Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 2 midseason finale of Designated Survivor.
The midseason finale of the second season of Designated Survivor seemed poised to come to a happy ending for a few minutes. Tom Kirkman and his staff pulled off what was practically a miracle in saving the life of an adorable baby and rescuing no fewer than 20 people from being consumed via a wildfire. Alex Kirkman made a stand in the bribery case against her, choosing to refuse to please the Fifth Amendment and go on the record in a gamble that paid off, resulting in her being cleared of all charges. Unfortunately, those happy twists were followed by a devastating turn that saw the death of a major character. Alex Kirkman was killed in the midseason finale.
Here's what happened. Alex and Tom had gone their separate ways earlier in the episode, as Alex had to deal with testifying and Tom was facing a potential disaster with many innocent lives in the balance. After Alex triumphed by airing her opponent's dirty political laundry on the public record, she called her husband. Unfortunately -- and in a twist that will undoubtedly come to haunt Tom -- she got his voicemail, as he was smiling down at the baby girl who had been saved in the episode. Instead, Alex got in a car and was being driven back from the hearing when her vehicle was suddenly slammed by another car.
Since this is TV, it was possible that Alex was simply injured and would be in a coma for a while, to build up the drama and heap another trauma on Tom. Instead, however, we saw Tom get the call with the terrible news. Although the audio of the call could not be heard, his reaction as he dropped his phone and fell to his knees told everything we needed. If his reaction somehow hadn't been enough to sell Alex's death, the trailer for the second half of the season in 2018 confirmed that Alex had died and Tom had to try to move on, for his sake, the country's sake, and his family's sake.
Unfortunately, Alex's death means that we'll no longer get to see actress Natascha McElhone on the show. We actually did already know that McElhone would be leaving Designated Survivor, but there was no guarantee that her character would be killed off to accommodate her departure. Designated Survivor showrunner Keith Eisner spoke out about why the decision was made to kill Alex rather than simply write her off another way, saying this to TVLine:
Natascha had this great opportunity on a cable show that she really wanted to do and which was going to limit her availability. It posed a question for us: Do we figure out a way to temporarily absent her from the show? Or not even absent her but have her involved on a lesser basis? And what occurred to us is we had an opportunity here to do something that TV hasn't done before, which is show a president who is a widower in office. We loved that as a prospect. We love Natascha as an actress as well, so it was difficult to figure out the right thing to do, but once the opportunity popped up, it became clear that this is the road [to take].
Designated Survivor is far from the first TV show about the United States president and set in the White House, but it will be the first to tackle the President as a widower tasked with mourning his wife and running a country. The show evidently wanted to use Natascha McElhone's departure as a means to explore uncharted territory. Besides, they had to write Alex out somehow, and sending her off on a trip or putting her into witness protection or trying to sell marital problems just wouldn't have rung true with the show and character as we've come to know them over the past season and a half.