Sunday, October 19, 2014

REVIEW: 'Madam Secretary' - Elizabeth Deals with Canada Over an Oil Pipeline & Iran Over a Nuclear Facility in 'Blame Canada'

CBS' Madam Secretary - Episode 1.05 "Blame Canada"

When Elizabeth faces the daunting task of negotiating with Iran over their escalating nuclear program, she is determined to deal with the situation in a peaceful manner, despite the President's position of using military action. Meanwhile, Jason has new admiration for his father when he interviews him for a school report.

I have enjoyed Madam Secretary so far but it has definitely needed some time to develop into something. Last week's episode was a step in the right direction - largely because the show remembered it had Bebe Neuwirth in its cast. "Blame Canada" continues that upswing even though it's still not a great drama. The family life stuff is still distracting more than anything else. The supporting elements aren't clicking wonderfully yet. However, progress is being made.

The show made it a point that Elizabeth stepped into this job after her predecessor is killed in a plane crash. She is walking into an atmosphere where she's the odd woman out because everyone else has had some time to settle into their jobs. So far, that has meant she offers a different perspective from everyone else - and usually her's turns out to be the right way to handle a situation. But the show has also made it a point to make Vincent Marsh into his own character - Elizabeth is just learning everything after the fact. Over the course of these first five episodes, we've come to know that he wasn't so great of a guy - at least from Elizabeth's perspective. He was a politician trying to run against President Conrad in the next election. More important to this episode, he believed that the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East - specifically Iran - is through war.

"Blame Canada" is largely about Elizabeth dealing with the state of the world as Vincent left it. She's not the kind of person who'll agree with everything just because the man who held the job before her did. She wants to make sure everything has their own merits before during so. She's the type of person who will sit down and read a report before signing off on it against what everyone else wants her to do. She's trying to say it's not okay to push aside reading something just because its over a thousand pages long. She will stand for all of her values firmly.

It's difficult for her to do so because of the people who are working "with" her don't exactly agree with the way she is dealing with this business. The US representative in the talks with Iran over their potential nuclear facility refuses to deliver her messages because he doesn't believe the situation warrants any more talks. He believes war is the only way to show that the United States is strong in its stance against Iran.

The threat of a war with Iran is hanging over everything Elizabeth does throughout this hour. The complications of such war could potentially be interesting as a way for a show to find itself. However, Elizabeth manages to resolve the episode's plot by hour's end through meeting with a crucial member of the Iranian side of the negotiations. It shows just how strong this character is and her competency in doing this job - the President frequently barks at her to do it which differs from his attitude at the start of the series. In the end, she does do it effectively. But she also hints at future complications - through an investigation of Nadine, who had an intimate relationship with Vincent. That's something the show likes to do frequently. If it can follow-through on them, Madam Secretary could be a great series. But I still remain hesitant because everything continues to be wrapped up neatly by the conclusion of each episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Blame Canada" was written by Paul Redford and directed by Eriq LaSalle.
  • What was the point of the Henry and his son subplot - other than to give those characters something to do. It was just so unnecessary.
  • Also, I really don't care about the Matt and Daisy relationship. The show suddenly remembered that they hinted at that in the premiere and now are trying to explore it. I understand why it could happen - two people who work closely together for long stretches at a time. I'm just not captivated by them as a couple.
  • But it's always good to have this good-looking cast attend a black tie event together.