Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tomorrow (TWW)

**Editor's Note: Please do not assume that just because tonight is the last episode I will refrain from quoting, referring to, or idolizing The West Wing. What's next?

A series finale is a fine art in its own right. How do you respectfully give credit to an entire series, capturing the elements that have been left unanswered, and still be honest to the core audience and story line?

Tonight as dedicated fans watched the pilot episode followed directly by the series finale of The West Wing, it occurred to us all that the series has evolved into the brilliance that it is today. I read recently somewhere that the series was created by Aaron Sorkin partially due to the fact that he had an enormous set built for a wonderful film, The American President, and needed something to do with the set. I also read that the series was originally going to center around the character of Sam Seaborn, but it wasn't until Rob Lowe's personal life fell apart that the series really evolved into the Bartlet-centered weekly reflection of the daily chaos in the White House.

It was slightly surreal as I sat down to type this post. This will be the last time I post on the beauty of each individual episode. This may not surprise anyone, but I used to be an X-Files junkie. When that series finally ended, I was relieved. The last seasons were so awful and unlike what they had been up until the end of season 7 (of 9), that it wasn't worth watching. I've heard that The West Wing has gone down hill in the last several seasons, mostly due to Sorkin's exit, but as someone who didn't discover the show until half way through season 6 (of 7), I have found it to be just as amazing in the last season as it was in the first. Granted, it has evolved into a modern drama, meaning there seems to be a need for the soap-opera qualities (i.e. Josh & Donna), yet the political brilliance has remained.

In tonight's episode, there were no shortage of references to previous episodes, sort of a reward for those of us who have watched every single episode and also in tonight's episode, there were many questions left unanswered. For me that is the worst part of the end. I don't handle the unresolved well.

First, Toby-- I struggled from last week until now to wrap my head around how a president could pardon a man responsible for a national security leak. But, historically speaking, many controversial figures have been pardoned. Gerald Ford pardoned President Nixon, not only for the things we know he did, but the things that we didn't. George H.W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger for his role in Iran-Contra. Even further back, President Johnson (the first one) pardoned Confederate officials following the Civil War. In this case, Toby's loyalty to the Bartlet administration earned him a pardon, though I look at it as though his saving of American astronauts should have earned him the pardon. To a certain extent, I still wonder if Claudia Jean Cregg had something to do with that and if that explains much of her joy in his pardon. I'll always wonder what Toby's reaction would be and what would become of the relationship between Toby and CJ. We know he attends the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library from the opening episode of season 7. But there are many questions left unanswered.

Second, in that fictional unrealistic fantasizing brain of mine, I hope Charlie married Zoey Bartlet. As President Bartlet made the rounds or as he called it "a final stroll through the joint," and said goodbye to Charlie, giving him his copy of the Constitution that had been given to him by his father, I was reminded of all the times that Charlie had been nothing less than what a son should be to a father. Being that it is Mother's Day, I am overly perceptive of the relationship between parent and child. Just as after Leo's funeral President Bartlet told Josh he was like a son to Leo, Charlie was always like a son to the President. We know that Charlie goes on to Georgetown Law school, but the rest is unresolved.

I could go on like this for days on end. The end of television series that I adore is no small event in my life, sadly enough. But, I won't. I'll miss the story and miss the characters. That is of course if none of them bleed over into what looks like the first spin-off Studio 60.

It isn't very often a show comes along that can capture audiences for seven seasons without losing too much of it's original beauty. The West Wing has been a force in television since its debut in 1999 and will remain the fantasy of every Democrat in the United States. Who doesn't want an academic Democrat in the White House again? Who wouldn't want a Latino in the Oval Office? Who wouldn't want a female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Really, as Democrats, we all hope there is an economist out there like President Bartlet with Democratic ideals, fiscal responsibility, and a heart that cares more for the American people than the party as a whole.

Democrats across this nation better step it up and start making these dreams, the dreams we've been living each week as we've tuned in to The West Wing, a reality.

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