The Continuity of Government: Designated Survivor, Episodes 1 & 2, review

I have a morbid fascination with the worst-case scenario. When something horrible happens, what happens next? This is the reason I love disaster films like Pacific Rim, 2012, Independence Day, Godzilla (the 1954 original), Godzilla (the 1998 crap-shoot), The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, and Contagion; because that’s when interesting things happen. Oh sure, all these films are far-fetched, but that’s why they’re so interesting, because they’re scenarios which we’re unlikely to prepare for. So if they did happen, how the people react and how the world reacts can reveal much about the world we live in.

Take Pacific Rim for example. Giant monsters start stampeding through major cities around the world. At first, we convince ourselves they’re isolated incidents, but after the fourth attack, we start to see the pattern. In response, we start building giant robots to fight them off because we’ve watched too much anime.

Actually, I’ve argued this to a few friends before. In this scenario, giant robots make a bizarre amount of sense because the alternatives are guns and bombs. And really, what would you do if you were fighting a human being? Throw a few needles at their legs, throw a firecracker in their face (which is likely to just piss them off), or grab them in a headlock and punch them in the face twelve times? Obviously the last one. Scale this up, and you have the bloody Jaeger program.

But eventually, the program doesn’t seem to be that effective. The solution? Build a wall, because that’ll stop the stampeding monsters. They each weigh around 3,000 tons! Unless the wall’s constructed from solid vibranium, what are the odds that it’ll hold up if a Kaiju so much as leans on it? But it’s at this stage that the world is panicking. They’re almost certain that the end of the world is upon them, so they try whatever they can to survive, even if it’s futile.

In contrast our heroes decide the most rational response is one final attack at the source of the invasion. Something they tried before and failed. So why they thought it would work this time is beyond me. But they are also panicking. Realizing the world’s coming to an end, one last attack, one last blaze of glory is all they’re after.

This is interesting. This is how they react when the end is nigh. With nothing left to lose, they try whatever they can think of to hold off the end, hold onto hope, and hold onto sanity. The one thing they don’t want to do is give up.

But this is a scenario that humanity is unprepared for, and we’d be insane to prepare for it. It’s so far-fetched that it’s not even worth considering as a potential issue. But there are other, slightly less horrible and slightly more plausible scenarios that we could plan for; and we have.

During the Cold War, the worst-case scenario was real possibility: Nuclear war. Everyone thought it would be almost inevitable, with both America and the Soviet Union continually glaring and each other, and fighting proxy wars all over the planet, that eventually someone would take it just a bit too far and trigger a war that would result in millions dead, and half the planet rendered uninhabitable.

And they planned for it.

They planned for everything. What if the war started, and the President wasn’t near a phone? Well, he had the Nuclear Football, allowing him to launch a counter-strike from anywhere in the world. Dark.

But what about after? What would happen after the bombs dropped, and the President and Vice President didn’t survive? Who would lead America? Well thankfully, there are plans for that as well. There are two members of the legislature, as well as the entire US Cabinet, eligible to take up the presidency, if anyone above them is unable to. The technical term for this is the line of succession, and virtually every country has this kind of thing enshrined in law. But in the US that’s only 18 people. If all them are gone, which is likely in a nuclear war, there’s no one left. If they all die, no one can take up the presidency, not without being elected and that takes time. So, how do we prevent this? Yes, they planned for that too. You see, during any event where the President of the United States, the Vice President, and everyone else in the line of succession are in the same room, at the same time, one is excused, brought to a secret location, given a full Secret Service detail, and in the event that something horrible happens, they are elevated to the presidency.

They are known as the designated survivor.

But would this ever actually happen? Probably not. But what if it did? How would America react? How would the world react? And how would their new President react?

Kinda like that…

Yes, in the new series, Designated Survivor, Keifer Sutherland plays the designated survivor… then the President of the United States, and the last surviving official of the US federal government. And that’s just the first three minutes. Continue reading

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