Madam Secretary (2014) TV Pilot Review


Madam Secretary focuses on Elizabeth (Tea Leoni), a woman devoted to her family, who has to step in to the job of Secretary Of State. Warning there may be spoilers ahead.


When reviewing promos, Madam Secretary was one of my highest rated picks and it certainly did not disappoint with its pilot. It is a fast paced show that also knows how to slow down to really gage those emotional moments. A cross between a family drama and a political one, this show has a little something for everyone.

Tea Leoni leads a very talented cast with ease and slots right her into her role as Madam Secretary. We start out by seeing her as a college professor and spending time with her family, which allows us to see her witty and motherly side, something that immediately makes her likeable. I think this was a smart move by the writers, as when she takes the job as Secretary of State she has to become much more serious and at times even ruthless so it was good we got to see that balance of personality. What’s great about Elizabeth is that you can see she really cares about what she’s doing, she may not always go about things the proper way but her end goal is always to help other people and change the world for the better. Plus she’s super smart, resourceful and very feisty which let’s face it is never a bad thing. An example of this was when she text the president’s wife to get his attention, a brilliant move by her. We got to see a lot of character development for Elizabeth just from the pilot, perhaps because there was such a heavy focus on her. The only negative thing about that is that at times it felt like the other characters were neglected. Pairing that with the fact that there is quite a large cast, we didn’t really get to know much about anyone else in the show, making it to difficult to discuss them here.

However two characters that did manage to stand out for me were Blake and Russell played by Erich Bergen and Zeljko Ivanek respectively. Bergen came across as instantly likeable taking on the role of Elizabeth’s PA. The character clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously and in a show dealing with such serious subject matter it’s nice to have someone that brings some humour to the table. His relationship with Elizabeth is great and it is clear he is very loyal to her; I think those are the interactions that will be the most fun to watch each week. As for Ivanek, he has consistently proven himself to be a very talented actor so he was always going to be one of the highlights of the show. Often typecast as the antagonist, he plays it so well, going head to head with Elizabeth on more than one occasion. I’m really interested to see how their relationship progresses, at the end of the episode it almost looked as if they were reaching a truce before things quickly turned frosty again. I cannot wait to see the power struggle between the two unfold. However I can’t help feeling that watching them work together amiably on a problem would also make for great viewing. Whichever way the writers take the storyline it will be brilliant, both are such strong performers that the quality of the show goes up tenfold when these two are in the same room.


Moving onto the content of the show, I wished they’d shown less of the plot and the outcome in the promo as it kind of spoiled the episode a little as we knew exactly what was going to happen. The scene where the two boys return home was very touching and emotional but would have been more so if they hadn’t revealed it in the promo. That being said, they still had some surprises left in store for the viewers. The shocking revelation that the former Secretary of State’s death wasn’t an accident completely turned the show on its head. All of a sudden we have this “Who dunnit?” storyline adding more suspense and mystery to the show. Even more thrilling was George’s death for investigating the crash, showing that no character is safe in this show. I suspect that this revelation will form a huge part of the show’s season and I can’t wait to see the culprit unmasked. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the person we least suspect- my money is on the husband.

What I really loved about the show is how relevant they made it to society today.  An example of this was the use of media in politics in the pilot, which in real life has increased exponentially in the last decade. It made the show much more realistic and true. Also the ideas and issues the writers highlighted in the episode were thought provoking and illustrated the difficulties in politics. There was culture clash, human rights issues, ethical dilemmas and just a hint of sexism. That scene where they insist she get a stylist really irked me because I just kept thinking this would be so different if she were a man. And yet it was completely realistic which is frankly a little sad. Personally I’d prefer my political leader to be capable in their job rather than wearing the latest designer dress. But I do love that the show highlighted the issue. Another great scene was the dinner between Elizabeth and King Nungunde (and his numerous wives) – you could see Elizabeth was horrified and uncomfortable by the idea but he viewed it as completely normal in his culture. It was actually brilliant to see two people with very different views and opinions come together to try to enforce change. I hope this is something that continues in forthcoming episodes, I really value a show that can make its audience think about real issues.

With just the right amount of action, politics, mystery, drama and emotional depth; Madam Secretary certainly hit the right note with its first episode. Utilising an outstanding cast and throwing in massive curveballs throughout the episode made this pilot a joy to watch. Although there are many political dramas on television these days I have no doubt that Madam Secretary can hold its own and stand out from the crowd.

Rating: 4/5

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