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Madam Secretary - Article 5 - Review

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Season 3 of Madam Secretary is officially in the books. How did we get here already? Admittedly, it’s been my least favorite season. I haven’t been shy about having a difficult time due to my own issues (the election) and some storyline issues (the VFF), but I’ve always loved seeing Elizabeth in action and will miss her dorky self over the next few months.

Elizabeth is desperate to get away with her family and cut herself off from the rest of the world… as much as the Secretary of State can. You know, with security right outside and Blake, no doubt, less than a mile away. (Blake camping. Someone make this happen.) However, her suggestion of a cabin that sounds straight out of Amish country is going over like a joint root canal. Jason and Alison aren’t having it, and Stevie clearly isn’t on board. “That’s a lot of ‘ha’s.” Henry doesn’t help the situation, sitting silently and watching his wife plead for a weekend trip. He knows she’d probably have better luck bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians than convincing three teens to spend days on end without electricity. It’s a bit like last season when she tried to persuade everyone to spend a weekend at the farm. (RIP, Buttercup.) When Henry later suggests the two share a romantic weekend alone at the cabin, Elizabeth’s response is what every man dreams of hearing: “Yeah. Well, that’s I-I guess.” Smooth talker, McCord. I get it. She may be trying to save the world on the daily, but she’s also just like every other mom who wants to savor every minute with her children before the kids move away. “No, we’re gonna have a romantic weekend. It’s better than nothing,” Elizabeth laments. “Now, you see. It’s just that attitude that’s kept the flame alive,” Henry retorts before throwing her into a fit of giggles and giving her a proper send-off to Brussels. McCords, you melt me.

Henry’s job with the FBI is wrapped up and he’s now working for the CIA in the Special Activities Division, otherwise known as SAD. (Don’t make me grow to agree with this acronym, please.) Elizabeth actually advocates for Henry to get the government job, a complete 180 from last season or even a few weeks ago. Maybe she’s hoping this time he really will stay behind a desk instead of getting shot or shot at. We can all hope. I did notice Henry wearing his “National War College” shirt. That was such a simpler time… until it wasn’t. More on Dmitri in a little bit.

Russia is being Russia… again. Military vessels are heading to the Bulgarian coast and NATO is thinking about invoking Article 5, which basically says an attack against one ally is an attack against them all. All the countries are in support of this, except France. It’s always gotta be the French. Last time something similar happened in real life, we got Freedom Fries. Elizabeth and Co. are trying to strong-arm France into joining the rest of NATO by not-quite-blackmailing French President Perrin, using his son’s shady dealings. When that doesn’t work, Henry and his SAD friends get to work. Once again, the McCord jobs are like planets revolving around the same sun, as the duo works together to save the world. Henry turns to Dmitri for help, trying to figure out what exactly is behind the sudden Russian escalation, and they manage to expose a deal that Perrin made with the Russians in hopes of dismantling NATO. So Dmitri and Elizabeth are working towards the same goal and on the same side. If that doesn’t make your head spin. Guess her getting him released from prison made up for the fact that she helped send him there.

Speaking of Dmitri, Henry brings his former-asset-turned-cable-repair-guy to Washington to help in the investigation. Anyone else think this was odd to see the two walking around in the open like they’re old friends grabbing coffee? Isn’t he in Witness Protection? I mean, he’s living a new life with a new name, and almost everyone in Russia and the U.S. thinks he’s dead… but he’s jaunting along the Potomac. You know where it was even weirder to see Dmitri? The McCord living room. The guy who came between Elizabeth and Henry for much of Season 2 is standing right there in the middle of their home. Henry’s worlds collide when Stevie walks in. You can almost watch his stomach drop and his heart race when the two shake hands. He’s basically a deer in headlights when Stevie pauses juuuuust long enough while introducing herself and Dmitri looks juuuuust long enough while she’s walking away. Will the writers go there next season? I’m not sure. Angst-loving me would like to see how messy it could get: Henry in the middle, Stevie infatuated with a guy who can’t even reveal his own identity, etc. The writers rarely take the usual and obvious routes when it comes to the personal lives of the characters, so I feel like it won’t happen… but you never know. Jareth seems to be a non-entity this season.

The possible dissolution of NATO is taking a toll on Elizabeth, as all of her world problems do. “Probably never make it on a stamp, right?” She jokes, feigning light of the heavy situation. It’s kind of her coping mechanism. “Stamps are on their way out,” Henry plays along, knowing exactly what’s happening and how she’s actually feeling. “I’m really scared,” she then admits. Seeing Elizabeth so worried, Henry does what he does best: tries to soothe her. He doesn’t tell her everything will be fine. He doesn’t say it’ll all work out. He won’t lie to her, but he does give her hope. “I’ve got faith,” he says reassuringly. “Must be nice,” she whispers. “I’ll keep it for both of us,” he responds, enveloping her in a comforting hug. The rock needs her rock, and in the dark, quiet kitchen, she leans on him. Physically, mentally, emotionally. The solemn mood is reflected in the setting of the dimly lit kitchen, a location second to their bedroom where Elizabeth and Henry reveal their inner-most concerns and emotions late at night.

Throughout this episode, several people are questioning the purpose and effectiveness of NATO. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah. Real-life newspapers. President Trump has often called the alliance “obsolete,” so I like to think the Madam Secretary writers are talking straight to the viewers when Elizabeth launches into a 2-minute monologue about the purpose of NATO. It kind of felt like they're breaking the fourth wall as Elizabeth explains to Audrey Stewart why and how NATO was created and what could happen if it fails. You hear that, leaders of the free world?

NATO could potentially go down in flames, as could Elizabeth’s relationship with Mike B. She questions if the intel he gave her was purposefully incorrect because he once worked for a group that wants to dismantle the European Union and NATO. In true Elizabeth/Mike B. fashion, this confrontation comes as the two… and her security… run through the National Mall. Elizabeth is pissed that she was possibly played the fool by a trusted confidant, but she’s also hurt. She welcomed Mike B. into her inner circle of trust, sharing her secret concerns that she would never divulge to many other people, and the thought that he would break that confidence and possibly betray her has left her shaken and angry. Refusing to wear her heart on her sleeve, she takes the professional approach. “Fond as I am of you, Mike, you try to jack me around, my next conversation is gonna be with the Attorney General,” she threatens. Get him, Bess! He tries to calm her down by attempting to grab her arm, but Elizabeth isn’t having it. She pulls her arm away immediately, quickly moving from the reflex to touching her hair, attempting to smooth more than just her ponytail over. In this situation, it’s not just business… it’s personal, too. Mike manages to explain his situation, enough that Elizabeth lets him live to see another day inside the State Department. “And I do want to see your pay stubs,” she quips seriously as she takes off running. “Of course you do. I would, too,” Mike responds. Elizabeth may be sweet and kind, but she's loyal and she expects the same out of her peers.

Russell brought Elizabeth into the NATO situation because he needed someone with “brass balls,” so Elizabeth grabbed her polish and got to work. After trying the typical ways to convince France to stay in the alliance, Elizabeth takes a different approach. There’s that you-don’t-even-know-there’s-a-box again. She drops the facts and goes for the emotions, reading a postcard her uncle sent during World War II. She uses the family heirloom to talk about being on the right side of history and the validation of purpose, urging the NATO members to rally together. It’s idealistic and unrealistic and very saccharine, but that’s Elizabeth’s strength. She faces a problem from an outsider’s angle, coming from a way not many other politicians would. As the music swells and the camera pans around the table, you know her speech is going to work. Music swells always give it away. The scene felt similar to the Season 1 finale, when Elizabeth was testifying about why she confided in Henry about the Marsh information… the whole “the truth is like a lion” situation. NATO members then stand and pledge their support, just like Elizabeth stood and grabbed Henry’s hand after her Season 1 testimony. France abstains, which is about all she’s going to get out of France, so the Article 5 resolution is invoked and NATO lives.

After saving NATO, Elizabeth and Henry take off for that romantic weekend in the remote cabin. They drive themselves, like every other couple does… with a caravan of security. “We didn’t really save the world. We just made it OK for now,” Elizabeth laments. That's basically the goal of her job: avoid setting the world on fire for another day. So far, so good. Inside the cabin is a surprise: her kids. They sucked it up and are giving their mother the weekend away that she so desperately craves. Sitting in that small, electricity-free room are the three reasons why she works so tirelessly at her job. She wants to make the world a better place for her children and children around the world. The episode ends with the McCord family sitting around a fire and playing board games. I would’ve paid to see more of that scene. Also, my request for an entire episode of the McCords on lockdown somewhere still stands.

In true Madam Secretary fashion, there was no finale cliffhanger. Viewers are left with a content and happy feeling, not anything uneasy or unfinished. Given the real world these days, that’s appreciated. We were even treated to multiple sweet scenes between Elizabeth and Henry. It almost felt like Season 1 again. The finale itself kind of felt like a one-off. As I said last week, episode 3.22 seemed more like the season finale, wrapping up all storylines. 3.23 didn’t really set up Season 4 at all, with the exception of Henry’s new job… although we still don’t know exactly what that will entail. I’m hoping his position will be incorporated into government without putting his life at risk as much. The dude needs to hang up his Super Henry cape for a while. As for Elizabeth, she'll continue to kick ass. I'd like to see more storylines last longer than 42 minutes next season, though. I’m excited to see where Season 4 will take us and, yes, kind of relieved Season 3 is over.

Other things:

--Nadine and Mike B.! They continue to make me want more. He’s used to getting his way, but it’s Nadine who’s calling the shots in the relationship. It’s fun to see her slightly off her game and excited about something that’s not work. The scenes with Daisy are a nice 180 from their typical scenes. This time, Daisy is the one offering advice and Nadine is the one opening up on a personal level. The future of their relationship is a bit in doubt, but I’m fine with that. I love their tap dance.

--No mention of Olga? The whole reason Dmitri is in the situation he’s in is because of his sister. I was expecting at least a line about her.

--I loved the outside shots of DC. They do an amazing job of recreating every corner of the world in New York, but there’s nothing like real shots without a green screen. Plus, we even get the updated look with the Museum of African American History peaking out.

--Elizabeth and her faux mic drops. Never stop, woman.

--Henry in the aviators. Yes. That’s a look that I’ll never tire of. Listen. It’s the season finale. I had to get one last Hot Henry reference into a review.

Did you enjoy the finale? What was your favorite/least favorite parts of Season 3? What are you hoping for in Season 4?

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