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Perhaps the greatest of all,
This review is from: The West Wing - Season 2 Part 2 (Episodes 12 To 22) [DVD] (DVD)
The second half of the second series of The West Wing must rank as the most consistently great eleven episodes of television ever made.
The set opens on a high with the two-parter detailing Bartlet's success at the State of the Union, but even this moment of triumph is tempered with sadness as a rescue operation in Columbia goes awry.
From here on in, not a single character makes it without a fall of somekind. Sam's personal and professional life clash in the episode 'Somebody's Going To Emergancy, Somebody's Going To Jail', an hour of television which would be the bestr if included on any other set. Here, it just goes to show the quality of the season by being average.
From the episode '17 People' onwards, the ongoing plot of Bartlett's MS comes to the fore. Enjoy his smile in the sixth episode on the set - it's the last until the closing moments.
Having said that, it's not all doom and gloom. Bradley Whitford gets to perform one of the greatest prat falls ever, and Ainsley Hayes provides a good vein of humour.
Mention must be made of the episode '17 People'. Scripted without any exterior locations, new sets or guest stars in order to save money, this riveting piece of drama best shows Aaron Sorkin's talent as a writer. Tight, tough and uncompromising, Bartlet's confession of his illness to Toby nearly wrecks the personal relationship between the two characters, and there are no easy fixes. Even by the end of the season these two have not made up.
But the absolute hands-down winner of best episode of The West Wing (possibly ever) goes to 'Two Cathedrals'. Martin Sheen is superb as the emotionally distraught President whose mind is locked in the past. It's been said many times before, but his soliloquy in Washington Cathedral in which he damns God in latin it the best dramatic moment of the year.
And the cliffhanger. Unlike season 1, in which the various plotlines played themselves out just in time for a shooting to occur, the last five episodes all lead up to Jed Bartlett (backed by Dire Straits) standing with his hands in his pocket, gazing into the distance, ready to say wether or not he will run for a second term as President. We know what the answer is, and it is extremely infuriating that the fade-out occurs before we can see this.
As with season 1, a question is left to be answered (back then, it was, 'Who's been hit?'), and fans will have to wait another year to own that answer on DVD. It can't come quick enough.