So I just finished Season 2 of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing (I’m happy they went with the widescreen presentation from this point on), and I’m so glad to be watching it this way, and not waiting week to week for more, like I had to wait for The Newsroom! I am so hooked, and completely in love with all of the characters, and I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, becasue each of them have moments, and lines, and character beats that I just adore. But more often than not, Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and Donna Moss (Janel Moloney who is now in the opening credits!).
My love for these two characters was just simply exploited when Season 2 opened up moments after the assassination attempt that was the cliffhanger of Season 1, and not only has President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) been hit, but so has Josh, and for a long time through the course of the season it’s obvious Josh is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s also obvious that Donna and Josh care a great deal for one another, and I love their bantering and bickering.
The entire season was engaging, covering the passing of bills, bi-partisan commissions, DEA agents taken hostage, and then the completely unexpected and shattering death of one of their own. I was stunned. I literally sat there gobsmacked, unable to believe that what had just happened had happened, it seemed so pointless… but that’s the point. Because that’s how life is. Terrible things happen unexepectedly all the time, but so do good and great things.
The series does great work at both the highs and the lows. There’s wondeful humor, poignant and well thought out arguments, tough choices, smart dialogue, following their guide of “let Bartlet Be Bartlet’, and there is always a brilliant seed of idealism and optimism, the possibilityof the people, and the government being better, something greater. Oft times, the show verges on the Inspiring.
The Bartlets seem to be having a couple of domestic problems and as we venture further into the season, and the debate oabout whether Jed is going to run for a second-term, the staff learn why, which gives Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) a crisis of conscience, and possibly opens up the entire administration to conspiracy and fraud.
This story arc sees the introduction of White House Counsel, Oiver Babish (Oliver Platt) as he grills Jed’s wife, Dr. Abbie Bartlet (Stockard Channing) as well as countless staff members.
Emily Proctor also showed up this season as a Republican lawyer, Bartlet and Leo McGarry (John Spencer) recruit for the White House, and she’s a lot of fun watching her go toe to toe with Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) but then completely making a fool of herself when she’s introduced to the President. Her first couple episodes in the White House are fantastic, as they deal with harassment and hatred.
We also get to meet one of the other Bartlet daughters, when Ellie (Nina Siemaszko) shows up, and we realize that not everyone can connect to easliy to the President, and it also puts the West Wing in jeopardy when she makes a statement in support of the Surgeon General who talked about nicotine being more addictive then marijuana and the idea of relaxing the laws around it.
Timothy Busfield’s reporter Danny Concannon sadly vanishes after the first few eps of the second season, but that might be because of the fact that while he may be ok with a reporter and the White House Press Secretary having a romantic relatinship, the actual Secretary, C.J. Gregg (Allison Janney) is not okay with it.
Marlee Matlin shows up as Joey Lucas again, and I love seeing how she and Josh get along, and the whole fact that yes, he should really ask her out!
There are three things I loved above the rest in this season, the flashbacks to seeing how the staff came together when Bartlet was first running for president. Then there’s the fantastic final episode of the season where Bartlet faces the public about keeping his degenerative disease, multiple sclerosis a secret, and how it may affect his leadership if he decides to run again, which is all intercut with Jed’s past and when he first met Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten and played by Kristen Nelson in the flashbacks) and an incredibly powerful speech he gives in the National Cathedral starting in English, but then transitioning to Latin… Incredible.
The third thing I loved was watching Bartlet tear a strip off the Christian right in a brilliant sequence in the episode, “The Mid-Terms.”
Just watch this sequence… all of it!
So we are left at the end of the season, not with a cliffhanger but with the knowledge that Jed and all of his staff have a long road ahead of them, because even with his illness, he is going to run for a second term…
This show is so fantastic!
Looking forward to seeing what happens in the next season…