Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's next?

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?


Anonymous said...

I thought it was good, but not great. Some of my complaints were the lack of Toby and the waste of Rob Lowe (no Sam/Bartlet moment??). I'd have also liked at least one more good Josh and Donna scene but that's not a dealbreaker for me. The Jed/Charlie moment was the only time I misted up because their relationship has always been great (remember when they "crashed" the White House and Jed told the Secret Service agents that Charlie would be on his way right when he bursts through the door? Great stuff right there). I thought it was a very appropriate and even entertaining finale, but with the exceptions of the Jed/Charlie scene and the scene when Bartlet is walking through the White House thanking everyone, it never quite got to "special" for me. Still John Wells and co. deserve credit for taking a show that seem irredeemable in season 5 and taking it through a fine last season and finale.

And not only did they sneak a Sorkin cameo in there but also a commercial for Studio 60.

Anonymous said...

Your reference to no Toby being a "fumble" is way off. He was a serious regular for seven years. To not include him in the final was an insult to every loyal viewer and to Richard Schiff. What a slap in the face and it completely ruined the show for me. How can we have no resolution between be Bartlett and Toby? Unforgiveable.

Alan Sepinwall said...

To be fair, we did get our Bartlet/Toby resolution. It just happened in the season premiere, with the flash-forward to the Bartlet library dedication, where Toby was overly grateful and sheepish towards Jed, and Jed gave him a kind of "Don't worry about it" look.

highbrow said...

I thought the same thing about Annabeth! Considering she was the Assistant Press Secretary for President Bartlett before she left to become Chief of Staff for the Vice Presidential candidate, shouldn't she have been appointed Press Secretary for President Santos?? Also, why on earth is Donna's office three times the size of Josh's?? Agreed that Toby not getting a scene (maybe a call regarding the pardon?) was a mis-step. As was leaving out Lou in the Santos first meeting with his top officers. You are not alone, I also got misty at the Jed-Charlie scene.

When Martin Sheen was walking through the Communications Office, I liked when he stopped and asked his real daughter how her mother was and that he was looking forward to seeing her again. Don't know if that was intentional, but I thought it was cute.

Matt said...

Having worked in politics, size of office means very little in this sort of situation--it's all about proximity. A broom closet right next to the oval office (which is basically the Leo/CJ/Josh office) is considered far more prestigious than a huge office on the other side of the building, which is what Donna has. I'm not sure we needed to close out on Air Force One jetting away--I think we could have faded out on the napkin, which I called as soon as the package showed up.

Gene Cowan said...

Maybe I'm too anal-retentive, but I was having a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief during this episode.
The day of a presidential transition, and the White House was deserted. The chief of staff wasn't at the inauguration, and neither were the children of the President or President-Elect. When C.J. left the White House only a couple of hours after the inauguration, Pennsylvania Avenue had a few tourists roaming around... but no multi-million dollar parade reviewing stand and no bleachers lining the road.
This should have been a hectic, busy, crowded and noisy day in Washington, and in the White House especially. Instead, it was like no one was around.