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Madam Secretary - Leaving the Station - Review

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Madam Secretary came to a close with “Leaving the Station.” Fittingly, it was written by showrunner and creator Barbara Hall and directed by Eric Stoltz (Will), who did double duty by also guest starring in the episode. The episode had everything that made the show great – great writing, great acting, and great direction – all while shining a light on global and American issues. We got a terrific taste of all the characters we’ve been missing this season. The only thing that could have made this episode better was if it could have been another 10 episodes long. And of course, my favorite part just might have been seeing Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood) and Dimitri (Chris Petrovski) make it down the aisle. But let’s dive in and take a nice long walk down this final episode…

As the episode opens, we are deep in wedding preparations. It seems that Stevie has found the perfect venue for the wedding. It really is a beautiful chapel, and it just happened to be on Blake (Erich Bergen) and Trevor’s (Roe Hartrampf) short list. I was really hoping we’d get to see Blake’s nuptials before the end… Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) remarks it reminds her of the farm, and Stevie apologizes for not having it there – and that would have made some sense, bringing us full circle from where the show started. However, Elizabeth and Henry (Tim Daly) both insist that they are venue neutral.

Stevie is determined that she’d like the wedding not to be tied to anyone else’s history. Dmitri a little forlornly, perhaps, points out that everything works for him as he doesn’t have any history there. But, of course, he does have quite a bit of history with all the McCords. There’s also a funny moment when Dmitri says it also reminds him of his grandfather’s farm – or pictures of it… before the State took it – and everyone looks askance and Stevie changes the subject. Stevie explains to them that the beams are all hand-planed and gushes that it’s like they’re standing in art. The best part of this scene is the way that Dmitri looks at her and is clearly so in love with her and happy at how happy she is. And of course, all that discussion of the wood is a nice bit of foreshadowing for the chapel burning down!

Then they are on to taste-testing for the wedding. It was really fun to get to see Leoni’s comic side a bit as the caterer has some lobster mac ‘n cheese for them to try, but the secret service tells the President that she can’t try it because it hasn’t been cleared! I loved the look on her face as Henry tucks in anyway. Elizabeth tells Blake that she wants her own personal vetting for the wedding! She tries to convince Blake to take one of the mac ‘n cheeses to eat in the car so that they can share it, and Bergen’s comic timing is as sharp as ever as he flatly refuses. It was pretty clear that the entire cast was savoring these last scenes together.

Blake whisks Elizabeth back to the White House, where Mike B (Kevin Rahm) is in fine form, running down the day’s events to which Senator Hanson – and all his “scum-nuggets” are not invited! Loved Mike and Elizabeth’s high five. Mike is concerned about Flo Avery – played by special guest star Cicely Tyson – who was born the same day that women were granted the right to vote. He’s worried about her falling down the stairs – dead old ladies not a great look… Blake insists that she seems very spry – and Mike B shoots back – “her phone voice seems spry?” Love the banter between these two! Blake looks chagrined at any rate.

Also coming for the signing is the American women’s soccer team (for real!). Mike has been having a hard time convincing them to simply stick to talking points. They won’t be silenced! You’d think he’d be used to strong women by now! But apparently four sisters have given him issues….

Russell (Zeljko Ivanek) comes in to say that the Rose Garden has just been fertilized so they’ll be holding the signing ceremony in the Oval office. Russell also has to ask her not to seat him with Carol (Linda Emond) at the wedding as they’ve been having problems. Elizabeth asks how serious it is, and Russell has to admit that he’s moved into a hotel. He insists that it blows over eventually. Elizabeth is clearly concerned that it’s about the job and tells Russell that she’s not sure how she could have gotten through any of “this” without him. She offers to talk to Carol, but Russell tells her that the only person Carol dislikes more than him is Elizabeth!

She asks how long it’s been going on – and we get a flashback to a year ago – and pick up the scene in which Elizabeth asked Russell to come back as Chief of Staff as he runs into the house to tell Carol. Russell insists that it’s temporary, just to get the first woman President on solid ground. And we quickly learn that the separation is entirely because of the job – and is very unlikely to blow over. It was really fantastic to see Ivanek get this juicy storyline in the final episode. He’s long been one of my very favorite actors, and it was great to see this different side of Russell.

I loved that they brought in both the real issue of the US women’s soccer team’s fight for pay equity and actual members of the team to speak to it in the PSA they film with Elizabeth. It was very much a fitting issue to end the series with – a series that gave us a woman President. They are also there to witness the signing of the Equal Pay and Family Leave Act along with Flo Davis. Elizabeth uses two pens in order to present both with one. However, after the signing Flo has a few words for Elizabeth.

Flo starts out by telling Elizabeth that she never thought she’d live long enough to see a woman President – but now that she has, she couldn’t be more disappointed! Elizabeth is a bit surprised. Flo criticizes the “little” bill. It was passed by a group of men who can just as easily take it away. She reminds Elizabeth that the Constitution says all “men” are created equally. She wants the Constitution to state her equality – sparking Elizabeth taking up the cause of the Equal Rights Amendment!

As Flo leaves, Blake arrives with more bad news – the venue just went up in flames! It’s been burnt to the ground! Russell suggests postponing, but Elizabeth points out that people are already on their way and have reservations – it’s a logistical nightmare. Henry and Stevie are both ready to just go full tilt at finding another venue, but Russell points out that that is not an option. It will take a minimum of three weeks to make sure any venue is secure for the President. Russell tells them they have two choices: Camp David or the White House. Elizabeth promises Stevie that she and Henry will do everything in their power to protect the wedding – no press and no politics.

Mike is like a kid in a candy store as he gleefully declares it to be a political gold mine! I loved Russell totally shutting him down! He tells Angela (Sabina Zuniga Varela) to keep the announcement short – it will just be a low-key family event. But before Angela can leave, Elizabeth tells them that she’s got one more thing that she wants to discuss – she’s been thinking about the ERA since being raked over the coals by Flo. Mike asks if she’s also been thinking about “mood rings and SuperTramp” – which Kevin Rahm mentioned was one of his favorite lines – because Mike always gets the best lines!

Elizabeth insists that Flo Avery was right. An amendment to the Constitution is the only way to ensure that civil liberties are permanent. Elizabeth maintains that most people don’t even know its history. Angela thinks it could get traction, especially with young people. All of the women in the room are keen.

Elizabeth addresses the press and tells them that she’s reviving the Equal Rights Amendment Initiative. She reminds the press – and us – that it was first introduced in Congress 1923 and was then re-introduced in every session for half a century until it passed both houses in the early 1970s. It was ratified by 35 states – but it needed 38. Elizabeth insists that it’s time to update the Constitution to reflect that all people are created equal and should be treated as such under the law. I loved that we see such a diverse group of people in the shots in this scene, including a close up of a black woman cameraperson. While I’m pointing it out, the show does much more to normalize our perceptions by simply including a diverse population and not drawing attention to it as exceptional.

Henry finds Elizabeth pouring over the seating chart. Mike interrupts with an update on the ERA initiative. Senator Amy Ross – played by none other than Tyne Daly – yes, she is Tim Daly’s sister! – insists that the ERA is unnecessary. She insists that Elizabeth is going to start a gender war in the US and vows to stop it in its tracks.

We get a terrific, signature walk and talk with Russell and Mike B. I love these as the physical motion underscores the rapid pace with which everything at the White House happens. Russell, as always, it glued to his phone and Mike B is talking a mile a minute. A coup is brewing in Venezuela. Russell is determined that it will not interfere with the wedding. Blake interrupts them to tell them that ever since it was announced that the wedding would be at the White House, he’s been flooded with requests to attend.

Mike suggests that it would be a wonderful way to lobby for ERA votes! He points out it would demonstrate that they can all be equal and still participate in a time honored sexist tradition in which a virginally attired woman is passed from one man to another. Both Blake and Mike are taken aback by Russell’s angry NO – they are not politicizing the wedding – and nobody’s having a damn coup!

How much fun was it to see Tim Daly step into the hallway to see his sister Tyne Daly and for her to say it was always good to see him?! It turns out that they’ve shared work with Veterans. She asks Henry what his take is on the ERA Initiative, and he tells her – unsurprisingly – that he’s 100% on board. She says he’d “have to be.” He immediately tells her that he’s a “liberated” first husband. It’s another terrific role reversal. Once again, I’m so impressed with this clever show that always finds a way to provide a balanced look at issues. Senator Ross gives us the other side of the argument. The 14th Amendment already guarantees equality for women. She’s worried that the ERA will strip women of all the legislative protections that they’ve already fought for. Henry insists that subsidies are only necessary because of an uneven playing field. Ross insists that men and women aren’t the same and sometimes separate is good. Henry insists that “separate” is just a pretext to justify inequality. Henry doesn’t dispute that men and women are different, but he is fighting to prove that different doesn’t mean inferior.

Ross finds it “odd” that the first female President doesn’t want to acknowledge how far they’ve come. I love that this scene is punctuated by Ross pausing to fix her lipstick before going to her meeting as she talks with Henry. She’s also dressed in a suit – like Henry – but with a skirt and pearls. There are different expectations on women, right down to how they dress. It’s a whole other issue, but once again underscores the care and detail that went into crafting this show. Henry defends Elizabeth, saying she doesn’t discount all that women have won, but he points out that any legislation can be overturned – and haven’t we seen plenty of evidence of that in the last four years?! The ERA would ensure women’s equality. Ross worries that if Elizabeth “over reaches,” she can’t know what the cost will be. Henry brings the argument back to Ross’ grandsons – and in particular the one who just won a national debate championship. She proudly declares that he has a gift for rhetoric and argument, and Henry turns that into a compliment to her. He then says imagine how proud your grandson would be to know that all of the legislation that she fought for was now enshrined in the constitution? Before she can really answer – and she sees what he’s just done, Blake interrupts to take her to the President. She compliments Henry on his own rhetorical abilities, and he tells her to wait until she sees Elizabeth. And it’s another mark of this show that we never see that conversation – every character is able to bring an intelligent viewpoint to the issues.

That evening, Stevie drives to the rehearsal dinner with Henry and Elizabeth so that they can talk. Elizabeth tells her that she can always come to them to talk, and Henry is quick to say that they shouldn’t butt in to every little thing – and it quickly turned into a sweet moment between the two. Stevie brings them back on point, however. She asks how the ERA is going. Elizabeth tells her that they aren’t going to talk about that tonight, but that IS what Stevie wants to talk about. I love how well this dovetails into Stevie’s human rights job this season. Again. Well-crafted, thoughtful show.

Elizabeth is surprised, but admits that Senator Ross is creating an uphill battle. Stevie says that she’s heard that everyone in town is looking for an invitation to the wedding… and that would be a really good way to whip votes! Henry and Elizabeth insist that they would never do that! They think that she’s worried about that, but she wants them to! She insists that Dmitri and she both want it. They can’t think of a better way to honor their future family, especially if they have “baby women.” And Elizabeth melts at the mention of grandbabies… again. Henry and Elizabeth agree.

  Russell defuses the Venezuelan crisis by inviting the Resistance leader to the wedding! He’s determined that the world will behave for 24 hours so that Elizabeth doesn’t have to miss any of the wedding. He never does get to drink the coffee that Nina (Tracee Chimo Pallero) brings him because he has to go off and stop the shenanigans at Dmitri’s bachelor party – another travesty orchestrated by Jason (Evan Roe). He’s taken them all out hatchet throwing!

Dmitri says that they don’t have bachelor parties in Russia. Russell arrives just as Dmitri’s drunken cousin Vlad (Mark Puchinsky) lets a hatchet go backwards into the crowd. I actually can’t believe that they’d have a bar in a hatchet throwing venue – but hey, you can get plenty of alcohol at any Renn Faire and do the same thing. Russell is furious with Jason. The secret service has tipped him off. He reads them all the riot act – they are having pictures with the President of the United States the next day and none of them are going to be hung over – or sporting hatchet wounds! It’s just another terrific scene from Ivanek.

Russell tries to share his day by calling Carol. She tells him that she’s not that person any more. Their marriage – all of it – is over. And again, this scene underscores Ivanek’s acting as we see Russell as we’ve never really seen him before – devastated. And at a loss at how to fix this problem. The shot that mirrors the White House over Russell's face it perfect. It’s also a beautiful storyline to parallel the beginning of one marriage with the breakdown of another. And of course, that’s also why Russell is so determined that this wedding go off without a hitch. It’s another wonderful parallel that Stevie who saved Russell’s life, is now able through her own wedding to breathe life back into his.

And then it’s the big day. I loved Stevie’s dress, which naturally Alison (Katherine Herzer) designed! I absolutely loathed Elizabeth’s dress, however. We did get the requisite mother and sister of the bride with bride getting ready scene…

And then we were off to greet all the guests and catch up! Jay (Sebastian Arcelus) is there. He teases her about the Impeachment, but also tells her that there was a massive protest in Amsterdam against the Impeachment and he was in it. His new wife is having a baby, and they are moving back to DC. He doesn’t have a job yet…. So we know immediately where this is leading.

We next see Matt (Geoffrey Arend) being greeted by Blake and Daisy (Patina Miller). Matt is working in Hollywood – who loves Washington. He’s working on a show about the first robot President, called Computer in Chief – love the hilarious riff on themselves. And it’s also interesting to speculate that for some a woman President is just as much science fiction as a robot. Blake, ironically, remarks that political shows are never accurate! LOL!! Daisy tells them that she’s still at home, being a mom, and finding it hard to get another job just yet. Matt teases her by saying “there’s always Dancing with the Stars,” which is an obvious – and hilarious – dig at Sean Spicer! Daisy and Blake are both appalled. Hilarious!

Vlad shows up at the wedding with a spray tan, looking suspiciously – and again, hilariously – like another orange buffoon that lives in Washington. How hilarious is it that a RUSSIAN guest tells Jason that that’s what you do when you get to Washington?!?! And then they are joined by Will who wants to know about the ax throwing. As an aside, it was also fun to see Dylan (Sam Breslin Wright) back and to see that he’s standing up for Dmitri.

Mike shows up with his son, Zach (Will Harrison), who is tall, handsome, and clearly as smooth as his dad! He immediately starts talking Spanish with the Venezuelan resistance leader when he is introduced to him and Russell. Russell pulls Mike aside to incredulously ask if this is the same kid he was always calling a fat loser! Mike says he doesn’t know what happened – he got tall… And accepted to Yale, mainly because of lacrosse, but he seems to be learning “stuff.”

How completely appropriate it is that Dalton (Keith Carradine) is the one to officiate at the wedding? I loved the short scene with Elizabeth. He tells her that he’s completely with her on the ERA Initiative, and he tells her not to let anyone tell her that she’s tilting at windmills.

Henry walks Stevie down the aisle – which is outside in the garden. Naturally, Stevie and Dmitri have written their own vows. Stevie tells Dmitri she’s always been a little afraid of good things because great things inevitably come to an end. And of course, that’s a nice shout out to the show itself. As she talks about her fear of losing Dmitri twice, we see Russell look longingly at Carol. Stevie also gives a shout out to Blake for not taking his advice. Stevie ends by quoting a passage from one of my favorite novels of all time (which I just finished re-reading for the umpteenth time!) – Pride and Prejudice: “I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”

Dmitri’s vows are much shorter. We get a close up of Chen (Francis Jue) seated in the audience. One of my only really great disappointments with the episode is that we don’t actually get a scene with Chen. I’m really, really hoping that his scene was simply cut for time and that it will appear on subsequent DVDs…. Dmitri pledges to never leave her again. He’s home.

The happy couple laughs their way through the ‘I do’s’ and then Dalton pronounces that they may kiss each other equally – not the usual ‘you may kiss the bride’ – which is, of course, perfect.

The reception features some beautiful songs by Blake. Including one that he’s clearly singing directly to Trevor. Meanwhile, Stevie insists that she’s all over whipping votes and Russell, Mike, Elizabeth, and Dalton all split up to do likewise. But before Mike embarks on his assignment – he gives one to Zach. He points out Alison, and tells Zach to get them in that family! Zach isn’t averse to his assignment…

Matt tries to encourage Daisy to come to Los Angeles. It’s the place people go to re-invent them. He invites her to start a podcast with him. He also lists all the benefits – the sun shines every day. The houses have yards… and he misses her. It’s pretty clear that they are going to get their happy ending. It’s a bit abrupt, but I’ll take it!

Henry gives his toast to the newlyweds, and starts with a joke about Thomas Aquinas. There’s a half-hearted groan… Even the joke actually reflects the main political plot. Aquinas has finished his great work and then misplaced it. Kind of like the ERA, right? The joke about the Summa Theologica, however, has the punchline of God telling Aquinas, ‘you win summa, and you lose summa…’ Yes. It’s a groaner. Mike and Russell shake their heads. They never get his jokes – because neither will ever admit to losing!

Henry’s point is that you win some and you lose some in life – but having a partner to share them with makes them both better. Henry chokes up as he comments that they are beginners at marriage. He tells them to be each other’s teachers and to know that they are surrounded by people who love them and will help them. Henry then brings up the recurring theme of his being the Stevie-whisperer and goes and whispers in her ear.

We don’t hear what he says, but after the toast, we have the first dance – played by Peter Frampton. It’s another wonderful call back to all those t-shirts Elizabeth wore in all those terrific scenes at night with Henry – the real cornerstone to their marriage – and of course, Frampton’s other appearance on the show.

Russell writes something on a napkin, and then nervously approaches Carol and asks to speak with her. He tells her that he was so determined to make sure that the wedding went off with no politics because he realized how much politics got in the way of his life with her. He apparently missed the best man’s speech at their own wedding! He tells her that she’s right. He never chose her first, but now that he’s lost her, none of it matters if he can’t share it with her. He tells her that starting today, he is choosing her first – if she’ll let him – for the rest of his days. The napkin is his resignation letter.

Carol tells him she’ll believe it when she sees it. Russell immediately goes to Elizabeth, apologizes for the timing, and tenders his resignation. He tells her it’s been an honor to serve her. She accepts the napkin and thanks Carol for her sacrifice – and tells her that Russell is all hers. Russell asks Carol to dance and when his phone rings gives it to Carol, who sticks it in a glass of water – which is a nice gesture, but he is still Chief of Staff….

One month later, and of course, Jay is now in the role we expected him to have – Chief of Staff. The ERA is going to pass both Houses, but now they have to get the states on board. Elizabeth wants to do a “whistle stop tour” – full Teddy Roosevelt. They will go across the country via train! The very last shot of the series is Henry and Elizabeth kissing as the train pulls out of the station. It’s their happily ever after – and our sad farewell to this wonderful show.

I can’t express how much I will miss this show. The acting has always been of the highest caliber – nobody ever phoned in their part. The writing was likewise always top notch, but more than that, it was important. So much of what has gone on in the world, and especially American politics, has been highlighted and intelligently dissected by this show. I can’t help but think that all of our conversations about world events will be wanting for the lack of it. Or at least, we’ll miss those conversation starters. For my own part, I send my thanks to the cast and crew far and wide. And to the networks and streaming services? Please. Do your best to find a way to bring this show back! What are your thoughts? Please let me know what you thought of the finale and the series in the comments below!

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