West Wing 2× Two Cathedrals – Critically Touched
Two Cathedrals Written By Aaron Sorkin Directed by Thomas Schlamme Original Airdate May 16, Guest Stars Stockard Channing Anna Deavere Smith. Martin Sheen starred as President Josiah Bartlet in 'The West Wing. On the critically acclaimed season two finale, 'Two Cathedrals,' in which Bartlet . resulting from his character's interracial relationship with Bartlet's daughter: On ending the show following John Spencer's death (Spencer, who played. this incredible episode, the season two finale of The West Wing. We're remembering the first date, and letting that be the whole relationship. . until “ Two Cathedrals,” were there things about her outside of the show that ended up informing.
Always prone to didacticism, with Isaac and Ishmael the series took the term literally: Guess who the audience proxies were in this little setup? At least they were honours students, so thanks for that, Professor Sorkin.
For a series that had credited its audience with intelligence, this was pretty insulting. Each familiar face dispensed a revealing anecdote or incisive zinger to box up a complex issue. During a parallel glib morality play about racial and religious profiling, Leo John Spencer here became a racist for one episode only as he interrogated a White House employee who shared his name with the alias of a terrorist.
You could dismiss this one-off as a bold, well-meaning misfire.
When good TV goes bad: how The West Wing went south
But its faults began to bleed into the series. At its best, the show made its points without preaching. But what was once impassioned and earnest became patronising and self-righteous, and what had seemed effortless began to overreach. Characters began to vanish mid-storyline Samget handled poorly CJ or behave bafflingly Toby.
He goes to church. He respects the church. But you get the idea. The Jed Bartlet we see at the prep school is charming and handsome, but never suavely so.
West Wing 2×22: Two Cathedrals
He betrays himself with body language and is no more above making mistakes than anyone else his age. And it was thus inevitable that he someday meet a woman like Dolores Landingham. Landingham remarks one day after church. She finds that idea appalling, considering it an easy, general way to please the masses. But Jed has a ways to go before then — at this point, he simply disagrees with Mrs. How fitting, then, that Jed practices Catholicism within the walls of his school.
And Jed, ever the intellectual, eventually gives her something to latch onto: Landingham presents him with a financial issue and an opportunity to do something about it, he is compelled to listen.
She gives him the push he needs to charge at his very first hurdle. But it was not a hurdle to be cleared. Among his many talents, Jed has a skill with words. He thrives on repartee.Mrs. Landingham’s Funeral
But his father will have none of it. Jed speaks out against a professor who banned books from the school library, with the help of a quote from Ray Bradbury: He hides his ignorance, yet his father still hits him. Landingham had faith in him, but his first challenge as a political activist was not one to be overcome.
But it was a necessary step, for it launched the journey he would embark on over the next several decades, culminating in his election as the leader of the country. Those flashbacks display the first time that someone showed faith in Jed Bartlet as a politician. And now, for the first time since that day, that someone is no longer at his side.
The flashbacks comprise the bones of the episode. The present-day drama supplies the meat. And as with any compositional structure, the meat and bones are tightly connected, with many of the themes of the flashbacks spilling over into the present timeline.
Several of these little details, Sorkin understands, increase the close-knit relationship between the two time periods — or even work as foreshadowing in a single time period — and add to the effect that the past has on the present. But ah, what of that present? He walks in almost a daze, and speaks in slow, wooden sentences.
When good TV goes bad: how The West Wing went south | Television & radio | The Guardian
When he lectures Charlie in matters of trivia, he does so with a distant look in his eye. The warmth and humor that characterized the paternal Jed Bartlet is gone, replaced by a hollow man with no urge to continue his work. The scene he shares with Abbey — one of the few moments in the episode in which he shares a one-on-one conversation with another existential individual, affirms that he has no concern for the physical matters of the situation.
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The death of Mrs. Landingham could not have come at a worse time, and Bartlet knows this all too well. He sees it as a sign, a message, a punishment… and he reacts in kind. This is the National Cathedral, a building so majestic in scope and architecture that the voices of the priest and various readers echo across the crowded nave.
And then the building clears out, giving us the illusion that it is bigger and more spacious than ever before, and leaving Bartlet alone with God. And it is here that the episode strikes the perfect harmony between writer, director and actor. If you spend enough time around television websites and chat rooms, you may start to notice a familiar pattern involving the mention of Aaron Sorkin. A person wanting to praise a writer or TV series or episode he loves will emphasize his point by comparing that writer or TV series or episode to Sorkin.
Sorkin thrives on speechifying. He thrives on self-importance. He thrives on chutzpah. This scene delivers all three of those in spades. Every line of dialogue exists to build into the next.
English and Latin are woven together with unrivaled skill, to the point that subtitles would be superfluous. The dialogue, quite literally, speaks for itself. The more Bartlet walks, and the more he talks, the greater the tension mounts.
As most every West Wing fan knows, the series won a huge deal of Emmy Awards throughout its run, yet not a single one went to Martin Sheen. In a way, this stings more than a snub for someone like Sarah Michelle Gellar, since the Emmys barely acknowledged the existence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the first place.
Far be it for me to appear as though I have something against actors named James both Gandolfini and Spader did plenty of great work on their own respective showsbut Sheen proves beyond a doubt with this scene that he can easily stand as one of the best actors to ever grace television.
In the course of three minutes, he projects fury, sadness, frustration, betrayal, indignation, and heartbreak, never faltering in his depiction of the grieved and angered Jed Bartlet. In fairness, Sheen had won a Golden Globe for his work on the series prior to this episode. But do people pay attention to Golden Globes? Put in a nutshell, the scene works brilliantly. We were first introduced to the President as he delivered a monologue to put a group of religious activists he disagreed with in their place.
Now he takes on God, the root of all religion, in a speech that completely dwarfs his original in a hail of anger and passion. And to add to the barbs in his voice, Bartlet begins speaking directly in the language of the Church — a language he has so lovingly, so playfully spoken to his staffers in the past, introducing them to phrases that may someday be on their unreadable tombstones.
To hell with your punishments. I was your servant here on Earth. And I spread your word and I did your work.