Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8 Review: The Courage to Continue

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Elizabeth McCord has faced many a dictator and come out on top, but I really thought she'd met her match!

Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8 put her in a nearly impossible situation and said some important things about political leadership in general.

The message was timely considering the polarization and upheaval in American politics in 2018, and it was delivered without being partisan or preachy. Kudos to the writers!

A Diplomatic Crisis - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8

I couldn't help drawing parallels between the despotic Dupont's claims and several real-life American situations.

Dupont staged a coup based on claims of massive voter fraud that he provided no evidence for, using those unverified claims as an excuse to suspend the Constitution and crack down on dissidents.

Fortunately, in America, no one has ever gone that far.

There was a governor in North Carolina in 2016 who refused for a while to vacate the Governors' mansion after being voted out and there seem to be nearly constant claims of voter fraud in the news, often without any substantiation whatsoever.

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Were Elizabeth's efforts to peacefully resolve the situation intended as a cautionary tale?

Possibly, considering Henry's comments about how narcissistic sociopaths respond to threats.

Dupont is a sociopathic narcissist. That kind of personality is more likely to respond to a threat by digging in than stepping down.


But there was a deeper purpose to this story, and that was to examine what makes a person a strong leader, especially during troubled times.

I found Elizabeth's efforts to work with the legitimately elected President to be more challenging -- and more interesting -- than her attempts to unseat his dictatorial predecessor.

She respected Galbert for his idealism, but it was getting in the way of resolving the crisis.

It seemed like she was continually explaining to him that he had to choose between his principles and his ability to lead Haiti.

In The President's Office - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8

It was as frustrating for me to watch as for her to deal with it. Like Elizabeth, I respected Galbert, and I wanted him to be able to live out his values.

But Elizabeth was right that there would be no Haiti for Galbert to lead if he stuck too rigidly to his values. He learned a heartbreaking political lesson throughout the crisis: it's almost impossible to govern if you cling too tightly to your value system.

Your sacrifice won't save your country. Your service will.


Again, there were parallels with American politics here. There are lots of people on both sides of the political spectrum who are anti-compromise, who believe that giving an inch to the other side is equivalent to surrender.

I sympathize with people who feel so strongly that the entire system is betraying their ideals, just as I sympathized with Galbert. In the fictional situation, though, it was clear that he was going to have to make some painful compromises to get Dupont out of the way and be able to govern at all.

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Was Elizabeth's plan the right one? From Galbert's point of view, it was a travesty, but she had to fight fire with fire and putting pressure on Dupont to step down was a better solution than going to war.

Had Dalton gone ahead with the military operation, there would probably be mass protests in America, a bloody battle that left countless citizens of both countries dead, and an easy way for Dupont to bolster his claims that America wanted to control Haiti.

An Intense Discussion - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8

The history lesson was a nice touch. I had no idea the Haitian revolution had anything to do with the Louisiana Purchase. 

But the best part was that Blake found his voice and save the day!

Blake. I don't appreciate people with something useful to say keeping it to themselves. So next time, speak up!


At first, Blake's desire to undo his firing by getting himself a promotion seemed like comic relief. His anxiety was leading him to say silly things, and the story seemed pointless since there hadn't even been a whisper about Erich Bergen leaving the cast.

But in the end, Blake's attempt to prove himself not only averted the Haitian crisis but also got him a compliment of sorts from President Dalton!

I enjoyed his struggle to develop self-confidence. His obvious surprise when Elizabeth told him she'd been planning to hire him for the new position he wanted was great payoff!

Related: Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 7 Review: Baby Steps

Less enjoyable was Matt's sparring with Dany Victor.

Matt has never been my favorite character. His insecurity is not adorable in the slightest, and he tends to get involved in ridiculous situations like this.

Yes, Dany's criticisms of Matt were irritating. He also was from a different culture and had grown up in a war-torn regime. Matt could have cut the guy some slack even before learning of his father's death.

It seemed to me that these problems could have been solved by sitting down and discussing how the two men could best learn from each other while Dany was in America rather than Matt complaining to Jay about Dany.

Henry Reads the News - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8

Finally, this whole Arlington cemetery plot seemed random.

Elizabeth doesn't feel comfortable with death or cemeteries, which is a natural reaction and one I can relate to, and I was thrilled the show included all three kids in the same episode.

But the whole thing felt weird for some reason, as if it didn't quite fit.

Maybe it was because Elizabeth had more pressing issues on her plate right now than applying to be buried in Arlington Cemetery, but this story didn't hold my interest.

And the PSA at the end about skin cancer being treatable would have fit better if the story revolved around Elizabeth's skin cancer treatment, not whether she wants to get buried in a military cemetery.

What did you think, Madam Secretary fanatics?

Did you think Elizabeth was going to be able to avoid military action this time?

Was anyone surprised that Blake got his promotion?

Did this Arlington Cemetery plot do anything for anyone?

Weigh in below, and don't forget you can always watch Madam Secretary online if you missed something!

The Courage to Continue Review

Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (9 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 8 Quotes

This is Washington. They dispense with the indispensable.


Henry: How's the world looking?
Elizabeth: Oh you know. Drought. Sectarian violence. Bugs.