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Madam Secretary - News Cycle - Review

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Hellloooo, Season 4. How’d we get to Season 4 already? I swear I just watched Elizabeth and her pigtails sit in her kitchen and agree to be Secretary of State. Look how far we’ve come.

Season 4 begins with Dmitri, the character who just keeps coming back. Omen for the season ahead? Dmitri gets wired up like he’s about to take the world’s largest sleep study, answering questions about whether or not he resents the United States for what happened to him in seasons past. All of this is because Henry wants to bring him in to the CIA. You know. The agency where his wife was once a rock star. Dmitri passes the lie detector test like a champ, because that’s what he’s been trained to do. We later learn Mr. Petrov has a penchant for popping pain pills. Say that 4 times fast. So basically, Dmitri is still a hot mess, except now he’s a hot drug-addicted mess working for the most clandestine group in the CIA. What could possibly go wrong here? I don’t think Henry goes through life wearing rose-colored glasses, but I do think his guilt often gets in the way of him making rational decisions. I’m Catholic, too. I get it. Guilt is just a part of life. But Henry seems to have a chronic issue of not being able to shake the feeling if he thinks he wronged someone, which can lead to questionable behavior: like asking a former member of the Russian army who loathes his current life and blames America to be in the CIA. Even the CIA Director questions if the move is a type of penance. Henry denies it is, because I truly think Henry doesn’t realize what he’s doing. For the record, I’m here for the roller coaster Dmitri is about to take the entire McCord clan on. Remember that moment with Stevie last season? Buckle up. That said, I’d like Henry to have his major crisis moment and then move on from his Dmitri guilt… for good.

Because China is being China at the United Nations, Elizabeth decides to skip a meeting with Minister Chen (love that weasel), instead meeting with a diplomat for Timor-Leste. The two barely say their hellos when Rogerio Bento keels over and dies. So that’s awkward. The President of Timor-Leste orders Bento’s body released before an autopsy, raising flags for the eagle-eyed State Department staff. Thanks to Will, it’s determined Bento was poisoned by a toxic chemical that’s only used by the Russians (those pesky Russians) and a new drug cartel in Mexico.

Turns out, it’s the cartel. Praise everything, because I don't know if I could handle another Russia story. To deflect attention, the cartel plants a fake news story about Elizabeth killing Bento. Pizzagate, anyone? The internet being the internet, the story takes off, even garnering the attention of an Arizona Senator and a TV show host. This storyline was my favorite plot of the episode, mainly because it’s a topic that’s so relevant right now. These days, the term “fake news” is thrown around more than a football during the Super Bowl. Just because you disagree with something, doesn’t mean it’s fake. Just because you want to believe it, doesn’t make it true. (Someone tell that to some of our leaders.) One quick trip around Facebook or Twitter and you’ll find people posting articles from less than reputable sources that make outlandish claims. Pro tip to the world: do a quick Google search before you believe something like that or, even worse, share the questionable article. Check with Snopes. Do your research. It's up to all of us individually to do our due diligence. It's also the media's role to report facts, rather than theories. As Elizabeth says when pressed about the issue on live TV, “If citizens can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, then the entire project of civilization turns to dust.” Basically, we’ll all lose the battle if we don’t call it out.

Elizabeth’s tirade of truth on TV sparks Russell’s rage. Shocking. Russell is mad. Everybody drink. He’s ticked Elizabeth didn’t simply ignore the rumor accusing her of murder, which seems odd because he’s always the first who wants to hit back with a knee-jerk reaction when he or POTUS is wronged. Nadine can’t simply sit by and let her boss be the punching bag for Russell’s rage, so she jumps in, standing her ground and raising her voice in defense of Elizabeth. She’s practically spitting when she wails “grow a spine” to Russell. You couldn’t see me, but I was giving her a standing ovation. That’s possibly the most I’ve ever seen the poised, reserved, calm, collected Nadine let Russell… or anyone… get under her skin. I think everyone in that room is shocked, probably even Nadine herself. Elizabeth basically looks like she’s watching a tennis match, going back and forth between the two. All she needs is some popcorn. I applaud Nadine. The woman has watched her boss get berated by Russell for years now, and she wasn’t about to let Elizabeth take it this time. Please don't go anywhere, Nadine.

In the midst of seeing someone literally drop dead in front of her and being accused of murder, Elizabeth is feeling extreme mom guilt. Alison is heading off to college and Elizabeth is missing it due to the United Nations General Assembly. You know, your average parental dilemma. She’s already missed so many life moments with her kids due to her job, and she didn’t have a parent to drop her off at college, so there’s a lot of baggage to unwrap besides your typical guilt. The whole scenario probably hit close to home for Téa, who just dropped her oldest off at college. Elizabeth eventually makes it to Alison’s campus, long enough to see her dorm, meet her awkward roommate and eat in the dining hall. Considering the college is only an hour from home, I can see Elizabeth just popping in unannounced… as much as someone with federal security detail and a motorcade can pop in. I wonder how often Alison will be around this season?

All in all, I think the premiere was a solid setup for storylines heading into the first half of the season. Dmitri is a mess, bound to cause issues for Henry and Elizabeth, Senator Morejon is passively, yet cryptically, threatening to cause trouble for Elizabeth and POTUS, and the kids are, well, the kids. We have some sweet Elizabeth and Henry scenes ahead, something sorely missing last season. However, as we all know, Barbara giveth and Barbara taketh away.

I do worry a bit about ratings, now that the show is in the Sunday 10pm slot. That’s a rough time period, much less before you throw in the dreaded football delay. I’d hate to see the show suffer simply because of a time slot move. Personally, I still think 8pm was the best place, seamlessly transitioning from 60 Minutes to Madam Secretary. Of course, I’m not the one making the decisions at CBS. Time will tell.

Other things:

--Stevie is still working for Russell. It was weird seeing her at the United Nations. It also forces Elizabeth to flip between SOS mode and mom mode. I’d like Stevie to branch out and do something that’s not so centered on politics or her mother’s career… but she’s not dating a heroin addict or 45-year-old, so she has that going for her.

--Will is back! More, please. His sense of humor is perfect, as is the banter between Will and Elizabeth. “Hey, killer.” Téa and Eric truly have the sibling act down.

--New wig. I couldn't not mention it.

--”It’s aggressive and at the same time a little petty. Works for me.” Yes, Russell.

--”If I was gonna have someone killed, I’d at least be a little discreet about it. I was in the CIA.”

--I never sorted my laundry in college either, Stevie.

What did you guys think of the premiere? Do you have any hopes or predictions for the season ahead?

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