is. Lorraine claimed she knew who and what she is, and hell, we can’t argue with her, but she also asked Emily if she knew who she was.

Reporter: Do you believe President Moss is guilty of domestic terrorism?
Kirkman: I do.
Emily: Oh my God. Moss didn't know.

It struck a nerve for her. Kirkman and Emily had it the worst out of the primary characters, and they are most likely to have notable changes in the future. Whereas Aaron and Seth spent the season figuring out who they are and what it means for them, Kirkman and Emily lost themselves.

It was a jam-packed season that lost steam along the way, and it was exhaustive. The season was ambitious and juggled many things at once, which didn’t always pan out or come to fruition.

Campaign Trail Again - Tall - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 2

The series stuck to its new darker and edgier tone, and many of the new characters added something intriguing and fresh. It was not the same Designated Survivor we knew before, and whether or not that works for fans is a matter of taste.

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It didn’t shy away from controversial or hot topics, and it was the most political season of this political series to date. It was heavy-handed at times, chaotic, and cluttered, and it was evident they wanted to push as many boundaries as possible.

Kirkman and Penny - Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 10

One thing the show improved upon was finding its identity as a political thriller (bioterror aside). I would love to hear your thoughts on how else it improved in the comments below.

Other Notes:

  • If Kirkman can pull off winning the presidency as an Independent, then Lynn may have a shot at the Senate seat despite her recent past as a recovering addict.
  • I’m happy for Mars and Lynn. They worked their issues out and became the most endearing couple of the season.
  • Mars' proposal was inspired. He wanted drug companies who made addictive drugs and the counter drugs to set aside funds to pay for the rehab of those who couldn't afford it.
  • Despite Seth’s comment about revenge sex, he and Isabel only remained platonic friends. I think I’m happy about that.
  • Yeah, so Seth’s entire arc with Stephanie was the weakest personal arc of the season. At least he hit it off with Riya though, I guess.
  • So, Hannah is dead. They killed off a loose end who didn’t always fit into the narrative. OK.
  • Is it just me or did Dontae fade away a bit during the back half of the season?
  • While Kirkman running as an Independent during these contentious political times is the most refreshing thing ever, since this is a political show, I do have to point out how imbalanced it became. It leaned more toward the left with each installment

Over to you Designated Survivor Fanatics. Is this the end of Lorraine? Are you surprised Kirkman withheld the information about Moss? What do you think this means for him going forward?

Did Aaron and Isabel need to part ways? Hit the comments below.

You can watch Designated Survivor online here via TV Fanatic.

#undecided Review

Editor Rating: 4.2 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (14 Votes)

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.

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Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 9 Quotes

Emily: New York is still going to Porter.
Lorraine: Well, screw New York! If they're going to keep sucking Democrat balls, then I'm not wasting any more of my precious funds on them.

Seth: I know it's unfair to ask you to play the role of the supportive good spouse, but Kirkman's down in Florida.
Isabel: Seth.
Seth: It just sucks that he has to suffer collateral damage because of what Aaron did. Was it really that bad?
Isabel: He slept with Emily.
Seth: Yeah, fuck that asshole. You're not campaigning for him.