Designated Survivor: 60 Days does well with its plot and characterisation in the opening episode despite all the usual stock tropes you’d expect from a Korean drama showing up. Expect flashbacks, zoomed-in shots and repeated scenes to dominate the run-time but for the most part, these are worked quite well into the episode. The 75 minute length feels slightly overlong too but despite this, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable opening episode nonetheless.
We begin with environmental minister Park Mu-Jin driving his family down the highway. Mid-sentence he suddenly slams on the breaks as he notices black smoke rising from a distant building and a traffic jam along the road. As it explodes and crumbles, Park runs across the bridge toward the devastation, desperate to find his daughter. From here we then jump back to 9am, the day of the attack.
Government Ministers prepare for a big conference ahead, with the President reviewing his speech for the State Of The Nation Address. After the initial meeting ends, Secretary Han sticks around and they discuss the future of Korea, including President Reynold whose currently in charge of the US and the FTA re-negotiations.
We then see Park acting as environmental minister in his office and after an initial discussion with the other Ministers there, he leaves while his Secretary expresses concerns over his job. At the negotiation, things don’t go to plan. President Reynold halts negotiations for now before handing Minister Park a booklet detailing the air pollutants of diesel cars. Park thinks he’s found an error in the numbers though, however a comedy of errors follow resulting in exhaust fumes covering the US negotiator.
Park is then called into the President of Korea’s office where they discuss the incident and Park finally plucks up the courage to say what’s going on. He tells him about the incorrect calculations and refuses to sign the agreement. We then cut back to his office where a musical montage kicks in and we see the scientists in a meeting.
Park then picks his son up from school with his partner and they drive down the familiar bridge seen at the start of the episode. We then catch up with ourselves where we see Secretary Han and the others stop their cars on the bridge and overlook the devastation. He phones through to speak to the President but his worst fears have been realized; the President is dead.
Park frantically looks for his daughter at the scene before finally finding Si-Jin bleeding from the head and being taken to hospital. Park stays behind while his partner rides in the ambulance. Park is then told he’s to be active president for 60 days until the next Presidential Elections. He declares martial law and is taken into the depths of the facility for a further briefing.
Meanwhile, Na-Kyung, a detective, arrives at the scene and begins examining the evidence. She tries to find the location of her partner who she suspects was caught in the blast. However, as the ordnance team arrive and start combing through the wreckage, they find another bomb hidden in the wreckage and fear a second explosion, telling everyone to get back.
It was always going to be difficult for Designated Survivor: 60 Days to stand out next to the Keifer Sutherland series of the same name. Unlike the original, the 75 minute run-time here gives the episode a much more methodical pace, dissipating some of that initial tension and excitement the original series had so strongly. While some of the editing is quite good, especially the time-jump back, the actual episode itself lacks the urgency you’d expect given the gravitas of the situation.
Props to 60 Days though, the music is fantastic and the orchestral score kicks in at the perfect moments to capture what’s happening on screen. Some plot points do mirror what’s in the original series whereas others have been changed to fit in to the Korean theme and ongoing FTA negotiations. It works quite well though and 60 Days certainly gets off to a good start.
Quite whether Designated Survivor: 60 Days will stick closely to its US cousin or not going forward remains to be seen, but regardless there’s enough here to keep you coming back for the second episode.