What I’m Watching: Madam Secretary

If you’d told me back during season one of Madam Secretary that I’d be genuinely looking forward to its season three premiere, I might have believed you because I know TV shows can improve but I certainly would have been doubtful.

I’m not even sure why I saw any of season one at all, other than that my parents watched it off and on so it was sometimes on, but I did and everything I saw from it was just so. Aggressively. Mediocre. The show was so mediocre across the board that as a whole I think it was downright bad. Sort of a “less than the sum of its part” thing. (Is that a thing?)

MADAM SECRETARY

This is, like, the only key art for this show. : ( I want an ensemble shot, dangit!

But when the season two premiere came around, I guess I was bored that night and since it was on before The Good Wife I decided to watch it. And I kept watching, and over the course of the season I found that I really liked the show. I don’t know if I’ve become blind to its shortcomings or if it actually got better, but overall season two of Madam Secretary was incredibly enjoyable for me. The whole season felt really cohesive thematically; the characters were solidly written; the plotting was interesting and tense without being full of absurd, unnecessary twists like some shows (looking at you, How to Get Away With Murder)–it was just a really strongly put together season.

So, yeah, I was really looking forward to last night’s premiere. And it didn’t disappoint! There was some weak stuff–both Elizabeth and the president’s monologues about Moral Foreign Policy and Climate Change Is Real, Yo felt like they weren’t set up enough for how forceful they were, and the whole episode was constructed a little too neatly, but dang if it wasn’t super entertaining.

Probably my favorite part of the episode was the setup for the “incumbent president failing to get his party’s nomination and running as a third party candidate” plotline. One of my favorite things about season two was how the show’s universe meaningfully diverged from ours, mostly with its storyline about the first lady of Russia rising to power, so it’s cool to see the show continuing that trend. Invented situations always feel more interesting to me than ripped-from-the-headlines stories; The Good Wife got especially bad with that in later seasons, where its cases were basically just oversimplified versions of what we’ve already seen play out in real life. The sort-of speculative fiction angle Madam Secretary takes is way cooler. (It also has kids that aren’t totally annoying.)

This episode also had some surprisingly good humor, mostly at the beginning. There’s a sort of dorky, gentle tone to Madam Secretary‘s sense of humor that I really dig. Speaking of dorkiness, I love how Elizabeth and Henry are both kind of dorky nerds. Their relationship is a really good example of how you can have a TV couple in a stable relationship without it being boring. (Not that they didn’t have difficulties in season two, but the stakes felt a lot lower than on a lot of shows where couples seem to be incapable of going half a season before breaking up for contrived reasons.)

Okay, I think that about covers it! Look forward to pilot reviews for Conviction (which will be up tomorrow) and Frequency (which will be up Thursday), and then starting next week I think I’ll do weekly roundup posts with a paragraph or two for each show I’m watching.

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