Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 2 Review: Another Benghazi

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Ripped from the headlines (or at least their stab at it), in Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 2, Elizabeth must prevent another Benghazi when the American Embassy in Yemen is attacked. To complicate matters, Elizabeth's daughter is arrested for leading a protest at her college.

Apparently, most of the public is unaware Elizabeth had three children. We were also unaware of this little tidbit too. Stephanie "Stevie" McCord is one of the better written characters on the show, and it will be interesting to see what they do with her. 

Overall, this episode is a better balance of Elizabeth's professional and personal lives and how they affect one another. It was, thankfully, far less on the nose too (i.e. not worrying about her masculine energy while wearing menswear pajamas).

It's interesting that they used Benghazi as inspiration for this episode. They refer to the event several times, so in this fictional world, Benghazi happened. I'm torn whether that's a good or bad thing. I don't know if I want this show to rip from the headlines a la Law and Order style. 

Perhaps the showrunners believe it ratchets up the tension (it didn't) or makes it seem smart (not really) or something else entirely. I'd rather they craft intelligent, interesting storylines for their world, rather than borrow from the real world at least this early in the game. Some people may like that they have one foot in reality, so I'm interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.

What continues to makes Madam Secretary compelling is Tea Leoni. She has a real warmth about her, along with a dry wit and a sharp tongue.

I mean, what's he like? Fruit baskets? Steak? Is flirting going to get me anywhere? Everyone has a weakness.

Elizabeth

She is the perfect blend of world-weariness and idealism yet also pragmatic. If flirting with a Congressman will help her cause, then she'd do it. In this instance, no flirting is required but a strong golf swing is. And when the old boys club refuses to help, she shows that she's not only a heckuva golfer, but also not a quitter.

Elizabeth: When he says it's my call, what does he mean by that?
Russell: He means it's your ass.

Chief of Staff Russell Jackson is still not a fan of Elizabeth McCord, but he's more subtle now, thank goodness. In Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 1, I almost expected him to instantaneously grow a mustache, so he could twirl it evilly. A subtle and sneakier antagonist who shifts between friend and foe is always more fun.

When the President denies her request to send American troops to help protect the Ambassador, Elizabeth turns to a private security firm, even though she holds them in low regard. Her staff isn't pleased by her decision since they will have to deal with the media fallout over an article where she compared private security to Satan's army. Oops.

Her staff is less blatantly hostile, which is good. What's not good is that I have no idea who most of them are. I don't know their names or their role; don't dislike or like any of them. They are just there. 

What I do recognize is many of the actors and actresses, such as Bebe Neurwirth, are incredibly talented. They need to be given more to do and to become people we are vested in. Right now, they just eat up screen time and these people (and us) deserve more.

This is a small thing, especially since we are only two episodes in, but supporting characters can elevate or break a show. Right now, they are just bland and blend together.

Who doesn't blend in is Elizabeth's oldest daughter who we meet for the first time. While Stevie supported her Mom's decision to become Secretary of State, she didn't want to be trotted out publicly and scrutinized. Even though she wasn't truly hidden from the public, most were unaware she existed until now.

By mystery, do you mean born out of wedlock or sired by aliens?

Elizabeth

Elizabeth really isn't all that upset over Stevie's arrest, or more accurately - her detainment, but the tension definitely increases once Stevie drops out of college. It's clear that Stevie and her father have a close relationship while her relationship with her mother is a bit more combative. 

Thus far, I like Stevie. She's more well-rounded than her younger brother and sister. When she explained to her father why she had to quit school, my heart broke for her.

It doesn't matter that I'm not her. She can't quit, so I have to.

Stevie

I've always wondered what it is like to be the child of the President of the United States. You have to deal with people who like you just because you're the first child and those who hate you for the same reason. I imagine it's no different for children of any prominent politician. I'm interested to see where they go with this with Stevie.

She also has a lot of her mom in her. I wasn't surprised when she played the "Do you know who my Mom is" card when she was job hunting. But it did surprise me when the job offer was made, she declined it because she didn't want to be that person. She is an intriguing character. 

The American Embassy under attack storyline didn't interest me as much. Perhaps because it was less personal and lacks tension. It was a bit predictable.

The private army arrives in big black SUVs and carry big guns. They shout and force the protestors to their knees. The embassy is bombed, supposedly after one of the private security men shoots someone. We assume the ambassador is killed and the security team ran away at the first sign of trouble.

Surprise, surprise (or no surprise at all), Ambassador Wellington is alive. The private security team did their job. They made Elizabeth look good, and the owner even thanks Elizabeth because her article made them change their ways.

A little hokey, but this exchange helped me from rolling my eyes too hard.

Elizabeth: That's the President of the United States.
Bishop: I didn't vote for him.

I was a little bit worried what this episode would be like going into it. Thankfully, it was much improved. There is still work to be done, but they seem to be headed in the right direction. The home life, which had been quite dull, is much more interesting now that Stevie is around. 

Now they need to turn their attention to her office life. It still lacks zing. I always imagined Washington to be a lot like high school, full of frenemies who will save you one day and roast you the next. Their DC is boring. And in a fictional DC, that has to be one of the biggest crimes of all. 

Don't forget you can watch Madame Secretary online via TV Fanatic at your convenience. Find out for yourself how Elizabeth McCord balances the politics of both home and work. 

What did you think of tonight's episode? Better or worse? Do you find the overseas story a bit dull? What are your thoughts on ripping stories from the headlines? I want to hear what you think!

Another Benghazi Review

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