Coming to DVD Nov 7, 2006
It would be difficult for me to truly describe the wonderful shock that is The West Wing's final season. I, like so many, had given up on The West Wing when Aaron Sorkin left, wished the show cancelled during its atrocious 5th season, and, honestly, found the show an irritating fantasy during the Sorkin-helmed 4th season anyway. Something astonishing happens during "The Ticket," the season's first episode - you feel, in its incredible pacing, structure, and emotional understatement - that Aaron Sorkin has not only returned but has regained all of his abilities as a writer. That he is not at all involved with the show means that writers like Eli Attie and Deborah Cahn have finally gotten their work as writers to both revive the lightning-quick trademarks of The West Wing while also justifying the often-unswallowable plot maneuvers of its previous two seasons. It occurred to me during "Message of the Week," a nimble and thrilling episode, that campaign-trail politics had never been so accurately represented, if they'd truly ever been attempted at all. That means The West Wing had found a reason to exist again, and that sense invigorated all the stories it surrounded - the White House's "leak" story, or the regional conflict between Kazhakstan and China. And, in a winning surprise, it also revived its still extraordinary cast - Bradley Whitford especially turns the stress of campaigning into a frayed study of stress and exhaustion, and with Janeane Garofalo at his side, he finds a sparring partner of incredible energy. The two's chemistry makes the workplace seem as vital a beast as this White House ever seemed in its prime.