What’s Worth Watching: Tough Choices for Madam Secretary

Madame Secretary
Sarah Shatz/CBS
Madame Secretary

Madam Secretary, “The Kill List” (Sunday, April 26, 8/7c, CBS)

Even though Madam Secretary often feels like a West Wing-lite version of State Department intrigues, you can’t fault this diverting political melodrama for a lack of ambition. In the freshman season’s penultimate episode, Secretary of State Elizabeth “Bess” McCord (an agreeably flustered, yet steely, Téa Leoni) has more than a full plate: She’s seeing a therapist (Marsha Mason, nice casting) to deal with her PTSD issues, the Iranian President is coming to D.C. to sign a nuclear treaty—how timely—while hard-line factions back in Iran cause an international furor by ordering the stoning death of a gay Iranian man to upstage the ceremony.

As if that weren’t enough, the personal becomes political when Elizabeth’s BFF-turned-murderous conspirator Juliet (Nilaja Sun) re-emerges, and President Dalton (Keith Carradine) orders a drone strike to take her out in her remote Algerian hideaway. When Elizabeth tries to find a diplomatic solution to spare her former CIA buddy, she frets to husband Henry (Tim Daly, whose scenes with Leoni are always among the show’s best): “Does that make me a traitor?” His reply: “No. It makes you human.” At its best, Madam Secretary forces its title character to face the consequences of saving the world at the expense of one’s soul.