Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11 Review: Family Separation: Part 2

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Madam Secretary is just as much about the McCord family as it is about politics.

So it's no surprise that  Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11 saw Henry and Elizabeth pull off their vow renewal despite Elizabeth being held in jail.

It really couldn't have ended any other way, but was this the best way to wrap up the whole family separation issue Elizabeth was protesting?

(TALL) Dancing in Celebration - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11

The first half of this story was intense.

Elizabeth's refusal to accept a plea bargain or to be released on her own recognizance allowed her to make a strong stand and Russell's concerns led to some dramatic disagreements in the White House and a desperate plan that was sure to fail.

Related: Get CBS All Access via Prime Video Channels for Hit Shows, Exclusive Originals & Live TV!

But then, Elizabeth's family flew out to the jail to celebrate her vow renewal there, Governor Barker backed down at the last second, and everyone returned home happy.

While I loved the romance and the feel-good nature of the ending, it felt like a letdown for it to be resolved so quickly after all the tension that had been building.

Happy Henry - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11

For one thing, it was hard to believe that Barker gave up so easily after his stubborn refusal to cooperate with the federal government at all.

He stood behind the idea of arresting the Secretary of State for doing her job and insisted Arizona wasn't subject to federal rule, so why would he give up because a federal law had been passed against his policy?

Maybe Henry was right that Barker was all talk, but he didn't seem like it! He had no qualms about telling Dalton that he wasn't cooperating unless Dalton ripped up his immigration policy, which was the opposite of what ultimately happened.

And the timing was perfect, just after Henry and Elizabeth had restated their vows so that Elizabeth could go home and celebrate. How convenient.

A Celebration and a Protest - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11

The rushed ending cheapened what otherwise was a compelling and engaging hour of television. 

One of the best things about Madam Secretary is the way it shows the inner workings of the White House that viewers may not be aware of, and the discussion between Russell and the other White House staff was a prime example of that.

This isn't about what's right. This is what's about what's best for the country, which is what's right.


Russell was worried about public image and how Elizabeth's behavior might ruin things for the entire administration. I loved his passionate insistence to Henry that he did care about the human rights violations but that he had to focus on what was best for the country.

In the polarized political climate of the United States, it's so refreshing for characters to disagree on policy yet all be good people.

Many people on both sides of the political spectrum are quick to demonize those who disagree with them, and Russell's position helped defy that stereotype.

Related: Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 10 Review: Family Separation: Part 1

Russell's concerns about Elizabeth seemed misguided. She received thunderous applause at her arraignment, especially when she spoke about the importance of ending this policy. 

Of course, the campaign hasn't started yet, and the opposition could use Elizabeth's mug shot to attack her character, but with her regularly in the news for standing up for children's rights that might be a tough sell.

Elizabeth already declared her signature issue was going to be criminal justice reform, so spending some time in jail might even help her campaign.

I support any decision you make. You have to follow your conscience.


Henry encouraged Elizabeth to follow her conscience regardless of whether it harmed her political career, and her willingness to throw everything away for this cause might draw voters to her.

That's why Elizabeth's jail circumstances were disappointing.

The vow renewal was romantic, sweet, and funny, but also unrealistic.

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I suppose if the Secretary of State were in jail for a ridiculous reason, she really would get special privileges. But as a candidate who is passionate about criminal justice reform, Elizabeth should have at least been bothered by the discrepancy in how prisoners are treated.

It also made her protest less worthwhile.

Henry and Elizabeth Kiss - Madam Secretary

Yes, Elizabeth lost her freedom, and her family had to travel to see her.

 But since she was allowed privacy, as many visitors as she wanted at once, and a full vow renewal ceremony while behind bars, it wasn't as strong a stand as it would have been if she'd gotten stripped of most of her rights.

Obviously, she wasn't going to get treated as badly as the kids in the detention camp, but she was basically conducting government and personal business from behind bars and was merely not allowed to travel freely to do so.

That's going to make it harder for her to talk convincingly about criminal justice reform in addition to cheapening the sacrifice she made to take a stand.

You know what? I was born this way. But I was also raised by a father who encouraged me to live my life on my own terms, and that's exactly what I'm doing.


The privilege Elizabeth experienced was underscored by Kat's difficulties with her family situation.

Kat's scenes with her father were the most emotional part of the hour.

Her plea to her father to sign the citizenship papers, so that overzealous government officials wouldn't target him, brought tears to my eyes.

No one should have to live in fear that their family members will get deported whether or not they're here legally, and Kat's complicated relationship with her dad made this more painful.

Together Again - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 11

That's an issue that's not likely to go away just because Barker has backed off of the family separation policy, and this was an effective way to bring attention to it.

Plus I loved learning more about Kat's backstory.

Regardless of how rushed it seemed, I was glad to see Henry and Elizabeth back together again in their DC home. 

Related: Madam Secretary Review -- Winter Garden

It was the perfect time for Elizabeth to announce her intention to run for President, which I imagine will dominate the second half of Madam Secretary Season 5 and beyond.

The campaign will probably get ugly. Elizabeth's handled ugly criticism and attacks on her family before, but not at this level!

What do you think, Madam Secretary fanatics? 

Did the end of this story live up to its promise or was it too rushed? 

And what do you hope happens with the Presidential campaign?

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

Family Separation: Part 2 Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (8 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 11 Quotes

I feel like the soul of our country is at stake.


Elizabeth: Christ, I guess you're used to this sort of thing. Jesus, I didn't mean - And I just said Jesus.
Priest: My mother always said never call on him unless you need him, so I'd say it's appropriate.