There is no shortage of topics left undiscussed this season.
The campaigning is something which carries over throughout the season, but it seems each installment wants to take on a couple of issues at a time sometimes in a way that feels like it's checking them off of a checklist.
For example, Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 3 was heavily focused on transgender visibility, and Designated Survivor Season 3 Episode 4 most prominently featured Aaron's identity issues and delved into racial politics, colorism, passing, and even Eugenics.
The series took off running with this new forum and flexibility, and they are making use of its nearly full hour. However, it also feels a bit too cluttered.
Some of the storylines don't have the time to breathe before they're wrapped up and the series moves on to the next issue hence the feeling that they're checking off discussion points as if they're on a checklist.
It's one of the signs of the show falling into its former procedural habit. The one and done approach can feel unsatisfying when you're consuming it all at once. It's particularly noticeable in regards to how it relates to Kirkman's campaign.
They spend time each hour trying to put out a specific fire with this notion the cause of it won't be an issue again. For #privateparts it came in the form of Moss playing dirty and leaking to the press the existence of Alex's transgender sister Sasha.
Sasha: I need to relinquish my privacy in order to restore it?
Tom: Unfortunately so.
The late Sense8's Jamie Clayton guest-starred during the hour as Alex's sister who lived in Paris whom Tom had an OK enough relationship with, but he respected her privacy, and they didn't speak often.
Tom's constant issue running in the campaign is walking this fine line as an Independent in a political sphere which insists on being two-party to its detriment. In Tom's mind, his intentions were pure, and he wanted Sasha's privacy to be respected; she never asked to be part of this life.
However, to the far Right, it looked as if he was hiding this dark secret of being associated with Sasha -- and included boisterous bigoted talking heads speaking their piece.
To the far Left, it came across as though he were ashamed of Sasha which alienates and disrespects a large community of voters who would've voted for him: LGBTQIA.
It placed Tom in a sucky position of wanting to salvage his campaign, his image, and protect and respect his sister-and-law and not use her as a prop.
Sasha: You know, you never asked me any questions about my transition. I mean, everyone has questions. You never asked one.
Tom: I wanted to respect your privacy
Of course, he found a Kirkman way to do it coming off as close to perfect as one can. He's so earnest and honest, and he's not perfect at all, but he tries to be the best person he can be, and in a field as slimy as politics, it means and counts for something.
His conversation with Sash was a highlight. Sasha called him out on intellectually understanding her transition and what it meant, but he never asked questions or expressed any form of curiosity at all -- there was nothing personal about his feelings.
They could have copped out and had him come across as the perfect, enlightened person who just "got it" and didn't need to come to grips with any of it, but they didn't, and it was more realistic. He loves and respects her as a person, but he also admits he's still a work in progress in understanding completely.
It has no bearing on her being a human being like everyone else, and in his mind, it's as simple as that. She deserves respect and inalienable rights because of her being a person -- everyone regardless of their walks of life deserve this.
My name is Tom Kirkman, and I present myself as a candidate for the presidency of the United States. Not as a partisan of the right or the left, but as one of you -- the frustrated majority of Americans who just want sensible solutions to the issues of our time. In asking for your vote, I ask you to take this giant leap with me away from politics as usual and declare your independence. Thank you. Good night and God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.Tom
He had the same discomfort but well-intentions as he did dealing with his brother's depression. It's out of his depth, and he admits to it and knows there are many things he has to work on daily to be a better person. It's something human, raw, and real about that.
The timing of it all couldn't be more impeccable as he was discovering on a personal front young Penny started her menstrual cycle, and she had no one to talk to about it as she's without a maternal or female figure.
Now, we're to believe Sasha will be sticking around to be a support to Penny. It had me wondering what happened to Alex's mother doing the same. However, if we caught one glimpse of Sasha in the next installment to make it feel as though this wasn't a one-off thing, it would've felt better.
Of course, she may appear again in the next installments, so I'll try not to jump the gun. The hour was about privacy, and it also applied to Seth meeting his biological daughter for the first time, and Aaron's vetting process.
It's odd, but it seems Aaron and Seth have done a role reversal. Now, we have some significant Aaron development (enough to make up for the past two seasons), and whatever this storyline is with Seth. One of them is working, and the other is -- I don't know what it is.
Seth: I'm going to have nightmares of that man chasing me around for talking points.
Emily: All the reason to stay in shape.
Seth: Round is a shape.
Seth met his presumed biological daughter Stephanie, and they had some casual conversations. He stalked her social media like anyone who lives in the Information age would, and he became a bit obsessed with the idea of her being family without outright saying how much it means to him to have this family.
Seth's level of estrangement from his adopted family feels new, and it's hard to determine what's to come of this Stephanie storyline.
She was the one who reached out, but why? She has no personality, and her motives are unclear. Their scenes together are awkward, and the final exchange between them during #makehistory was the most uncomfortable yet.
He gave her a locket with pictures of her biological grandparents -- his parents he didn't know, and it freaked her out, and she abruptly left him sitting at the bar alone. Seth spends a lot of time in the bar alone now.
Seth has fallen back into the comfortable, platonic friendship with Emily. It's almost like they never dated at all (which is funnier when they make jokes about how Aaron and Emily kissed once years ago in every installment).
Seth has admitted he has little to do with the campaign taking precedent, and he gives a few snappy retorts during press conferences, but so far, he mostly has this Stephanie thing, and I'm impatiently waiting for it to be relevant in some way.
Meanwhile, new kid Dontae has taken Seth's spot as the go-to candid person who pulls rabbits out of his hat. Our Aaron problem has now become a Seth problem.
Aaron's storyline, specifically regarding his identity issues, is heavy-handed but compelling. He was reluctant to accept the VP position for a couple of reasons, but the most prominent was he didn't want to be a diversity pick.
Initially, there was something uncomfortable about Aaron and Isabel's relationship. She's so spirited -- an activist, and an out and proud Latina. It's fantastic, but it also means she and Aaron clash a lot.
For a while, it was a bit offputting that she was comfortable in her heritage and identity but made him feel inadequate as a Latino. It's the first dig she makes when teasing or fighting with him.
She has a way of making him feel like he's not Latino enough, and when they have arguments or different viewpoints about heritage and how to go about identifying themselves, she doesn't hesitate to call him to the carpet about passing or subtly implying he's ashamed of who he is or is self-loathing.
You know, I don't know what bothers me more Aaron, the fact that you're a liar or you're a coward.Isabel
Identity politics are complicated, and everyone's journey and experiences are different. It's refreshing to see this explored, particularly at this stage in Aaron's life.
We never stop trying to figure out who we are and our place in the world and something as personal as one's heritage, for people of color, is ongoing.
Aaron doesn't like labels, and while Kirkman (in a similar manner as his conversation with Sasha) assured Aaron that his ethnicity is beneficial but not the only reason he wants him as VP, Aaron doesn't want to be the "Great Latino Hope."
He's already facing a barrage of racist memes and sentiments about him from narrowminded non-Latinos, but he's facing the pressure of either serving as a model Latino for the Latinx community or not being Latinx enough for their liking.
Lorraine: Our press team is arguing about what to call you. Hispanic? Chicano? Latino?
Isabel: Don't use Hispanic. Um, Latinx is on the rise, but--
Aaron: I don't like labels, all right? In any case, I'd be a Tejano. My mom's family has been in Texas since before it was Texas.
He's too Latino for white voters and not Latino enough for Latinos. It has triggered him and brought up all the issues he faced growing up in frustrating ways. It's real, raw, and relatable.
Aaron's experience as the only Latino in predominately white spaces growing up had him fixated on meritocracy. He was compelled to prove he earned everything he got.
He changed his last name from Rivera to Shore after high school to assimilate better, and he's light enough to pass sometimes, even though he never consciously intended to do so, it was something that maybe happened and helped him.
He has a real chip on his shoulder about his identity, so his relationship with Isabel and this new position in his campaign are making things interesting for him in that regard. Isabel isn't the only one to ride his case about it; his cousin and other family members have in the past.
Meanwhile, Isabel makes valid points as the series progresses, and you can understand why she's blunt with him regarding it. He's testy about race, he's unaware of the history of his people, and he opts to be a chameleon and blend in.
Isabel's a proud Boricua and wears it on her sleeve, but she's to the extreme of Aaron because of her inability to tone it down when it's necessary.
Aaron: You, and Lorraine, and for all I know the president want me to be the Great Latino Hope.
Isabel: Which you're not OK with?
Aaron: I've been looking to avoid that all my life.
She's in the spotlight now as Aaron's girlfriend and potential new wife. The scrutiny she's under has to hold up too, and she's from a long line of activists including her mother who worked for a Puerto Rican version of the Black Panthers.
They're an odd couple on a political stage where they both have to walk a fine line between appealing to people like them without turning off people who aren't. The exploration of how race factors into politics and the different tightrope one has to walk when they aren't a white man is a nice angle even if they are heavy-handed with it.
In the end, Aaron's biggest controversy may not be his heritage or his vocal, active Latina girlfriend. It may be the fallout that happens if the country finds out he drove undocumented immigrants into the country in his youth.
I also wonder if they may stir up something about his relationship with Emily. They shared a lovely moment when he shared the tidbit of information with her, but to an outsider clamoring for a story, they could present it as an affair.
Lorraine: Aaron's vetters have found some banking irregularities. Consistent payments a few years back to a woman named Mariluz Santiago. I need you to make sure they're not child support payments.
Emily: Isn't that what vetters are for?
Lorraine: I need the stuff that lawyers can't find. You know him. You fucked him.
Emily: Uh, no I didn't actually.
Lorraine: Really? You let that get by you? Ouch. Gotta be a regret.
Another current issue the series tossed in was the war against Big Pharma. It was a storyline where Isabel got to shine outside of Aaron.
Isabel putting the squeeze on the company to lower their prices for insulin was satisfactory, and the real video of a woman speaking about her son dying because of his rationing of insulin he couldn't afford was heartbreaking.
It's something discussed often as the prices for insulin continue to rise, and those dying due to their inability to afford it is increasing too. Series like The Resident and Chicago Med have tackled the rising cost of insulin, and it's prevalent in the news.
It felt like something to make Kirkman the perfect, ideal president we can only dream of having. The idealism is fine, but the fixes are too easy sometimes.
We are getting the impression Kirkman is buckling under the pressure of walking the line. He caved on taking money to stop the teacher strike against Emily's wishes. He's making tough decisions, and it's evident he has to play politics to succeed in them no matter how honorable he tries to be.
Emily is upset by this, and they have developed friction, but she's learning the same thing. After all, she was the one to leak Moss' DNA results about him carrying the gene for Alzheimer's.
She, better than anyone, should've understood how personal that is when she was avoiding test results of her own. Fortunately, she doesn't carry the cancer gene as she feared, but it's upsetting to know her mom may be prepping for suicide without Emily knowing about it.
At the rate by which the series is covering a plethora of issues, it wouldn't be a surprise if the controversies around assisted suicide became one of them.
Speaking of an affair, the relationship between Mars and Lynn is complicated. Lynn's addiction is only one issue, and when she spent their therapy session blaming him for everything, it seemed unfair.
It was enlightening when she spoke about how he married her to gain access to her father and further climb the social ladder. It seemed there was truth to it when he reacted so poorly to Aaron's VP nom.
The Moss leak, it wasn't the lab, and it wasn't me. I underestimated you. Don't underestimate me.Lorraine [to Emily]
Lorraine is an overt opportunist, but Mars is underhanded. I wonder if his marriage with Lynn will succeed and if he'll end things with his young mistress?
While we're on the topic, Dontae had a racy romp with Aaron's secret service member, and they hit it off. The guy likes Dontae, but didn't Dontae have a boyfriend? What happened to him?
Hannah has no time for relationships, and race factored into her investigation in a big way. She and Eli went back to the lab they visited, and they discovered small-pox was there.
They had to race to get vaccinated, but then they also found a similar issue in Toronto. An OBGYN clinic had a bout of the flu, which caused sick patients and employees.
It didn't kill them, and they didn't find out who the mystery nurse was who brought the strain of virus to the location, but they found out later on that it made most of the pregnant women, including the doctor they spoke to, miscarry.
Hannah and Eli figured out after the flu infecting some people in a Tampa apartment complex that Eugenics is at work. The flu strain that killed the red birds was one that attacked melanocytes; it's tailor-made to attack pigment, and that's why it killed red birds.
Someone is messing with flu strains to see what sticks.Hannah
It's also why the only people sick in the apartment building were people with dark complexions. According to Eli, the only difference in races is a .04% difference due to melanocytes, and this biohacker has found a way to exploit that to make darker people ill or potentially kill them.
Hannah's storyline feels as if it's on a show of its own. It's likely to tie into the White House in some way or another, but until then, it's a side spy show in the middle of a political thriller.
Designated Survivor has taken a bolder tone, and while it's subtler than the unapologetic and brash way The Good Fight comes after everything Trump and the political spectrum, the vibe is there.
The shift in a series which utilized fake countries instead of referencing real ones is noticeable. The previous administration before Kirkman never came across troubled, whereas he's serving as a stand-in posthumously for whomever one deems most problematic.
Hannah: I used to be FBI.
Eli: Used to?
Hannah: Yeah well I move fast and break things.
The series is unmistakable in its voice and the messages it wants to send, namely, get informed and take your ass out there and vote next election.
Do you think Seth is being underused or misused? How do you feel about Aaron's racial identity arc? Hit the comments below.
You can watch Designated Survivor online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.