Review of In the Shadow of Two Gunmen

Written by Rachel

Who's been hit? Who's been hit!

That's been the question on many viewers of The West Wing as we waited more than 4 months to find out the resolution of last season's cliffhanger. To Aaron Sorkin credits, I can't say that I ever heard the two people shot were the President and Josh. When Toby found Josh, it took my breath away.

The two episodes, presented here back to back were seamless. The transitions between the shooting and the flashbacks of how the President's staff came together were smooth. Flashbacks can often come off as a hokey ploy. In this episode they seemed to flow as each member of the staff was confronting their own mortality as Josh's life hung in the balance. Instead of the white light into the flashback, I actually felt like they were being drawn into remembering those moments.

Aaron Sorkin has given us hints throughout the first season that this team was not easily created, but that their could be a great story in how it happened. Tonight's episode did not disappoint. It helped us understand the overwhelming emotions that campaigns can create. Some people may be understated professional political operatives like Toby, but there are just as many people like Donna who drop everything and drive across the country.

In light of the current election, it was very interesting to listen to Leo talk to Bartlet about why he would work for a trailing candidate, why Bartlet's candidacy is so important. I had nearly the same conversation with my housemate tonight during dinner. Wouldn't it be great to not always have to pick the lesser of two evils? Again, I find myself wanting to live in the world of Aaron Sorkin's president rather than the current situation.

There were so many incredible moments. Just to pick a few:

The look on Donna's face when she comes to the hospital. "Hit? With what?" The pain on her face is palpable and so well done. Janel is an incredible addition to the regular cast.

I loved hearing the first stirring Bartlet speech. I used to lobby for children's nutrition and I've given that spiel hundreds of times, but it never sounded like that! The moment when Josh sets the crossword puzzle down is fantastic, echoed later when he walks up to the window in Sam's office.

Bartlet does not like to be handled. We see that during the campaign, first in Nashua, then Manchester and again in Illinois. I love how Josh keeps telling him to go back to the ballroom, give his speech, all the while Bartlet is offering to fly along to Connecticut with Josh. This non-handling situation comes home when it's revealed that Bartlet's unwillingness to have a canopy covering his entrances and exits may have contributed to the incident at the Newseum.

I kept wondering when they were going to be able to bring in the counselors to help the staff deal with what had happened to them. It was clear that many of them were not dealing with things well. CJ's admission to Sam that she couldn't even remember what had happened was so real.

I also thought Toby's guilt over the open entrance was a great plot development. It's amazing how each of these people on the staff get so caught up in what they are doing each day that they begin to think that they are responsible for every thing. Toby is convinced that his memo is solely responsible for what happened at the Newseum, but Butterfield quickly dispels his fears and quite frankly...puts him in his place.

I'm glad they followed through with the threats against Charlie and Zoey. Dulé Hill played that scene so well. I am just blown away by him again and again. I certainly hope this season keeps this storyline going because it's so interesting.

Although her part was small tonight, it was great to see Anna Deveare Smith. Her presence will be a good addition as John Amos (Admiral Fitzwallace) will be sorely missed.

I feel like there are so many things I can pick up on here, but the show was just well-put together. The pace takes my breath away and so many moments rang true. I loved seeing how the relationship between Bartlet and his staff had grown, that it wasn't always this idealistic situation. It was great to see a lot of Stockard Channing. The scene at the Manchester headquarters was the perfect prelude to Josh and Donna's unique relationship.

The medical aspects seemed very realistic to me. I was a bit put-off by Butterfield's constantly bloody hand, but perhaps you would let a Secret Service agent walking around with a seeping wound. On the other hand, the way Josh woke up was better than many I've seen. I did think that Dr. Bartlet's conversation with the anesthesiologist was a bit dramatic. Of course she is very emotional at the moment, but wouldn't there be some presumption of doctor-patient confidentiality?

The capture of the signal seemed a bit rushed, forced. How did they find him, identify him? Of course it's good for the plot so we know for sure they were white supremacists, but I'm not sure the Secret Service and FBI are that efficient...and why in the world if you wanted to shoot Charlie and/or Zoey, would you do it when the President was there? It just doesn't make any sense...but then again it's more dramatically interesting, so I'm going to buy it.

Final route back from Rosslyn is not across the Memorial Bridge. Of course that bridge is way more scenic...

A sound episode and a great introduction to what promises to be a great season!

Copyright ©2000 by Rachel Vagts. All rights reserved.

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