Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1 Review: Hail to the Chief

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Madam Secretary is back... sort of.

Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1 jumped in time to take us inside the White House and join the McCords as Elizabeth prepared to get a signature bill passed into law before her 100th day as President.

In some ways, this is the same show it's always been: tackling current political issues via stories about a fictional US government. But now that Elizabeth is President, the focus is different.

President Elizabeth McCord - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

One of the things that made Madam Secretary special was that it tackled real-life political issues from a global perspective.

As Secretary of State, Elizabeth had to consider how the US' response to one country's behavior and/or needs would affect allies, enemies, and other world players.

Related: Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 20 Review

As President, she needs to lead the nation in both domestic and foreign affairs. But thanks partially to the scandal threatening to derail her Presidency, global issues seem to have mostly taken a back seat.

An Important Meeting - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

It was jarring to hear Elizabeth order attacks on Iran's power grid and infrastructure without blinking an eye.

When Dalton was President, he would have consulted Elizabeth, Russell, and other experts before making a final decision, and one would hope that Elizabeth would approach this issue with similar restraint.

The lies you've been spewing for the last couple of years have done nothing for American security.

Elizabeth

That's not to say that her response wasn't justified. But her decision felt like it was made way too quickly and her aggressive stance seemed so different than who she was as Secretary of State.

Plus, with the scandal about Iran's interference in the election heating up, Elizabeth's responses to the hack are going to be under greater scrutiny, so she can't afford to get this one wrong.

Walking and Talking - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

That scandal appears to be a dark cloud that will likely follow Elizabeth through all 10 episodes of the final season of Madam Secretary, judging from the subpoenas everyone got at the end of the hour.

Hopefully, it won't overshadow plot lines about actual events requiring Presidential leadership! 

Scandals can derail a Presidency, and that's one of the points Madam Secretary is making here.

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But I fell in love with this show because it combined important world crises with family stories, and it would be a shame if this scandal took up far more screen time than the more important stuff.

Mike Does Damage Control - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

It doesn't help that the scandal is such a thinly-disguised commentary on current real-life events.

Madam Secretary has always based stories on current events, but it's often more subtle than this.

This scandal story seems to have taken the real-life investigations into Donald Trump's relationships with foreign governments during the election and afterward, except that the so-called victim of the alleged corruption is the Trumpian figure.

The lies you've been spewing for the last couple of years have done nothing for American security.

He even shares a last name with a member of Trump's cabinet!

Daisy Talks to Mike - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

Viewers' feelings about this storyline -- and Madam Secretary itself -- may be colored by their opinions about the real-life investigation.

It's difficult to view this story on its own merits when the parallels to real life are that obvious, and some viewers may feel elated or angry about events in the show based on how they feel about what's really going on.

Related: Get CBS All Access via Prime Video Channels for Hit Shows, Exclusive Originals & Live TV!

Of course, Madam Secretary has always taken a stand on issues -- e.g. immigration reform, climate change, vaccination policy, etc. This always risked offending viewers who didn't agree with that stand. 

But it's easier to discuss the issues raised in a given episode of the show if they don't almost exactly parallel real-life events.

Henry on the Colbert Show - Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1

That isn't to say some aspects of this story aren't effective! The flashbacks demonstrated how different Candidate McCord's plans for her Presidency were from the reality of the job. 

As a candidate, Elizabeth wanted to focus on public education and on building a coalition with people who held different political views. As President, she struggled to get her signature legislation through Congress and got embroiled in a scandal that threatened to derail everything.

There was one thing that Elizabeth could have done to prevent the scandal, and that was to refuse to engage in character-based attacks on her opponent.

She didn't seem happy when Mike first suggested it. But she went along with it, probably because she was worried about her poll numbers.

But poll numbers aren't always accurate, plus she probably would have got a bump in the polls by showing she could fight Miller's xenophobia and racism without resorting to spreading rumors and gossip.

And had she done so, there would be no scandal because she wouldn't have used the Iranian-planted news to discredit Miller.

No politician's ego ever met a principle it couldn't crush.

Mike

Also, there were a few unanswered questions about Elizabeth's presidency.

How close was the vote?

Why was Mike only an acting Chief of Staff rather than her choosing a permanent Chief of Staff from the get-go?

And why, exactly, did Morejon change his mind about running on Elizabeth's ticket instead of Miller's?

The abbreviated final season is what caused the showrunners to jump ahead to Elizabeth's presidency.

The flashbacks were engaging, but it felt like something was missing because the real story was the consequences of stuff that happened in the flashbacks instead of Elizabeth's struggle to make those past decisions.

I would have also liked to have seen more of Jason's reaction to Henry's appearance on the Stephen Colbert Show.

There wasn't much family stuff outside of Henry and Elizabeth discussing the scandal and trying to find time to have sex.

All in all, Madam Secretary did the best it could with the limited time its been given, which made for a strong season premiere, yet fell far short in comparison to the five previous seasons.

Your turn, Madam Secretary fanatics!

How did Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1 match (or not match) your expecations?

Are you enjoying this scandal storyline or would you rather Madam Secretary focus on something else?

And how do you feel about being thrust into the middle of Elizabeth's presidency?

Weigh in below, and don't forget you can always  watch Madam Secretary online if you missed anything!

Madam Secretary airs on CBS on Sundays at 10 PM EST/PST. The final season will have 10 episodes.

Hail to the Chief Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (22 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Madam Secretary Season 6 Episode 1 Quotes

Senators Windbag and Expediency are here.

Mike

I don't know why. I think these shoes belong to a different party, one where fun goes to die.

Elizabeth