The final few episodes leading up to the season finale have been very episodically written and above all entertaining. The cast remains strong and the standalone crisis are interwoven well with the ongoing narrative. The series as a whole has been one of the finest and consistently compelling new shows of the year. Madam Secretary maintains its ground by having clear and relatable characters in situations that are compelling and diverse and with a strong perspective. The political procedural drama has really grown into a really impressive and worthy television staple and earns its much deserved second season.
Madam Secretary’s first season has been built on the backbone of the mysterious murder of the former Secretary of State and the question of what he was involved in that would cause him to be murdered. The answers have been coming in slowly throughout the season, as Elizabeth McCord’s list of suspects are cut shorter and shorter. One of the main suspects that McCord had under investigation in the first half of the season was White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson, whom she confronted with her suspicions in the mid season finale “Game On”, concluding that arc in away that fell in line with the tone of the series.
The first half of Madam Secretary Season one has come to a close with ‘Game On,’ the fall finale, where we get some momentum in the investigation of former Secretary of the State’s murder. The season has been very consistently well paced offering interesting characters and political drama with an underlying intrigue of a murder conspiracy that has been building throughout the season, which included the possible involvement of White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson and the President of the United States, which has now resolved within this last episode. The resolution is indicative of the type of series that Madam Secretary is trying to be, a show that addresses political issues with idealism rather than pessimism.
Madam Secretary has progressed impressively within its first handful of episodes, continuing to display a great lead character along with a supporting cast that has slowly, but increasingly, shown interesting development. The pilot set the stage with its strong writing and talented cast, yet also underwhelmed with its political drama and generic production values. But the series has continued to build on its strengths and has improved enough that it’s no longer marred by its pilot’s weaknesses. The lead character is well crafted and so are her relationships with the supporting cast, which makes for greater clarity between the character’s main narrative and the political drama, with a better integrated story and more development. The only potential faults of these early episodes is that at times, the writers sacrifice narrative complexity for optimistic and comprehensive storytelling, with plot resolutions that could have led to darker and more difficult conflicts being oversimplified in order to allow for quick resolutions. The series so far has been very light and positive, with only an underlying current of devious in-house governmental foul play. This pacing is working well for the show currently, drawing in its audience, but somewhere down the line the darker side of the political game needs to have more severe consequences.
Much like the CBS hit series The Good Wife, the producers of Madam Secretary drew inspiration from headline news. When the attack on Benghazi happened in 2012 the producers saw potential for a series that would center on a female Secretary of State baring some similarity to Hillary Clinton. The series showed good potential for a female lead that could display professionalism, leadership and the decision making that goes on behind the scenes of a Secretary of State’s office. There is clearly a market for television shows that feature women with strong characters within the recent wave of programming that have presented women in power roles, either political or similar, that have great depth and skill; shows with characters like Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope, Veep’s Selina Meyer, Scandals Olivia Pope and, of course, The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick.
Several network series return this week, but the fall season starts in earnest next week. Before the premieres kick off, here are SoS TV Editor Kate Kulzick, SoS Managing TV Editor Deepayan Sengupta, and SoS contributor Randy Dankevitch’s initial impressions of the networks’ new offerings. Note: Our thoughts are based on pilots that are works …