The West Wing: Season 2, Episode 22

Two Cathedrals (16 May 2001)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
9.4
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As the Haitian army continues their seizure of the American embassy there, Bartlet and the staff prepare for the announcement that Bartlet has M.S. and most decide whether or not Bartlet ... See full summary »

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Jason Widener ...
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Greg Summerhays
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Lawrence O'Donnell ...
Dr. Bartlet (as Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.)
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Storyline

As the Haitian army continues their seizure of the American embassy there, Bartlet and the staff prepare for the announcement that Bartlet has M.S. and most decide whether or not Bartlet will seek re-election. As the funeral for Mrs. Landingham takes place and the announcement draws nearer, Bartlet thinks back to his past in search of the answer to the question everyone is asking: Will he seek re-election? Written by timdalton007

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16 May 2001 (USA)  »

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Trivia

The President's tirade in Latin at the end loosely translates as: "Thank you, Lord. Am I to believe these things from a righteous God, a just God, a wise God? To hell with your punishments! I was your servant, your messenger on the earth; I did my duty. To hell with your punishments! And to hell with you!" The sentences, "Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem", literally translate as "To a cross with your punishments. To a cross with you." So an idiomatic translation of the last might be "Go crucify yourself." See more »

Goofs

In the episode, "Two Cathedrals", the credit for the character Dolores Landingham is misspelled "Mrs. Landinham". See more »

Quotes

President Josiah Bartlet: You're a son of a bitch, You know that? She bought her first new car and You hit her with a drunk driver. What? Was that supposed to be funny? "You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God," says Graham Greene. I don't know whose ass he was kissing there, 'cause I think You're just vindictive. What was Josh Lyman - a warning shot? That was my son. What did I ever do to Yours but praise His glory and praise His Name? There's a tropical storm that's gaining speed ...
[...]
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Featured in Kenny & vänner: Kenny & Mark Knopfler (2008) See more »

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Brothers in Arms
Written and Performed by Dire Straits
Performed by Dire Straits
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User Reviews

Season 2: Tones down the smugness to good effect
26 January 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I recently rewatched the first season of this show because it had been many years since I last did and from memory the first season was the only one I had wholly seen as the rest of the show was used to launch Channel 4's new digital service (all those years ago) and I couldn't get that channel at that time. I dipped in and out of it later but never really got back into it but my memory of the show was the same as generally accepted wisdom that it is one of the great shows. So, I was a little surprised then to find that the first season was actually a very simplistic show that never missed a chance to throw on uplifting music and a soft focus to have a character proclaim the rightness of their liberal politics while everyone else looked on misty-eyed with inspiration. Sure it had energy, wit and intelligence in there too, but my overwhelming impression of the show was that it was painfully smug – and I say this as one who shares my political views with it!

I wasn't even sure I would bother with the second season but I did and in fairness it did get significantly better very quickly. The shooting is a very simple affair and it was a bit disappointing to see that it was clearly just an end of season device to get viewers to return. It takes up a few episodes and has a bit of a lingering effect on some characters but generally it is not well used. Fortunately the show does get settled once this is out of the way and this season sees much better plots and scenarios thanks to the introduction of a bit of balance in the writing. I say "a bit" because there is no point in pretending that the show doesn't continue to lean very much to the left but at least we get to see these views having to be compromised, get to see the politics of politics a bit more and also have some decent non-liberal characters in there – it went from 100% to a "balance" of 70/30, which is still an improvement.

As a result of this shift away from total wish-fulfillment self-love, the general sense of smugness is greatly reduced and the show becomes much more palatable and engaging as it seems more interest in telling stories rather than pushing an agenda. I'm not naïve enough to suggest that the agenda has gone away – just that the writing has improved to make it less obviously the reason behind lines and characters' actions. The cast benefit from this despite essentially doing the same performances as before. Sheen benefits from this the most and his "kindly grandfather" now has more meat on it for him to work with. Likewise Janney, Spencer, Lowe, Whitford and others benefit from still having the same slick banter and movement but also having a little bit more substance behind these words. It is telling though that the best episodes in the season tend to be the ones where the main characters are forced to compromise or are shown to be wrong – I guess even the actors tire of staring off into the heroic distance.

Season 2 doesn't change enough to win over those who are totally against the agenda and politics that runs though this show like a stick of rock, but it does change enough to become a better show. The improvement in balancing to a certain degree really reduces the smugness of the show and allows for more interesting exchanges, scenarios and plot threads. Not perfect but a lot better than the first season and I have no doubts this time that I'll follow it into the third season, with the hope that the direction in this second season can be continued.


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