Anybody got a Kleenex? Because I sure didn't expect my face to be quite so moist throughout "The West Wing" series finale. That was really, really lovely. Honestly, I'm not sure how much better it might have been had Aaron written it. (And did everybody catch him as one of the people on the dais at the inauguration? Glad he found some way to participate.)
John Wells has taken a lot of crap since he took over the show, and rightfully so, but he nailed just about everything here. He kept it simple, and that made the emotions seem more genuine and more powerful. While there was just enough time spent on Team Santos to invoke the sense of awe that wouldn't be coming off the departing staffers, but the focus was primarily on the characters that the audience has known and loved since 1999. Back in January, John said he knew that the last two scenes would be Santos sitting behind the Oval Office desk and asking "What's next?" and Barlet on Air Force One, and that he needed to wait until he was in the editing room to decide which would go last. There's no question he made the right choice.
Jed pulling out the framed napkin from "Bartlet for America" unleashed the last bout of waterworks for me, but the biggest gusher came when he gave his pocket copy of the Constitution to Charlie. Dule Hill so rarely got anything of interest to do, but the surrogate father-son relationship between the president and Charlie was always my favorite coupling on this show. The two hadn't shared a significant scene in forever, but the two picked up like every episode has been part of "The Jed 'n Charlie Show."
Other moments I loved: Donna's smile at her new office (though what the heck is Annabeth doing as the First Lady's press secretary? Isn't that a demotion?); Bartlet shaking hands with the Communications staff (and knowing which one is Ed and which one is Larry); Jed complaining about having to see his daughters that night; Debbie explaining the importance of her job to Ronna; Will throwing Toby's ball against the wall (though, come to think of it, where the hell was Toby? the one fumble of the hour); the reference to Mallory's relationship with Sam; any and every appearance by Ron Butterfield (somebody needs to do a spin-off with him and the guy who plays Aaron on "24"); pretty much the whole hour, really. (Except the absence of Toby and the clumsy stand-in for Glenn Close.)
In this morning's column I wrote that the rerun of the pilot would no doubt make the finale suffer in comparison. I feel very, very wrong right now. But it could just be the emotions of the moment talking. What say you?