Greatest TV Seasons: The West Wing Season Two (2000-2001)
What is the greatest season of your favourite TV series? And what makes it stand out from those seasons around it? Every fan will have their own opinion of what is great and what isn't and here at The Digital Fix, our team of writers are going to complete the possibly impossible task of selecting what season of their favourite shows makes the cut above all others.
Our next Greatest TV Seasons feature turns its attention to Aaron Sorkin's masterful TV series, The West Wing
"I've loved every minute I've spent in television. And I've had much more failure, as traditionally measured, than success in television. I've done four shows, and only one of them was The West Wing." Aaron Sorkin stated in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2014. The West Wing is what brings you here today. Less than a month after it's nine nominations and five wins at the 52nd Primetime Emmy Awards, season two aired. Ahead, I'll set out why this season slots itself ever so neatly into the pantheon of all-time great TV seasons.
Season one finished with What Kind of Day Has It Been, (a title that's found its way into Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom) wherein shots rang out and the shouts of "who's been hit?" could be heard as we fade to black. The 22 episodes aired of season two that followed, including one of Aaron Sorkin's personal favourites Two Cathedrals, helped cement The West Wing and Sorkin as must-watch.
I witnessed the birth of my love for dialogue and simply watching people in rooms talking through The West Wing. Famed for his pace and rhythm, Sorkin cultivated what is often parodied and keeping that in mind...
Let's walk and talk - with the five best episodes of that second run...
2.01 In the Shadow of Two Gunmen: Part 1
Starting with the first half of a two-hour premiere, we begin where season one left off. Chaos reigns as the assassination attempt grip its victims. Josh and President Bartlett are rushed to the hospital with bullet wounds as we flashback to the stories that brought the group together. These flashbacks give you breathing time between the tension and feeling of sitting waiting for any news in the hospital waiting room, regardless of how many times you've seen the episode and know the outcome. Even as I write this, and watching to catch-up, I've found myself as wrapped-up and engrossed as ever. A true testament to the performances and writing showcased.
2.02 In the Shadow of Two Gunmen: Part 2
I defy anyone not to quickly jump to the next episode as quickly as the credits roll on part one. Josh is lying on the operating table, a suspect is arrested and the tale of how the group become to be continues. Details of the shooting come to light as Charlie is told that The President wasn't the target and the shooters were a part of a white supremacists group. A stunning companion to part one as we piece together the road that brought them to The White House. Special note to the gun control speech from CJ here.
2.17 The Stackhouse Filibuster
That Friday feeling is stopped in its tracks by a filibuster. The build-up to this one is what makes it special as we are able to see behind the curtain here and understand the workings involved. Shout out to Donna on this for coming up with the idea that the person doing the filibuster can yield for a question. Toby was always my favourite character in The West Wing. His passion only surpassed by his intelliegence, not to mention that his sarcastic remarks fit my brand like a ball in hand. He starts what's potentially his finest moment by discovering the true intentions of Vice President Hoyes. Just another day at the office.
2.21 18th and Potomac
An exercise on politics vs morality here as the team ready the news of President Bartlett's diagnosis of MS. It's about the stakes in play as always with multiple threads running at the same time and each crossing over and examined through the Sorkin lens. The episode concludes with the news that Mrs Landingham was killed by a drunk driver.
2.22 Two Cathedrals
Simply put, this is probably one of the greatest episodes of TV from any show. The writing has as much life and flow as any musical piece, the performances as raw and easy as only the best are able to make it look. It's one that you notice something different each and every time you watch and those viewings never get old. I mean, this is complete with a rant in Latin. If it has been a while, remind yourself of how good this really is.
Honourable mentions from season two...
Leo phrasing his question of Secret Service Assitance to Charlie and Zoe going out with "you're taking extra protection, right?" Amazing! Works every time.
Living in a world where everyone is as witty as those in a Sorkin show would be a sight to behold. When CJ describes the turkey pardon tradition to President Bartlett she says that "the more photo-friendly of the two gets a presidential pardon and a full life at the children's zoo. The runner-up gets eaten" to which Bartlett responds "If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch."
Continuing the comedy trend, we have CJ, Toby, Sam and Josh all trying to figure out times and flight details with a heavy dose of Sorkinisms. Also if you haven't seen the supercut of Sorkinisms, you're welcome.
What are your favourite episodes of The West Wing? Do you agree that season two the greatest in the show's run? Let us know in the comments below...