When Carol asked what I thought about the TWW season finale, my response was “whelmed.” People loved it, but I was whelmed. Not under, not over. I think it lived up to my expectations. Over the last couple seasons, ever since the incredibly overwhelming death of Mrs. Landingham and the Bartlet’s revolation to the public that he has MS, the series has been somewhat disappointing. There were always issues — characters come and disappear, plotlines come and then are ignored until someone just mentions them in passing. Some of this I don’t mind, some I do. The lack of any serious romance I minded. The fact that everyone was so devoted I minded, sometimes. Mostly I just felt like after September 11, TWW did not do a good job of dealing with its subject matter. They were trying to take world events and wrap them in the show, and it just annoyed me. I watched because Sorkin made the policymaking interesting. Much like I loved Sports Night despite disliking sports, I loved The West Wing because they took something that so many people would think is dull and made it deep, riveting, intelligent, interesting.
After the terrorists attacks, TWW put terrorism into everything. Constant threats, constant military action, tense situations. Thats fine, but it isn’t what the show was about. You don’t need to artificially inflate the drama, I liked it how it was, thank you. Now Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme are leaving the show, just as it was getting back to where it really should have been all along. The last few episodes have been good, powerful, even shocking. I loved the scenes with Toby in this episode, I loved the techno music and crosscutting in the last fifteen minutes of “Commencement.” The scene with Toby and Andi in the house was powerful. With Toby announcing the twins birth to the staffers more so. With Jed turning over power to the Speaker in 25 incredible. The cliffhanger was not, but alas, no one is perfect. I wasn’t overwhelmed by this last episode of the fourth season. I was whelmed. It was what I wanted, what I turned in for, what I expected. And now with Sorkin gone, I wonder if the show can stay this good.
By the end of the show, which gained momentum with unusual cross-cutting and an eerie score, Toby was emoting openly, Donna and Amy were having a real conversation, and Zoey, aka “Bookbag,” was kidnapped out from under the noses of her personal army. Is this really “The West Wing” — or some mind-bending hybrid of “Six Feet Under,” “24” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”?
Emotion came back to the show in the last few episodes. And suspense. And good story telling. And powerful, changing characters. Did Sorkin do it? Finally discover another part of himself? Or perhaps it was shades of the new management…but I doubt it. Its strange and confusing. One thing I do know: I am worried about next season. They’d better not screw this up, just when it is getting good again.