Ah, The West Wing. Part political drama, part Whedonesque comedy (replace the supernatural or sci-fi elements with politics), part character-driven melodrama, part actors’ showcase. Part pinko liberal wish fulfillment.
I enjoyed the series from the beginning, but after lots of HBO fare season 1 often looked pedestrian in comparison. Great dialogues, great acting, but does TV have to look like TV, namely drab, conventional, boringly shot? Even dialogues can be filmed more interestingly – and no, WFTF (Walk Fast Talk Fast) doesn’t make for interesting cinematography after the nth time it is used.
We’ve now arrived at the end of the third season, and while the series hasn’t aspired to the cinematic heights of The Sopranos or Carnivale yet, it has definitely had its cinematic moments – and none more so than the season 3 finale. Not only do we get Shakespearean scenes of plotting in the shadows (okay, that’s dramatic rather than cinematic – but the dark-light contrast still looks as good as it did when the German Expressionists used it), the entire ending takes not just a page but entire chapters out of the Godfather playbook. Jed Bartlett watching a rousing Edwardian song during a performance of The War of the Roses (entire US administrations could rise and fall during the time it takes to perform all of these plays) while US operatives ambush and assassinate a Middle Eastern defense minister… The only thing missing is a few strains of Nino Rota and possibly a horse’s head, although reports have it that there was a shortage of good horses, in parts or otherwise, during Shakespeare’s history plays.
For all the homages in “Posse Comitatus”, the one scene that stands out most in my mind is the one that is quintessentially West Wing:
Give me such a scene and I’ll become a US citizen just to vote for Bartlett!
P.S.: Was “Posse Comitatus” originally broadcast before every single series decided it needed a sad scene set to Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”?