8.0

Madam Secretary Review: “Standoff”

(Episode 1.12)

TV Reviews Madam Secretary
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<i>Madam Secretary</i> Review: &#8220;Standoff&#8221;

And….we’re back!

While this episode contained a few moments that required the suspension of disbelief (the governor of Texas invading Mexico to kidnap a drug dealer? Really?) It was still a solid and entertaining hour of TV. And while the main plot was of the “emergency of the week” variety, she and her staff solved it without even mentioning the president or Russell. The fact is, the secretary of state is the 2nd most powerful person in the US, at least in terms of foreign policy, and it’s likely that every day there are decisions she makes that don’t involve White House consultation and approval.

One problem I have with political shows, however, is that they frequently dumb things down to suit the narrative. Not the audience, mind you. The audience could certainly handle reality, but sometimes the storylines can’t. Case in point—Governor Lockwood (the always wonderful Peter Gerety). While I understand the writers’ need for a loud, brash and reckless Texas governor, I find it hard to believe that he would literally invade a foreign country to retrieve a drug dealer, so that he could illegally try and potentially execute him. That just strains credulity. It was cartoon politics.

I appreciated the real-life aspect of Bess and Henry going on a vacation. Far too often the public (and Fox News) seem to think that government officials don’t deserve or need vacations. And even though this one didn’t go as planned, it was a nice touch. It was also very cute for Henry to suggest that Bess go off the grid, but really, did anyone expect that to last more than 45 minutes? Much like POTUS, when the secretary of state is on vacation, she’s still working.

It was also nice to see my old friend Ronald Guttman back as Klaus, and his speech about making sacrifices, because “without fear or regret, we do what must be done” was note perfect and in retrospect, heartbreaking. Of course, it contained all the key words, and since we essentially watched it through Henry’s eyes, we were meant to believe that Klaus was in danger, but from Klaus’ POV, it was an earnest plea for the life of his son.

Even though Klaus is a bad guy, there was something profoundly sad about his realization that—not only was he discovered and turned—but he’d also endangered his child. His only bargaining chip was to give up information to the NSA and even then, it wasn’t clear if that would be enough to protect his son.

This episode was also pretty streamlined. No Maisy, no Secretary Marsh, no former CIA buddies. It was really just one main plot with a few short digressions. I hope this isn’t a permanent shift, however. It wouldn’t be the first time a show abruptly dropped a long-running sub plot, and I am assuming we’ll go back to the Iran/Marsh assassination plotline. And who killed George?

Stray observations:

• I missed Russell. Like I said, I was glad to focus on a smaller group, but I missed Russell.

• When Bess and Henry walked into the restaurant, there was a great shot of Klaus watching them. It was easy to miss (and I did, the first time) but if you caught it, it was obvious he knew Henry was going to be there. But how did he know that?

• Blake (Erich Bergan) is in real danger of becoming a caricature. Don’t get me wrong, I love his snark and I get that it’s funny, but his “It totally wasn’t my fault… OMG, I broke the secretary’s kid” bit was just kind of silly.


Mark Rabinowitz is a Louisville-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 loves Wombles, The Bay City Rollers and liverwurst. One of those is a lie. You can follow him on Twitter.