Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
Designated Survivor was an exciting, adrenaline-charged series when it released back in 2016, dripping in sweat-inducing set pieces and propped up with unpredictable twists and turns that took the best parts of 24 and run with them. When it was announced that a Korean remake would be produced based on that original series, I was dubious around whether the show could match the lofty heights of the original.
To be fair, the show never quite ascends to that altitude, with many of the same plot beats accompanying the drama reducing the unpredictability factor. Where 60 days excels though is with its setting and excellent characterisation, making this a surprisingly exciting and easy show to watch through, ending with the perfect send-off for our characters at the end.
Much like its American counterpart, the series revolves around a terrorist attack that plants an unsuspecting official in the holding seat of Presidency while the country stabilises itself and recovers. With 60 days to run the country until another President is decided, the massive responsibility of carrying Korea through this tumultuous time falls on environmental minister, Park. As secrets from the past are brought to light, along with further planned terrorist attacks, a mole inside the Blue House and an assassination attempt on Park’s life, the episodes plunge through a series of exciting action set pieces.
For those who have seen the original series, all of this will be familiar territory but 60 Days cleverly peppers in some distinct differences to keep this rooted in Korean culture. With family taboos and tense relations regarding North Korea and neighbouring Asian countries, the plot changes feel surprisingly organic, as the episodes build toward a dramatic and exciting second half of the season, where some of the best episodes lie in waiting.
Ultimately though it’s the characterisation of Park and the supporting players that make this such an engaging series. Seeing the Acting President grow from a timid, awkward minister to a confident man able to navigate the murky political waters and negotiate through difficult situations with ease is testament to the great writing done on the show. Although the mastermind behind the bombing attacks at the end feels a little obvious, for the most part the character writing is very good, helping this Korean drama shine.
Aesthetically, the show looks great too and the episodes utilize a number of clever camera tricks throughout, including rotating shots inside offices and extreme close-ups during particularly tense moments. Early on, the North Korean leader also appears as a cameo appearance and the clever, tasteful way he shows up certainly plays into the excellent composition of scenes.
While most Korean dramas like this feature an eclectic section of K-Pop records, 60 Days steers clear of this, at least late on, and instead focuses almost exclusively on its orchestral score. The result is something that feels incredibly tense throughout the 70+ minute episodes and makes Designated Survivor: 60 Days feel far more epic than it otherwise would. If there was an ever an example of how music can heighten mood – 60 Days is it.
Despite retreading familiar ground for much of its run time, Designated Survivor: 60 Days has enough of a unique flavour about it to make it worth a watch. The characterisation is excellent, visually the show looks fantastic and throughout the back-end of the series there’s some really exciting and tense episodes here that round things out in a wonderful finale that wraps everything up with a satisfying conclusion. If you’re looking for a contained Korean drama without the ambiguous ending plaguing so many shows nowadays, 60 Days is well worth a look and is certainly up there with one of the more exciting dramas of the year.
Verdict - 8/10