Madam Secretary s1 ep 12

We’re just over halfway through the first season of Madam Secretary, so it’s a good time to check in with it. So far, the model for just about every episode has been the same: an apparently impossible-to-solve foreign policy or diplomatic crisis is averted by the astonishingly competent Secretary of State Bess McCord (Téa Leoni), who in her spare time juggles her family and married life.

This episode, ‘Standoff’, ticks all the boxes: Bess and her husband head to New York for a romantic anniversary break (marriage). While they’re away, their son Jason injures himself (family), and a drug lord suspected of the murder on American soil is seized from a Mexican prison by an armed militia, who then hand him over to the grandstanding governor of Texas. The Governor refuses to surrender him to the Mexican authorities, who in turn threaten to withdraw their border security (intractable diplomatic problem). Eventually, Bess’s team need to bring her back from New York in order for her to avert war with Mexico, or something.

The show’s two longer-term arcs both get aired this week as well: Bess’s husband Henry (Tim Daly) is indeed, as I suggested in my review of the first episode, too good to be true, but not because he’s tomcatting around; or not yet, anyway. No: he’s an incredibly top secret spy, whose missions are so secret he can’t even tell the effing Secretary of State about them. And Bess, with the assistance of an old CIA friend, is investigating the death of her predecessor, which of course totally wasn’t an accident.

It’s formulaic, but that’s not necessarily a problem: it’s an upmarket procedural in the guise of a political drama, and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every single episode. The frustrating thing, though, is that every now and again the dialogue zings, and the outline of the show that Madam Secretary could be snaps into focus. Because the premise is good, and the cast is top-notch: Leoni and Daly are attractive leads, with Daly in particular turning in a relaxed, authoritative performance. The undercard has Željko Ivanek, Bebe Neuwirth, and Geoffrey Arend, all on form, together with Patina Miller as Daisy, the press secretary, who is in an office romance with Arend’s character. And Erich Bergen, an actor new to me, is a treasure as Bess’s assistant Blake. With a cast like that, you could be making a terrific show. As it is, Madam Secretary has to settle for being a reliably good show, which isn’t the worst thing to be by any means.


4 thoughts on “Madam Secretary s1 ep 12

  1. Snoskred July 18, 2015 / 10:48 pm

    “The frustrating thing, though, is that every now and again the dialogue zings”

    And usually I find that ZING is followed by some EPIC cheese, which kills off the zing.

    I mean cheese can be awesome in the right moment. Unfortunately there is a little too much cheese in this show which is unbalanced when compared to the zing.

    You make a burger, you want to have exactly the right amount of cheese, and the right amount of zing. 🙂

    Usually the ZING is the staff, and the cheese is the family, at least for me. Maybe if we cut back a little on the family, we could have more zing. But then this would be a different show..

    I have to say that I love Keith Carradine as president, almost as much as I loved him in Dexter, though I do wish we could see a little more of him. Zeljko Ivanek is delightfully imposing with the right amount of darkness, and the rest of the cast is great.

  2. Jed Bartlet July 19, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    I agree – the office stuff is better than the family stuff. But it’s in the TV rulebook that if you’re doing a show about a woman it has to show her struggling to juggle both.

    Keith Carradine is great. Again I come back to this – Madam Secretary has a fantastic cast.

  3. Kay20 March 22, 2016 / 4:40 am

    I love this show. It gives me what I need, it’s hopeful, and it doesn’t put a downer to my day. Add to that it makes me laugh out loud several moments per ep (“Blake must be rattled. His message had a typo.”). The cast is brilliant. The one character that truly annoys me is Stevie who is just made for presumptive whining (what does she think her mom does for a living or as an analyst? Pick flowers?).

    Really great cast, I’m never bored during an episode, and I treasure multiple characters. One of my favorites.

  4. Jed Bartlet March 22, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    I agree with all of that, Kay. I like this show a lot. I’m kind of over the whole family (by which I mean the children, not my beloved Henry), but of the three of them Stevie is undoubtedly the most annoying.

    And, of course, any show in which the lead couple hooks up IRL wins me over with that alone.

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