Finally! The big conspiracy episode we were waiting for. Madam Secretary is hitting its stride big time, and the “Oh s—!” moments are piling up. To be honest, I was worried that they were going to drag the “Was secretary Marsh murdered?” mystery on all season, so I am happy that it was November (and not May) sweeps that got us here. Of course, we may have to wait until May to discover who did it, but that’s ok.
Bess is also finally behaving like one of the most powerful people in the government, and has stopped taking Russell’s shit, and I quote: “You know, someone recently reminded me that I’m fourth in line for the presidency, so you don’t get to come into my office and push me around.” She then promptly kicks him out of said office. I’m not so sure it’s wise to poke that bear, but I’m glad to see Bess getting comfortable with her position.
Not only is she settling in to her job, she’s also bringing more of her devious CIA skills into play, sometimes more believably than others, however. The play with the Israeli delegation was a nice turn. Hypothetical dialog is always a nice (if somewhat facile) tool, but the switcheroo at the soccer game was absurd. The point of having a double take Bess’ seat is to make people think that she’s still there, so having Bess leave the tent dressed exactly like the double, defeats that purpose. She should have had a different hat or a wig—or, even better—gone out the back.
I’m not always a fan of flashbacks, but they were pretty well done here, giving us a look at Nadine, Matt, and Daisy on the day that Secretary Marsh’s plane crashed and giving us our first look at Marsh, himself. Flashing back to the actual crash helped humanize Marsh, as did the fact that the head of Bess’ secret service detail was on Marsh’s detail.
However, one thing that still sticks in my craw about this show is that we don’t know what politics these people hold. Is Dalton a Democrat? Was Marsh going to challenge him from the left or the right? Not that it would justify the assassination, but it would give us some context, and give the characters some needed motivation.
As far as the B-plots go, this week was a mixed bag. While I’m a big fan of NASA, honkin’ big telescopes andJohn Pankow, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie about Stevie’s date. I know they’re just setting us up for something dramatic to happen later in the series, but… meh. Give us more of the budding anarchist Jason. I wanna see him sent home from school for staging a sit-in, or wearing a Che Guevara shirt.
So we got one bad guy this week in NCIS Los Angeles’s Nate (Peter Cambor) doing some CBS double duty as the fueling technician who rigged Marsh’s plane, but he’s clearly just the patsy. Sure, he did the deed, but he’s small fish. Always glad to see Peter, and considering his role, I am guessing he’ll be back!
Setting up Russell (and potentially President Dalton) as the real Big Bad seems to be a little obvious. Russell’s been the antagonist from the beginning, but I still maintain that he’s not going to be the real bad guy. Sure, his ethics are weak and his paranoia strong, but something tells me that he can’t possibly be the real villain. Can he?
Some other thoughts:
• Nadine and Glenn, the NASA administrator, would make a very cute couple!
• So secretary Marsh’s plane (a passenger business jet) had design similarities to the F/A-18 Hornets that Henry used to fly? Farfetched, much?
• What’s with the fake countries? Seriously, can someone please explain why the writers had to invent a small Pacific Island nation with a name identical to a former Indian Prime Minister instead of just using, oh I don’t know… Tonga?
• Anyone else notice the camera positions that seemed to deliberately make Russell seem tiny?
• Hey prop department, next time you give Bess a briefing book to flip though, why don’t you try and make sure there is writing on the pages?
Mark Rabinowitz is a Nashville-based freelance writer, film producer, and regular contributor to Paste. He is the co-founder of Indiewire.com and a former film critic for CNN.com. He worships at the shrine of swine. Praise the lard. You can follow him on Twitter.