Mark Watches ‘The West Wing’: S01E11 – Lord John Marbury

In the eleventh episode of the first season of The West Wing, the staff faces an oncoming war between India and Pakistan while the secret scandal concerning Leo might be not-so-secret anymore. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The West Wing.

Well.

  • So, I’ll repeat myself, as I said this at the end of the video. In general, I think I prefer The West Wing when it deals with emotional and personal characterization over the deeply complex and wooden political crises like the one here in “Lord John Marbury.” It’s not that I don’t care about global politics! I suppose I am wary about viewing an international conflict between two countries when that conflict is seen through the lens of the United States and their interests, or, in this episode, when it’s through the eyes of someone like Lord John Marbury, who claims to know more about East Asian culture than – I don’t know – the people who live there?
  • I don’t know how accurate anything is here in this episode, and I want to respond thoughtfully and critically to “Lord John Marbury,” but I can’t do that if I’m fairly ignorant about the ramifications of the conflict between these two countries beyond some basic facts. I know that after World War II, the Partition of India essentially created a mess because of the communal violence between the various religious/social groups, and that the belief that the partition would divide along religious lines was fairly misguided. And I know the Indo-Pakistani War of 1999 was a real thing! The Kargil War actually happened, so I don’t know if we’re dealing with some weird form of historical fiction or if the writers just re-imagined the event to fit their timeline.
  • On top of that, I was left with only one possible reading, personally speaking. This whole story was a chance to show how frustrating Bartlet’s job was, especially given that this conflict was sudden, unannounced, and extremely complicated. Every time Bartlet and Leo tried to make progress, they were met with a metaphorical brick wall. That was fascinating! I wanted to see more of this, and Bartlet’s reaction to things is so entertaining.
  • I suppose I don’t know what the ultimate point of this is. Is this storyline going to continue on into the next episode? Isn’t it going to pale in comparison to everything surrounding Leo??? YES, YES, IT IS. Plus, Lord John Marbury is more annoying than entertaining, so I’m not terribly excited to see more of him.
  • C.J.’s part of this plot is far more intriguing to me, though. Toby has to deal with the fury C.J. experiences when she doesn’t realize she just lied to an entire room of reporters. I got the sense that there’s a history here that we don’t know, but I think that’s the case with a lot of these characters. For C.J., though, it’s about building credibility. This is her first time as the White House Press Secretary, and she has to work hard at making sure these reporters are on her side because… well, she’s going to need it, isn’t she? The timing of this is particularly bad, too! Now, the press is going to be obsessed with the story that Leo is an evil drug user, and this will come right after she made fun of a reporter for their “source.” Jesus, this next episode is going to be a full-on disaster, isn’t it? Well, at least I got to experience a Toby Ziegler apology before the shitstorm arrived.
  • Ultimately, the one thing I truly enjoyed aside from C.J.’s part in the Indo-Pakistani conflict was how dedicated this staff is to Leo McGarry. Josh openly criticizes the man in charge of his deposition. Sam shows up to support Josh and then threatens the guy leading this witch hunt against Leo. I spoke a lot about how much I adore depictions of friendship while I was watching Princess Tutu. (Free advice: Go watch Princess Tutu. It is absolutely worth your time.) It’s such a treat to see that here, especially since the characterization for this staff is handled brilliantly. I have only seen eleven episodes of this show, and yet I already understand why these people love and cherish Leo, so much so that they’re willing to put their reputations on the line to defend him.
  • One last thing: I’m interested to see what becomes of Zoey and Charlie. It is stunning to me that the writers actually focused on the idea that Charlie’s race matters to some people in our country. That line that Bartlet has where he warns Charlie that there are folks out there who will have things to say about him being seen with the President’s daughter was like a punch to the heart. It’s such a casual reminder that we live in a country where racism to that degree – absurd, ridiculous beliefs that black men should not date the President’s daughter – still exists. It is funny to me, however, that I just came off of “It’s Different For Girls,” since that Friday Night Lights episode deals with an overprotective father.
  • So! Not my favorite episode, but I’m still engaged. Onwards I go!

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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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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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