For once, a convoluted backstory that made sense and was interesting.
Russia's interference in both Polish politics and American hate groups grounded Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 2. It also set up the first major arc for the season.
It won't be the first time that Russia has been cast as the big bad of a season, but that's not surprising considering that the writing staff tries to keep things true to life.
And the Russians have a history as bad actors on the world stage. The reference to bot farms was torn from the headlines of the past two years. There's a lot more for the writer's room to draw on.
The poisoning of a British man, the Panama papers, aligning with Assad in Syria, the seizing of Crimea, shooting down airliners, the unsubstantiated but probable blackmailing of foreign leaders ... Russia is a veritable feast of storylines.
Daisy: Classic Russian move. Blame your opponets for your own dirty deeds.
Matt: Why does that always work?
It was an interesting change to see Elizabeth get something done through tough negotiation instead of her usual appeal to decency and goodness.
What was surprising was that Blake seemed to be the only one who picked up on the fact that something is going on with Demko. Elizabeth's threat to renege on the promised base seemed like it might be prophetic.
Tying domestic political tensions to international meddling isn't far-fetched, but that doesn't mean it's sustainable. The actual news hasn't been able to hold our attention with that story, so what will the writer's do to keep us engaged?
The fallback is always the family.
Wallis Currie-Wood brought a fantastic amount of nuance to Stevie's reaction to the bombing, but unfortunately, the writers, through Elizabeth, let her off the hook too quickly.
While Elizabeth gave some good advice, portraying Stevie as so self-centered was too close to cliche complaints about millennials for comfort. She was right to question her behavior to June; it was atrocious.
Elizabeth: If you want to make things better for the next generation, get rid of this notion that we're supposed to be invisible and self-effacing.
Stevie: I don't want to be invisible. I just want to be worthy of the people who came before me.
The older woman's death shouldn't weigh on Stevie's soul, but if she wants to succeed in Washington (or anywhere), she'll need to learn to think before she speaks.
June might not have been thinking about Stevie's words when she died but had she lived; it's a sure bet she would have remembered them when Stevie needed a big favor of some kind.
Letting June live would have made a much better story in the long term.
Henry just can't stay at home, can he? Admittedly, this is the first government side job that he'll have that makes sense. And it's good prep for when he takes on the role of First Gentleman.
But still. Is it too much to ask that Henry just be left in peace, career-wise? Can you even imagine what his CV looks like at this point? It's got to be ten pages long and mostly redacted.
The odds of Henry getting in trouble as a Presidential Ethics Advisor should be slim to nil. But this is Henry. So the chances that we'll see him in mortal peril because of this new job are pretty high.
Our founding fathers knew what people were capable of when they created the justice system. I think we should trust it to do its job as it always has.Henry
You don't really think the Secretary of State is going to put off critical diplomatic negotiations to sit on a jury, do you? The promo for Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 3 ("The Rake") would have us think so. Do promo editors even watch the episodes?
Elizabeth will be too busy facing off with Minister Chen to sit in judgment on a misdemeanor, traffic violation case. She'd probably rather be performing that civic duty instead of trying to force China into eliminating sweatshops.
On the upside, a trip to Milan's fashion week guarantees Allison will tag along, and maybe the future designer will internalize the lesson on the ethics of fashion.
Less entertaining and more relatable will be Daisy's struggles about raising a child of color in a country with a rise in racism and nationalism. If only there were a close friend she could turn to for support in these troubling times who cares about her and her daughter's safety.
So what did you think of "The Chaos Game"? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Were you shocked by Russia's involvement? Will Stevie be able to move on and grow in her career or will her survivor's guilt leave her stuck? Is this finally the right role for Henry or will it only last a season?
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Elizabeth Harlow was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in October 2018.