Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Pilot

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When we meet Elizabeth McCord in Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 1 she's finishing up a university lecture and being asked by a student to extend a deadline on a paper.

Now we know Elizabeth has a little bit of sass, a sense of humor and won't be railroaded. It's too bad that she's not a politician because she'd make a great one. Oh... right.

Right off the bat, they hit us pretty hard with the fact that Elizabeth is smart with a normal family life. She's confident, which is great. She's amused, not threatened, when a college student openly flirts with her husband right in front of her.

This is a change from the way too many professional women (or all women) are portrayed on TV, and it's nice to see.

Elizabeth meets some former CIA colleagues for dinner, and it ends on tragic note when they find out the Secretary of State has been killed in a plane crash.  The next morning we briefly meet her kids who aren't immediately annoying or one-note. Yay! As she's shoveling horse manure  (I see what you did there. Horse crap today, political crap tomorrow), her son tells her that her phone has been ringing nonstop.

Jason: Some woman says it's the President's office.
Elizabeth: The PTA?
Jason: The United States.

The President (the wonderful Keith Carradine) wants Elizabeth to be his new Secretary of State because he knows and trusts her. Her recruited her to the CIA and admires her for quitting due to ethical reasons, which is an interesting tidbit. I'm not sure if this little nugget was mentioned to demonstrate her high moral fiber or something that will come into play later. I'm guessing both. 

You don't think outside the box. You don't know there is a box.

President Conrad

I have to admit this made laugh. Between her scooping manure, her hair being braided and this somewhat eye-roll worthy line all happening before we even saw the title card, I was a little nervous. But once we're past the initial set-up, they eased up a bit on hitting us over the head with the obvious. 

The Chief of Staff doesn't like her and seems to dismiss her opinions. It's not clear why he dislikes her, and we are obviously not supposed to like him as he is only mildly upset at the prospect of two American teens being executed in Syria. This rang a bit false to me. 

Not so much that a politician may argue that losing two lives are worth peace, but Americans, especially teens, being executed in Syria would be major news. And a huge nightmare for the President. So it seemed like an obvious ploy to not only further our dislike of him, but to also force Elizabeth to go rogue and cement our approval of her.

We only spent a little bit of time with Elizabeth's family, and it's mostly with her husband. They seem to have a strong, supportive marriage, although Elizabeth worried her masculine energy was turning off her husband since they were no longer having weeknight sex. 

Really? Masculine energy? My guess is they intended for that scene to be funny. I just found it wrong and a bit confusing.

They spent so much time building Elizabeth into this take-charge, confident, compassionate woman, and the polar opposite of her less caring male peers. Now, she's suddenly afraid she's giving off too much masculine energy? Because a powerful woman is automatically seen as masculine? 

Ugh. No, thank you.

While that conversation made me vent on Twitter, another conversation between the two inspired Elizabeth to be the sassy Secretary of State she was meant to be. The Chief of Staff was blocking her efforts to talk to the President, so she texted his wife to schedule a meeting with him. I liked her creativity and that's the Madam Secretary I want.

I've been doing some nitpicking, but this is clearly a show that wants to be a smart show. They paired it with The Good Wife for a reason. It can be that smart show if it trusts the intelligence of its viewers and has a bit more nuance. They have some incredibly strong actors who can dig into meaty roles and plots if given the material to do so.

There is a bit of intrigue now that Elizabeth suspects that a friend and CIA colleague may have been murdered after divulging  that her predecessor's airplane crash may have been intentional. I'm interested to see where it goes. Overall, I think there is a ton of potential here but also plenty of room for improvement. 

Tell me, does Madam Secretary get your vote? What parts did you like? What was too obvious for you?

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (69 Votes)
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