Upgrade To DEFCON 2
Returning for a second episode, Designated Survivor: 60 Days picks up right where it left off, with both Park and Na-Kyung diving deeper into the bombing and subsequent fallout from that.
We begin the episode with Park deliberating over what to do next while the bomb squad try to deactivate the claymore. As his advisors anxiously await what he’s going to say, they get word from the squad that the bomb is deactivated. Turning on the TV, they hear a news report from North Korea explaining they had no part in the South Korean explosion. This causes a heated debate among the advisors and Generals. Unable to deal with the pressure, Park decides to get some air and spinning out, he throws up in the toilets.
After composing himself, he speaks to Secretary Han who advises he speak to the Japanese Ambassador about the situation. After some deliberation, he agrees. At the same time, the American military General suggests upgrading to DEFCON 2, telling them he believes the Korean peninsula is already at war and it’s only a matter of time before they make it official. It’s here where they learn of a North Korean submarine that’s suspiciously drifting South. While the others hastily see it as a sign of attack, Park deliberates over what to do next. Studying the schematics, he realizes the Lithium from the sub may well be the key to this and believes it’s drifting due to a defect, not an imminent sign of war. Against the wishes of his advisors, he decides to follow his hunch.
Meanwhile, Na-Kyung remains hopeful that survivors are still in the wreckage while a crowd gathers to honour those killed in the blast. She suspects the bomb planted was a dud to trick them into thinking North Korea were the ones responsible. Na-Kyung finds her partner Kim’s phone some time later, recovered from the wreckage, and after a few failed log in attempts eventually manages to unlock his phone. However, in doing so she finds a video text detailing the explosion of the building. Was Kim the one who orchestrated the attack?
From here, the episode swings back to Park who contemplates what action to take next. Left alone after Secretary Han faints, Park approves DEFCON 2 on the Korean peninsula and the military kick into gear. In doing so, North Korea appear to spring into action. Operation Bloody Nose is initiated. Everything is tense and to make matters worse, North Korea phones through asking to speak to Park.
A stand off then ensues between Kim Jong and Park as he tries to negotiate giving the submarine coordinates to him in exchange for North Korea’s combat readiness to be dropped. Going off script, he tells Kim that the US don’t want peace as much as he does and tells him the crew on-board the sub are still alive but they’re running out of time. The phone goes dead. North Korean planes fly toward the border causing panic to grip the room. However, the planes change course and head away from the border. The North has lifted its combat readiness. Park has done it.
He hastily writes the coordinates to where the submarine is and faxes it across to Kim as agreed. They lower to DEFCON 4 and for now, the threat has been diminished. Park receives a fax back from North Korea offering their deepest condolences regarding the blast and informs him they managed to save all 28 crew members on-board the sub.
Unlike the first episode, Designated Survivor: 60 Days delivers a much more grounded, gritty depiction of war-time politics and is all the stronger for it. The blurring line between fact and fiction is handled well and the ensuing tension surrounding the imminent threat of North Korea really helps add some drama to the episode. Although the bomb blast last time out was more shocking, I’d argue this episode actually did a much better job in sustaining that feel of dread across the entirety of the episode.
Na-Kyung finding out her husband may be involved in the blast is a nice twist too and it’ll be interesting to see how her side of the story develops going forward. Despite the episode running at 80 minutes, the pacing feels much more consistent this time around, which helps set this one apart. Park is certainly growing on me as a protagonist and it’ll be interesting to see how his persona develops over the course of the series but of course compared to Keifer Sutherland, he doesn’t quite have the same charisma. Even this early on, I’d assume Park will be made President permanently by the end of the show, especially given how well he manages to diffuse the looming war threat this episode.
Exciting times ahead for sure, Designated Survivor: 60 Days may well be a sleeper hit going forward but whether it can shake the shadow of its American cousin both in, and outside, the show and stand on its own still remains to be seen.