The North Korean Defectors
After last week’s double bill set the tone and mood for the series to follow, Designated Survivor: 60 Days returns for episode 3, and a much more politically conspiring episode.
We begin with Park returning home and reuniting with Si-Jin, whose infectious excitement brings a smile to her Father’s face as she talks about riding a spaceship, which happens to be an MRI machine. We then get an unexpectedly hilarious moment involving a joke about North Korea followed up by one of the best laughs in Kdrama history.
Park tries to connect with his son Si-Wan soon after to no avail although Si-Wan does ask his Dad what the Wi-fi password is which is certainly progress over outright silence.
One of Park’s advisors then fronts a public address where he’s bombarded with difficult questions from the press prompting Kim to step in and answer the hungry reporters head on while the advisor himself retreats from the pressure.
Secretary Han then tells Park he needs to visit the scene of the tragedy to keep up a good public image. Meanwhile Na-Kyung figures out a cable installer is to blame for the bomb and that could have been the ticket to allow them to get in without being seen as suspicious. She immediately gets to work finding the company responsible for installing the cables, leading her to a foot-chase and a possible suspect. They catch a shady man up on the roof but he sneers before suddenly leaping off and onto electrified wires, killing him instantly.
Before they can deliberate over what to do next, a gang arrive and write “Commies Go Home” on the walls, which Park soon learns is part of the recent social media “fake news” spreading surrounding the North Korean Defectors. Mayor Kang capitalizes on this and holds a speech in the area, further strengthening his political crusade when someone throws food at him while he’s talking.
Meanwhile Park is urged by his wife to stop the Special Crime Investigation Division due to their belief in the North Korean defectors being drug addicts before he visits the scene of the explosion as requested earlier in the episode. He begins to follow his script for the speech he’s given when suddenly a man appears and threatens to hurt him. Thankfully, his security team stop them.
From here, the rest of the episode sees Park try and work out the best way of diffusing the situation with Mayor Kang and the North Korean rumours whilst avoiding political suicide in the process. After some studying and words of encouragement from those closest to him, he comes up with a plan to help him and the North Korean defectors but the entire cabinet are completely against it. Including Secretary Han.
Han then gives him an ultimatum – follow his advice or go ahead and fire the Secretary in order to push his plan through. Begrudgingly, Park makes his mind up and winds up firing Secretary Han in order to get the meeting for the executive order.
Forced back into the lime-light once again as the best press candidate they have, Kim informs the press that Park has issued the executive order to revoke the designation of Mohyeon and Gogil as Special Crime Investigation zones. The police are forced to back down and told not to show any discriminatory behaviour toward the area.
This is met with applause from the residents and as Park heads to the tragedy site to pay his respects later that evening, they’re all shocked to find a survivor, very much alive, amongst the rubble.
Clocking in at a little over 80 minutes, there’s no denying that Designated Survivor: 60 Days has a lot of drama and content to it but for the most part, the episodes are well paced. With no musical montages or big action set pieces this week, 60 Days relies on its characters to push the series forward and in that respect, Designated Survivor does well to build Park as a more likable protagonist this time around.
The quiet, reflective moments early on involving his family is a really nice touch here and seeing him break through the conventional norms in his role whilst simultaneously refusing to entertain the notion of being a future political candidate helps to build empathy with his character. The ending certainly leaves things wide open going forward and given Na-Kyung’s plot line around the bomb, I’d imagine the person they’ve pulled from the wreckage may well be linked to the explosion in some way.
Despite that, Designated Survivor: 60 Days does well to maintain its level of tension, with underlying issues with North Korea spilling over to this episode but playing much closer to the propaganda-driven fake news. It’s certainly an interesting take on the subject and one that ultimately pays off too, giving 60 Days a bleak, gritty feel to it.
Quite what will happen tomorrow remains to be seen but for now, Designated Survivor: 60 Days does well to differentiate itself from its source material whilst adding enough originality to help it stand on its own two feet.