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A Towering Achievement,
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This review is from: The West Wing: The Complete Second Season (DVD)For four years, the West Wing was largely considered the best show on TV, and not without good reason. Although this could have turned into a liberal lovefest, the show managed to tap into and rediscover a pride and optimism in our government that our founding fathers must have felt. Far from being venal, corrupt parasites, the politicians of The West Wing were talented and generous people who truly care about the country and struggle to make the right decisions, which often literally are between life and death. It's no wonder that this splendid little shade of fantasy continues to be popular, especially when we have becomed accustomed to expecting less and less from those who are running our country.
The West Wing's second season had the show really beginning to hit its stride. In my mind, the show hit its peak here and in the third season, with plenty of new drama and surprises. The season starts in the aftermath of the previous cliffhanger, with the President and Josh being shot by white supremacists and everyone else struggling to get through it all. Then, the season begins to move along. Among the highlights: Emily Procter begins her recurring role as Ainsley Hayes, a Republican lawyer working in the White House and constant sparring partner for Sam; another "Big Block of Cheese Day"; a great Christmas episode in which Josh is haunted by the news of a fighter pilot that shared his birthday who killed himself; an unexpected filibuster, and the discovery that the President has Multiple Sclerosis, which is impressively explored in the episode "17 People". The episode takes the form of a series of fiery dialogues between Toby and the President and is filled with tension, but is lightened up by its subplot of staffers trying (unsuccessfully) to come up with jokes for the President. The juxtaposition is inspired, and the episode sets up what would become a key issue in the show for the upcoming season.
In conclusion, this is a season that brought much bellowing laughter and heart-gripping drama, often in the same episode, which is an Aaron Sorkin trademark if there is one. The West Wing is an incredible piece of work, and it definitely merits repeat viewings. Go ahead and get it. You owe it to yourself.