First Watch: Madam Secretary: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

While there might still be plenty of green leaves and hot days ahead of us, it is hard to argue that Fall has not come after this week. No, it’s not the pumpkin-spice-everything or the Halloween (Christmas, actually, at our local Michael’s) decorations in just about every store that make the call for Fall, but the television shows. As of this week, almost every major network has a new show premiering or an old show returning. So, that means that it is time for the valiant Tonight’s Watchmen to take their posts on the couch and protect the loyal viewers from the hordes of television shows vying for their precious time and attention.

Over the next few months, Cody and I will be focusing primarily on premiering series and ending series to let you know what shows you should give a chance and which shows you should catch up with. If we get a moment of respite, I’m sure we might go back and review some of the returning series as well, but they will not be made a priority.

And with that, dear readers, let us start the Fall television season off with a review of Madam Secretary.

Madam Secretary is an interesting show. After I watched the trailer a few weeks back, I thought that this show was going to be pure cheese (don’t get me wrong, it is pretty cheesy), but it ended out to have a bit more substance than I had expected.

The series follows Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni), an ex-CIA agent turned college professor, farmhand and mother of three, as she abandons most of that (she keeps the family) to become the Secretary of State at the request (read: order) of the President of the United States (Keith Carradine)—who also just so happens to be the man who brought her in to the CIA. The relationship between the POTUS and Elizabeth seems like it will play a big part in the series as it ruffles a few feathers that the newbie has a direct line to the boss’s ear.

While most will agree that Téa Leoni is the saving grace of Madam Secretary so far, I don’t think she will have to keep the show afloat for too long on her own. I was initially concerned that Elizabeth might be a bit too good at her new job for the series to stay interesting, but that concern was mostly assuaged with the introduction of the President’s right-hand man and Chief of Staff, Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek). By the time the pilot wraps up, it is clear that Jackson is being set-up for a Big Bad position (or at the very least, a red herring for the real baddie) and I am interested in seeing how that storyline unfolds at the very least. Hopefully Madam Secretary can keep the episode-to-episode storylines interesting enough that the series doesn’t get cancelled before we can see that plot through.

Elizabeth’s first ordeal as Secretary of State comes in the form of a Syrian kidnapping (and soon to be execution) of some American kids who may or may not be involved with an Anti-Syrian organization. Elizabeth, suggests that they utilize one of her old CIA contacts in order to handle the situation swiftly and delicately, but that option is quickly turned down by Jackson. Unfortunately for Elizabeth and the kids stuck in Syria, Jackson seems eager to use the hostage situation to show Elizabeth where she really sits in the Outer Officer pecking order and he decides that they will go throw together an official operation for the Company to extract the kids. Of course, as Elizabeth suggested, the multi-man operation is quickly botched and that spells bad news for the American hostages.

Which Jackson appears to be perfectly fine with.

Elizabeth calls for a meeting with the President (to which Jackson invites himself) to implore that the President allow her to go through with her original plan, but the President says that they had already tried “her way” and they would have to go with Jackson’s plan now, which pretty much just means they do nothing and disavow the kids. If that isn’t Big Bad material, I am not sure what is.

Luckily for everyone involved, Elizabeth decides to do things her way with or without permission due to a nice pep-talk with her husband and the kids, and everyone has a happily ever after. Except for Jackson. And Elizabeth’s old CIA buddy, George, who turns out was killed in a “single-car collision” which—if you have ever watched television before—is code for the-most-obvious-CIA-murder ever. The George subplot seems to be setting up the first story arc of Madam Secretary which will undoubtedly bring up what ethical quandary caused her to leave the CIA, what kind of dirty business her predecessor was tied with and why his plane magically disappeared over the Atlantic.

Overall, I feel like Madam Secretary‘s pilot succeeded in setting up an enjoyable television series that could do well if it wasn’t being put up against titans like Sunday Night Football, The Simpsons or the best new comedy of last year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I think CBS could have done more for Madam Secretary by sandwiching it between The Good Wife and CSI rather than putting it before both of the mega-successful shows, but I guess that’s why I don’t get paid the big bucks to determine television line-ups.

  • Rating: Good enough out of 10.
  • Comment: Madam Secretary is an enjoyable hour of television, worth watching if you have some time to kill, but definitely skippable if you are pressed for time in your daily life.
  • You might like  if you like: The West Wing‘s foreign affairs episodes, Parks & Recreation if it wasn’t a comedy or just political shows with kickass leading ladies in general.

Madam Secretary airs Sunday nights at 8:00 PM PST on CBS.



About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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