The series premiere of Designated Survivor, ABC’s new show about Kiefer Sutherland becoming the president, opened with a huge bomb going off in the Capitol during the State of the Union. The blast killed the show’s fictional president and, apparently, just about everyone in the building, including every member of the Cabinet save Kiefer Sutherland’s character. This all would probably be quite a spoiler if a) the show didn’t give it all away by showing the explosion in all the commercials, and b) the show’s title was something other than Designated Survivor. The network wasn’t playing this one close to the vest. They were killing off hundreds off politicians in the first 10 minutes and they wanted you to know.
And you probably watched all that and thought to yourself, “Well, this is probably the most shocking and dramatic politics-based murder resulting from a terror attack that ABC will depict this fall, or at least in, like, the next five days.” This brings us to the season premiere of Quantico, which unlike Designated Survivor, kept its assassination a secret and saved it for the end, so if you don’t know what happened and don’t want to, this would be a good place to stop reading.
The short version: Terrorists hit New York, setting off bombs and taking hostages at an FBI summit attended by the president and first lady. Priyanka Chopra’s character, FBI agent Alex Parrish, who is undercover inside the CIA to attempt to smoke out rogue traitor-types, because that is the type of thing that happens on Quantico, shows up at the hostage scene just in time to see the terrorists decapitate the first lady.
Showrunner Josh Safran spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the scene.
“The first lady was beheaded on national television,” he says. “On this show, when somebody’s dead they’re dead, because in the real world, when people die they are dead. It’s about what can happen in a moment. So no one is safe, that’s what the world is.”
Quantico is no stranger to killing off characters, but Safran makes it clear that the decision to push the storyline to such brutal lengths is not for entertainment sake. Instead, it’s meant to reflect the real terror threats of the world today.
So, to recap, in the first full week of the new fall season, ABC’s dramas have, in addition to killing hundreds of congressmen and high-ranking officials, blown up a fictional president and decapitated a fictional first lady. That’s… that’s kind of a lot, right? Especially in the middle of a heated election season. Like, I love a good plot twist and any series of events that allows me to pretend that Jack Bauer from 24 has become the president (and it’s worth noting again that the Designated Survivor premiere featured Kiefer’s shaggy-haired teen son blowing off babysitting because his friend was “laying down a new dubstep track,” which is just a great excuse that everyone should use a lot), but dang, ABC. What are you trying to say here?
It’s also really weird when you compare ABC’s slate of dramas (these two, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, etc.) to its collection of sweet, family-oriented comedies (Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless, etc.). There are basically two kinds of shows on the network right now:
- Everything is okay and will stay okay as long as we love each other and stick together
- You are going to die
All of which brings me to my point: What if the series premiere of ABC’s upcoming talking dog comedy, Downward Dog, ends with the dog bombing the United Nations? There’s really no way to rule it out at this point.
(Yes, this entire thing was just leading to a talking dog joke. I feel great about it.)