Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Will we find out whatever happened to Mandy?

This Sunday will bring us the final episode of The West Wing. Unlike many, I don't think the show suffered mightily when Aaron Sorkin left, mainly because I thought Sorkin was running out of steam in that fourth season anyway. The fifth season took a long time to find its tone, but it had its moments, and the show got genuinely interesting again with the campaign to succeed President Bartlet. Now, since the whole election storyline ended, the most recent episodes have felt somewhat rushed, as though the writers are trying to plow through everything that's left, with some strange results:

1. Josh hasn't been in either of the last two episodes, but don't you think he'd have something to say about President-elect Santos's appointment of Arnold Vinick as Secretary of State?

2. If Sam Seaborn was going to be doing what Josh would have been doing for Santos had Josh not been on vacation, then why haven't we seen anything at all of Sam?

3. Stipulating that the answer to that last question hinges on the producers' inability to get Rob Lowe to break himself free from his packed acting schedule (please add sarcastic tone, if reading aloud), why wouldn't one of the other characters comment on Sam's presence? Something like:

CHARLIE: Hey, CJ, you see Sam's back in town?
CJ: Yeah. Santos's deputy chief. Good for him, huh?
CHARLIE: Yeah, but he'd have had that if he'd just stayed here.
CJ: Yeah.

4. The state of affairs of having a winning Vice Presidential candidate die on election night is pretty special, right? Seems to me that finding a new VP would have warranted a more prominent storyline.

5. We've seen almost nothing of the Bartlets. Sure, a new guy's coming in, but the old guy's going out, and frankly, he's the one we're emotionally invested in as longtime viewers. We've had lots of screentime devoted to what CJ's going to do after she leaves the White House. We've seen nothing of Bartlet's plans. Here's a guy who got pushed into running by his best friend, got elected even though he never thought he'd even be nominated, suffered a massive scandal over his MS, lost his beloved secretary, got re-elected, lost his best friend on election night...and we've seen almost nothing of him since.

I think they probably should have wrapped up the election a bit sooner, and left more time to do the transition right, especially since they had the foreknowledge that the show was ending.

The final episode looks to focus on the Inaugural, by the appearance of the preview. Frankly, I would have liked the Inaugural to be the second to last episode, and have the actual finale contrast the first days of the new Administration with Jed and Abby Bartlet settling in at home in New Hampshire again. Maybe this for a final exchange:

Abbey joins Bartlet on the porch of the farmhouse.

ABBEY: Did you forget how cold the winters are up here?

BARTLET: Nah. But I forgot how much quieter our porch is than the Truman Balcony. And you know, it's a lot nicer view without that big obelisk in the way.

ABBEY: I read in the paper that Josh is apologizing for something he said to Mary Marsh.

BARTLET: Yeah. The more things change, eh?

ABBEY: Yeah. (beat) We should go inside now.


Bartlet puts his arm around her, and together they walk toward the door.

BARTLET: What's next?

Fade out.

Or maybe something else...but I really hope that John Wells knows this show well enough to know that the very last line ever spoken on The West Wing just has to be "What's next".

(BTW, a few years back I posted about my favorite West Wing episodes. Not much has changed since I made that list.)


Erinna said...

What you said!

I actually said aloud recently that the last line HAS to be "What's next." It just has to...

Tosy And Cosh said...

1. They explained Josh's absence with the vactaion thing I thought - I'm good with it, and mot really upset at missing his reaction to Vinick-as-SoS

2. Because Rob Lowe thinks he's worth far more $ than he is. I personally would have preferred they didn't throw him the bones they have and just left him out of the last eps completely. Given Charlie Josh's old job or something.

4. The lack of VP talk has been somewhat odd, but I can kind of see how indulging in that storyline would have hijacked the rest of the season.

5. I've missed the Bartlets too, but their relative absence is very true to the show's guiding ethos. It's always been more about the staff than the President.

I have hunch "What's next" won't be the final line. I think they'll end with us seeing Josh and his crew swinging ino action with Santos. The last image being about the future more than the past?

Kelly Sedinger said...

1. I know they explained Josh's absense. But not seeing his reaction to Vinick, or his opinion of it, is a glaring omission, especially after so much of Season Seven has focused on Josh.

2. Yeah, Lowe's presence isn't adding up to anything special. I agree.

4. I don't think it should have been the dominant storyline, but it should have received a little more screentime than this. Have we even seen this guy "Baker" Santos is nominating?

5. Sorry, I disagree -- the show was originally intended to be more about the staff than Bartlet, but it changed dramatically as the show took shape in production (mainly when they saw how good Sheen was). Bartlet's been the center of the show, for me, culminating in the MS storyline and Mrs. Landingham's death.

6. But having the new guy saying "What's next" would both echo the past and accentuate the turning of the page. It would be perfect.

(BTW, did you actually enjoy that crapfest of an ER episode last night? Ye Gods!)

Erinna said...

I'm pretty sure Baker was the governor of PA, played by Ed O'Neill.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Baker was played by O'Neill - not sure what his story was since Ididn't see any of last season, but I remember him from the little of the nominating ep I did see. I'd imagine that part of why we won't see Baker is because the producer's think it kind of silly to pay O'Neill's rate for just a handful of scenes. Besides, they've got a lot to wrap-up as it is. We still haven't seen hardly anything of what Charlie will be doing, and the Toby taste in the penultimate ep (didn't see last night's finale yet) was nice, but short. I'm good with the whole VP thing happening mostly off-stage.

Which ER are we speaking of? The Vic goes nuts ep? Let's see:

Leguizamo's character never really clicked, but they were certainly playing to his strengths here - the man does good crazy.

I thought Negra was brilliant in her scenes. The denial, the dazed, must-do, the-routine-look, the snapping at friends. And the last scene with Gallant's video was great - the writing of the scene itself was fine, if nothing special, but her acting--and it was all reacting, no dialogue--was A-game stuff. I want a Neela spin-off.

So, yes, I liked it. ;)

Now, this week's finale, in which the ER would seem to get shot up - again - has me a bit tired. It's getting to the point where I think for the finale they'll have to have Chicago hit with an A-bomb.