Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2 Review: The Strike Zone

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One of Madam Secretary's strengths has always been its ability to talk about real-world political issues via a fictional Presidential administration.

While the writers have a definite opinion, most of the time viewers are given both sides of the issue and are left to make up their own minds.

Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2 tried to do this too, with a subplot about a controversial gas tax, but it didn't go into as much depth as previous political storylines.

(TALL) The First Pitch - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

Elizabeth and Russell butted heads over whether or not Elizabeth should engage the gas tax protesters.

They never saw eye-to-eye when they both worked for Conrad Dalton, so it wasn't surprising that they disagreed now, and Russell seemed to have a hard time accepting that Elizabeth is the boss.

Related: Madam Secretary: Celebrating President Dalton

That's an interesting dynamic that I hope Madam Secretary explores further. Russell is pigheaded, short-tempered, and thinks he has a monopoly on good ideas.

Aboard Air Force One - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

Henry seemed to think his problem was that he didn't think Elizabeth could govern effectively because she was a woman, but that came out of nowhere.

I get that you think you're protecting her, but I think you and I and everyone out there is going to have to take a breath and see what it's like to have a woman President by having one. The country elected her. Now it's time for us to step back and let her lead.


Russell has always valued toughness and ignoring voters' opinions over diplomacy and trying to create solutions that work for everyone, and to an extent that ideological disagreement aligns with traditional gender roles.

But that's not a given -- it's certainly not playing out that way in the real-life Democratic primaries, where Elizabeth's ideas about letting voters influence policy align most closely with Bernie Sanders' philosophy.

And there was no evidence whatsoever that Russell was taking over because he didn't think a woman could lead the country rather than because it's Russell's nature to think he knows better than everyone else.

Henry and Russell - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

Elizabeth ran on a platform of understanding and helping ordinary people, so it's unsurprising that she wanted to take her constituents' loud protest over the gas tax into account.

However, where Madam Secretary dropped the ball a bit is in bringing viewers in only for the tail end of this.

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

Elizabeth said the gas tax was a temporary measure and had something to do with protecting the climate, but it wasn't clear what the tax was meant to accomplish.

Did it fund other parts of her ESI bill?

Was it supposed to encourage people to switch to mass transit and/or electric vehicles by making gas more expensive to purchase?

Was it something she was forced to agree to so that her political opponents would pass the bill?

The stakes were far lower in this story than they needed to be because this was so unclear.

The honeymoon's over. From now on, 40% of the country is going to hate you at any given time. Get used to it.


Russell's position was that backing off the gas tax would make it appear that she gave in to political pressure. His argument was based all on optics and not on there being any compelling reason to keep the gas tax intact.

Henry Reads the Paper - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

The majority of people seemed to be vehemently against the tax, judging from the sheer number of protesters, so backing off could only help her approval rating.

But if viewers had been given a reason why the gas tax was crucial to Elizabeth's climate protection plan, her choice would have been more difficult. That would have made for more compelling television!

Related: 17 Fierce Females on TV

For example, if the gas tax was vital to a plan to fund some government initiative to protect the climate, Elizabeth would have a dilemma on her hands.

Keeping the tax as is would anger her constituents and risk losing control of the House and/or Senate when midterm election time came around, but repealing it would leave her signature policy without adequate funding. 

Headed for the Big Game - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

Viewers would then be eager to see how Elizabeth worked this out and might debate which decision she should have made for days or weeks after the episode aired.

Of course, there wasn't all that much time for delving into the gas tax situation because Madam Secretary needed to tell the story of how she got to become President in the first place.

This is a major issue with Madam Secretary Season 6. Since Madam Secretary only has 10 episodes to wrap everything up, it has to try to cram two seasons' worth of material into one season. 

Instead of focusing on the campaign during Season 6 and the Presidency during a non-existent Season 7, Madam Secretary must focus on both at once, so some stories are getting pushed aside for the sake of the campaign flashbacks.

Jason Checks The News - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 2

The Senate Committee hearing is a good excuse for those flashbacks, and they're enjoyable, but there's a rushed quality to everything because of the short season order.

And the twist that the Senate Committee is investigating not the Iranian hack but whether Elizabeth's campaign murdered an elderly Senator who had dementia because he declined to endorse Elizabeth during a non-lucid moment is ridiculous!

Forget about the Iranian hack. They are looking at everything and if they can't find something, they'll find it anyway.


Unfortunately, it's not entirely unrealistic. American politics have become more and more partisan and bitter, and there have been several investigations that sound more like wild conspiracy theories than anything grounded in fact.

And storywise, it makes sense. Elizabeth ran against an extremist who didn't seem to have any qualms about going too low in his attacks against her.

The press happily contributed to the perception that Elizabeth was overprepared and out of touch to boost its own ratings.

There are probably a lot of people who either consider her too extreme, don't understand how a woman managed to ascend to the country's highest office, or both.

So if it takes claiming she had an elderly Senator killed helps her enemies get rid of her, they're happy to do it.

Despite all the political intrigue, this wasn't a heavy episode at all. The baseball pitch stuff was fun, especially Elizabeth's nightmare about it, and it looks like we're setting up for a final love triangle between Dmitri and Stevie's new beau!

What did you think, Madam Secretary fanatics? 

Is Russell's opposition to Elizabeth's governing style because he's hard-headed, because she's a woman, or both?

Was the gas tax story in-depth enough for you, or did you want more information?

And will the allegations of murder doom Elizabeth's campaign?

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

The final season of Madam Secretary continues to air on CBS on Sundays at 10 PM EST/PST.

The Strike Zone Review

Editor Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
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Rating: 2.6 / 5.0 (27 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 6 Episode 2 Quotes

Elizabeth: Are we taking this healthy thing too far?
Henry: I wouldn't say that. It's just a lot of chewing.

While President McCord is confident that the investigation will show that there is no truth to Hansen's accusation that her campaign colluded with the Iranian interference into the election, but she respects Congress' authority to oversee the executive branch.