A show that goes behind the scenes of the White House, this series is as interesting as they get.
State in session with Madam Secretary. Plenty of showtime has been dedicated to American politics — West Wing and House of Cards come to mind first. But there are only a handful of shows that focus on women helming affairs at the White House. Madam Secretary is one such. Tea Leoni plays the titular role of Elizabeth McCord, Secretary of State of the United State. But this isn’t a job she vied for. Elizabeth, a former CIA agent and political science professor at University of Virginia, is asked to take over as Secretary of State after her predecessor Vincent Marsh dies in a plane crash. The President of the United States Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine), a former CIA director and Elizabeth’s former boss, believes she is ideal for this sensitive job.
Elizabeth has no choice but to take up the President’s offer but soon finds herself facing hostile staff members, who are still not over Marsh’s sudden death. Elizabeth is also at loggerheads with Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek), chief of staff of the White House and Dalton’s trusted advisor, who is also not too happy with Elizabeth’s presence in the White House. Internal power struggles, in addition to handling one of the most sensitive posts in diplomacy sees Elizabeth tactfully navigate through the State Department and White House. However, she has immense support from her husband Henry (Tim Daly), a theology professor and former Marine.
Madam Secretary is a cerebral show, with every episode serving as a background for happening political news and diplomatic ties between nations. The show isn’t shy of taking on sensitive political issues head on - be it the nuclear deal with Iran or blow-hot-blow-cold relations with Russia. Alhough not as deceptive and dark as the plot twists in House of Cards, Madam Secretary has plenty of jump-worthy moments where political cunning is used to cement United States’ position as a global superpower.
One of the pivotal reasons for the show’s success is Tea Leoni’s nuanced portrayal of Elizabeth McCord. While Elizabeth initially appears overwhelmed with the job, she eases into the role, learning every day, Isn’t that how we all take up bigger challenges in life? One day at a time. With tact and diplomacy, Elizabeth salvages political potboilers, all while retaining USA’s equity with other nations and slowly winning the trust of her colleagues. Moreover, Leoni’s portrayal belies the perception of politicians being unapproachable and cold — mainly because she realistically depicts the challenges of marriage and raising three teenage children, as much as running the State Department.
There are some impressive plot twists in the show, and the writers’ take on US relations with its allies and enemies makes for an engaging watch. Some of the best storylines in the first two seasons were the efforts of forces to undermine the nuclear treaty with Iran, the death of the Russian president Pavel Ostrov and takeover of the presidency by his wife Maria, and the American infiltration in the Russian cabinet. Other poignant episodes include the efforts to resuscitate US-Cuba relations, and Russell and Elizabeth’s masterful plan to overthrow the over-enthusiastic National Security Advisor Craig Sterling.
If you enjoy current affairs, international politics and the occasional espionage drama, then this show is for you. It can get a bit slow and tedious to follow at a stretch, so we wouldn’t recommend a binge watch.
Did you know? Three former Secretaries of State — Colin Powell, Madeline Albright and Hilary Clinton, are scheduled to make guest appearances in Season 5 of Madam Secretary. Elizabeth McCord relies on their counsel to handle a particularly sensitive situation.