Mrs. Landingham, we hardly knew ye

The West Wing by Habzapl

Wow. Last night, I watched the Season Two finale of “The West Wing” not once, but twice. It was one of the best episodes of any TV show that I’ve ever seen.

Just thinking about Mrs. Landingham telling Jed, for the second time in their long association, that if he didn’t want to proceed because he didn’t think it was right, fine, she could respect that, but if he didn’t try because it would be too hard, “Well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you”… well, I get goose bumps right now, just typing it.

On a previous thread, we were talking, in the context of the military, about what it means to live for a purpose greater than yourself. Well, this TV show is getting to me, and it’s on that level.

I’ve been watching this show nightly while working out, and loving it. (I never saw it when it was on the air.) It’s probably not good for my mental health, though, because I’ve become so very jealous of those characters and what they have together. I don’t always agree with the things they’re trying to do, but that’s beside the point. The fact is that they get to do it as part of a group of people just as committed to serving their causes as they are. And what they do actually has an effect on the world around them.

I mentioned that Ainsley, the young Republican lawyer who joins the staff, is possibly my favorite character (my second favorite may be Toby, although I really like Leo, too). She disagrees with this bunch of Democrats even more than I do, and is a wonderful foil for them. But she, too, is a member of the group; she feels the sense of mission perhaps more purely than they do — because she is there solely in order to serve her country, rather than the president’s party or anything like that.

It’s no accident that the episode I saw last night uses Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” to such effect. That’s the appeal of the show. These people are all brothers in arms, in a cause greater than themselves.

The show creates in me a longing. I couldn’t serve in the military for medical reasons. I’ll never be a senior adviser in the White House because, Ainsley aside, you not only have to be a partisan, but a professional partisan, to get there these days.

But I know there are people in this world who have something like what those characters have, and I’m deeply envious.


19 thoughts on “Mrs. Landingham, we hardly knew ye

  1. Bryan Caskey

    The season 2 finale is very good, but I would have to go with “Two Cathedrals” for my favorite episode. It makes me wish I knew Latin well enough to be able to understand what Bartlett was saying in the church to God. I know it wasn’t respectful, so I got the message.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And here’s what he said:
      gratias tibi ago, domine.
      Thank you, Lord.

      haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?
      Am I to believe these things from a righteous god, a just god, a wise god?

      cruciatus in crucem
      To hell with your punishments! (literally “(put/send) punishments onto a cross”)

      tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci.
      I was your servant, your messenger on the earth; I did my duty.

      cruciatus in crucem — (with a dismissive wave of the hand) eas in crucem
      To hell with your punishments!
      And to hell with you! (literally, “may you go to a cross”)”

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Oh. Well that’s me remembering the story, but not remembering the episode breaks. That was all in the same episode? Definitely the best episode, then.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I watch what I watch, when I watch it. Which I think is actually more in tune with the times… That’s what we do now.

    This show is a real find for me. I am amazed that it was so good, and I missed it. I’m putting it in the category with “Best TV Ever” in my mind now, up there with “Band of Brothers” and “The Sopranos.”

    There are no new shows that compare. This is a thousand times better, for instance, than “House of Cards,” which makes you feel like you need to delouse after watching it, the people are all so reprehensible. The other top shows, such as “Mad Men” and (until a few months ago) “Breaking Bad” — they don’t reach this level…

    And if I find some show this good that aired 40 years ago (I won’t), I’ll write about it here. Because that’s what interests me.

    But it’s not just about me. I assume that others who saw this years ago will have appreciated it just as much, and might enjoy having it brought up again. I know I would, in their place…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And even if you dismiss “West Wing” on an intellectual level (I don’t see how you would, but someone might), you’d have to agree that it is what Helmholtz Watson called superb emotional engineering… Especially the episode I saw last night.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, it’s all right there on Netflix now, to enjoy again. I know I’ll want to go back to it, long after I’ve seen them all.

          I like this the way I like Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, and I read those over and over and over…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            We are currently bingeing on Sons of Anarchy, a Shakespearean drama transposed onto a motorcycle club. That, and Nashville, which is only on disc.

            And The Americans and Mad Men, bought on Amazon….Justified just wrapped its penultimate season. Too much I haven’t watched to rewatch stuff.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’ve been watching The Americans and Justified via Netflix (disc, not streaming). Not sure I’m going to keep watching The Americans after this disc, though. Just too far-fetched. Real spies just don’t do all that stuff. Especially the over-emphasis on sex; it seems to pander almost as much as The Tudors in that respect.

              But I enjoy Justified. Wouldn’t put it in the category of West Wing, though. Ditto with House, which has recently been added to Netflix streaming…

  3. Burl Burlimgame

    Wait until you get to the election episode.

    West Wing makes one deeply aware of “American Exceptionalism” as a goal, not a birthright.

    1. scout

      Apparently Charlie Young wouldn’t be very good at HTML syntax if he was me. Pretend that there are blue words up there that say “silly internet quiz” and take you to the quiz, instead of the sentence afterwards.

      Pardon me, while I practice.

      Is this a link to the quiz

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      I thought Studio 60 was weak, but The Newsroom is good. Preferred The Hour, from Britain…

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