Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S02E01 – In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I

In the first episode of the second season of The West Wing, THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON, AND EVERYTHING IS TERRIFYING AND SAD, AND SOME THINGS ARE REALLY NICE, AND THIS IS THE PREMIERE???? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

This is perhaps one of the most intense season premieres I’ve ever seen and it’s not even done yet. Oh my god, IT’S IN TWO PARTS. THIS IS SO UNFAIR.

  • I sincerely did not expect that this episode would pick up precisely where “What Kind of Day Has It Been” ended. THIS EPISODE IS SO CHAOTIC AND SCARY AND MY EMOTIONS.
  • I was so, so, SO wrong about the results of the shooting. I think I got every prediction wrong. Everyone seemed to be alive and well, and then THE PRESIDENT IS IN SUCH A STATE OF SHOCK THAT HE DOESN’T EVEN REALIZE HE’S BEEN SHOT.
  • And then C.J. hit her head, and Sam, Toby, and Charlie are all alive and well, and OH MY GOD JOSH. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD NO. 🙁 🙁 🙁
  • This show does an unreal job conveying the sheer chaos and horror of what an assassination attempt is like. There’s the scene in the quiet emergency room that hints at the frantic activity to come. And when that activity does arrive, holy shit. The silent hospital turns into a this relentless den of noise. It’s so surreal not only because of the jarring change in sound but because I’ve never really seen anything like it. And it’s not just confined to the hospital. The White House is chaos. The press room is chaos. The scene outside of the venue in Rosslyn is chaos. It never seems to end, and it’s so goddamn overwhelming! Which is the point, obviously, but it also makes this difficult to watch.
  • It’s also a challenge to watch the various characters who weren’t in Rosslyn learn about the attack. Oh my god, can you even imagine being Hoynes at the moment the Secret Service drags him out of that meeting with the women’s basketball team? The look on his face says it all: OH SHIT, SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG.
  • Margaret and Mrs. Landingham’s reaction is frightening, too. They have to learn what happened from a news broadcast. That’s also indicative of how fast news travels in the modern age, and I’m sure it would be even faster these days because of social media.
  • Oh my god, Abby had to tell another person about Bartlet’s MS. I think that my prediction about the public finding out about his affliction has a much higher chance of coming true.
  • Amidst all of this, I was pleasantly surprised that the writers delved into flashbacks. They fit perfectly within the narrative both as a way to finally show us where these people came from and to enhance the plot. Josh is dreaming of New Hampshire, and the other characters are daydreaming about their own path to joining Bartlet’s campaign.
  • There were a couple references in season one to a history between Hoynes and Bartlet, and we get another piece of the puzzle here. Calling back to the jogging meeting that Josh had with Hoynes, we find out just how much Hoynes ignored Josh’s advice. At the same time, Leo was trying to win Josh over to Bartlet’s team! Oh god, both Josh and Sam were working for people they did not care about, doing jobs that were largely meaningless or pointless. Josh was constantly ignored, despite being right, and Sam was working for a massive oil company, helping them to be less-than-ethical about their taxes.
  • Jesus, I totally forgot about chain of command. If the President is in surgery, who is in charge? Again, the whole scene in the situation room conveys the urgency these people were under. The National Security Advisor actually tries to get Hoynes to make a military decision, but Hoynes defers to Leo instead. Like, that almost happened. They could have escalated the US to war! Granted, that would be far down the line, but still.
  • Honestly, I thought it was incredibly inappropriate of the press to be so harsh and relentless with C.J. Any one of them could have seen the shock she was experiencing at that moment if they’d just stopped and pay attention. I half expected her to collapse, honestly! She just experienced an assassination attempt, two of her best friends have been shot, one is nearing death, and those reporters ate her alive. My god, what an uncomfortable scene.
  • How great is Toby’s flashback? IT’S SUPER GREAT. He’s exactly the same person, completely full of hatred. Only more alcohol. A lot more alcohol. The scene establishes Toby’s usefulness to Bartlet by keeping him honest. Oh god, I just realized something: Bartlet becoming the president means that Toby’s record now has a single win. Well, there went my heart.
  • It’s also weird to see Bartlet in this context because the VFW town hall is so tiny. There’s no pomp that we see associated with his events as the president. No, there’s no fanfare here, half the crowd looks bored, and Bartlet simply walks away from the podium without any applause or anything. They’re all babies.
  • “A good man can’t get elected President – I don’t believe that.” No, you stop that, Leo. You stop being so cute, and you stop filling me with emotions.
  • The end of this episode is just so haunting. “Look what happened,” Bartlet says as he stares in on Josh’s surgery. I really hope he doesn’t blame himself for this. Oh god, please let him survive. 🙁

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Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
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– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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