Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20 Review: Better Angels

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Talk about going out with a bang!

Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20 was the fifth season finale, but as of this writing, the show has not yet been renewed. 

If it doesn't come back, this last story will be a fine ending to a brilliant series, yet there were enough loose ends to leave me hungry for more.

(TALL) Preparing to Leave - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

Elizabeth's departure from the Secretary of State position was bittersweet enough before Peter's death.

It was hard seeing her say goodbye to the office, yet there was a ton of optimism in the air.

Elizabeth: Best job I ever had.
Matt: So far.

Matt was sure that Elizabeth would become President. Please, please let him be right -- and let it be onscreen!  I'd love to see a Madam President spinoff.

Anyway, the most touching piece was Peter's speech about RFK and how the man whose campaign was cut short by his assassination was a master unifier of disparate points of view.

The Harrimans - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

I should have known that was foreshadowing of Peter's death. The entire time he was talking about RFK, all I could think about was what a shame it was that the candidate got murdered before he had a chance to put his principles into action.

Related: Madam Secretary: Celebrating President Dalton

Elizabeth got the treaty through Congress before the halftime mark, which meant there was more to the story than met the eye.

Yet, I was shocked and saddened by Peter's death. Those flashbacks of his entire life as his eyes glazed over were easily one of the most emotional moments of the entire five years, and that's saying a lot!

Forget about liberals, conservatives, all that party stuff. What Americans yearn for is the leader with the guts to tell the truth and the charisma to lead us.


The one thing I wasn't sure about was the way Elizabeth handled the Progressive senator. I thought his concerns about fossil fuel were legitimate and she was woefully unprepared to answer them, which was unusual for her.

I wanted to know more about his proposal and why she thought it was half-baked. I guess she got through to him, but his sudden 180 felt unrealistic.

The use of fossil fuel is a contentious issue, and many of the guy's constituents might have been disappointed, especially if he ran on a platform of banning fossil fuel use.

I always say my first constituent is Mother Earth.


The rushed nature of that part of the story was a small sacrifice to make, though. It got us to the real story.

I enjoyed the story underneath the story of Elizabeth's struggle to let go of her old position so she could move towards the Presidential campaign.

Feeling the Pressure - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

Elizabeth was talented at dealing with foreign leaders and averting international crises, and she was afraid the world would suffer without her presence in the State Department. But her fear blinded her to how much good she could do as President.

We are under attack. I do need your help but so does your country. I am today and you are tomorrow.


Elizabeth is a natural leader, and the Presidency is a step up from her current position. Besides, with Dalton approaching the end of his second term, she would lose the Secretary of State position either way.

I'm glad that Dalton was able to get her to see that so that she could run for President!

Related: Why CBS Needs to Renew Madam Secretary NOW.

This story featured the most direct allusion to current events yet, with Callister having to suspend his campaign due to suspected ties to Russia.

Constantine: It's ironic that you decry nationalism around the world when at home -
Elizabeth: Callister's running for President. I've heard it before.
Constantine: That's the problem with your so-called free speech. It is another weapon that can be bought and sold.

I wasn't sure how the Russian delegate's comment translated in Elizabeth's mind to a hint about Callister, though.

I thought it was just a commentary on how Callister was abusing his freedom of speech to create global problems with his campaign.

Madam President? - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

Anyway, making such a direct reference to the Mueller investigation was risky. Madam Secretary prides itself on being political without being partisan, and the Russia controversy has become a political hot potato.

At the same time, Madam Secretary is at its best when it uses its stories as a platform to speak about what's going on in the real world, and this was no exception.

Callister took the opportunity to call the whole thing a witch hunt and try to smear Elizabeth before he suspended his campaign.

But since his campaign only got suspended, could he reopen it and cause more trouble for Elizabeth if the show returns?

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

The Blake/Stevie story left some loose ends that could be tied up next season, should there be one.

Blake is Smiling - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

I wasn't thrilled with this tipsy kiss and sudden affinity between the two of them, even if Blake did apologize and was careful not to take advantage of Stevie in any way.

I think that there were better ways to wrap up Blake's storyline. Besides, what's the latest with Dmitri? Stevie alluded to him but there's been no movement on that story in ages.

The only point to having this relationship is for some wise guy with a camera to capture it and make trouble for Elizabeth's campaign down the line. Otherwise, it's just silly.

The Outgoing President - Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20

Elizabeth's campaign kick-off speech was inspiring, but the best thing about this is that she left the same way she came into the series.

She was reluctant to become Secretary of State way back on Madam Secretary Season 1 Episode 1 and Dalton talked her into it.

Now he talked her into going after the Presidency.

Godspeed Madam Secretary indeed. I hope that we are blessed with another season, if not a Madam President spinoff.

The season is over, but go ahead and  watch Madam Secretary online as much as you'd like.

Then come back and share your thoughts on the season finale and whether you'd like to see a sixth season of Madam Secretary.

Better Angels Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (11 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 20 Quotes

Never met a politician so willing to make it easier to make running for President harder.


Big day, Pete. Try not to be a jerk.