Those of you who have been tuning in to this latest season of The West Wing might have felt a bit overwhelmed by last week’s episode. Too many plot lines, haphazard arrivals and exits of characters, and not enough focus on logic and character motivation — all recurring problems this season. Things have really gone downhill since Aaron Sorkin left. Let’s break it down.
The Arrival of the Mooch
Last week, we were introduced to the character of Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House Communications Director. He’s clearly setup to be the anti-Toby Ziegler. Basically a used car salesman for the Oval Office, “the Mooch” is way too over the top, right off the bat. In his very first episode he not only misses the birth of his child, but he has a long, expletive-laden conversation with a New Yorker reporter (shouldn’t it have been the failing New York Times instead?) that he doesn’t remember to keep off the record. Then his wife suddenly files for divorce! I mean, come on. Seems like the only possible explanation for the Mooch’s behavior is that he has some sort of drug problem — which could be an interesting twist in a future episode that would tie in nicely with the country’s opioid epidemic. Though wouldn’t that just be a recycled version of the Leo McGarry alcoholism arc?
Reince’s Abrupt Exit
It’s clear that the writers never really knew what to do with Reince Priebus, and the audience never really knew how to pronounce his name. He was supposed to represent the tension between Trump and establishment Republicans, but as he lost ground to Steve Bannon and grew into more of a sad-sack character, Reince seemed to serve no purpose other than to drag the show down. Much like Rob Lowe, maybe the actor just didn’t work well in this ensemble. Or maybe we’ll find out later that he was slowly being poisoned to death by the Russians, which would be a juicy tie-in with the Jared Kusher-meeting-with-the-Russians plot line from a few weeks ago that was never resolved.
The Attack on Transgender and Gay People
In a series of tweets, the President reveals that he has decided to kick transgender people out of the military. (Anyone else longing for the cool, steady leadership of Admiral Fitzwallace?) Soon after, the Justice Department announces that federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even though this administration’s villainy is well established, this one-two punch seems too awful to be believed. Trump’s efforts to fire up his base by scapegoating society’s most vulnerable are a bit too obvious of an homage to a certain 20th-century dictator. Especially paired with his Hitler youth-esque speech to the Boy Scouts. This isn’t The Man In the High Castle, for god’s sake.
In the previous episode, we learned that everyone’s beloved Maverick has been diagnosed with brain cancer. (A devastating turn, but not nearly as bad as the revelation of Mrs. Landingham’s death.) In this episode, McCain makes the harrowing journey to Washington to vote for advancing a health care bill that would deprive millions of Americans of care, only to vote against a similar version of the bill in the wee hours of the morning, effectively killing it. This was an emotional rollercoaster ride for us viewers, and a confusing one at that. Why would he vote for one bill and against another? Wouldn’t a man with brain cancer prefer to avoid dealing with legislative minutiae at two in the morning? Are we meant to think he’s the hero of this episode, despite the two female senators who have opposed the bill from the beginning? Hopefully the writers will resolve this ambiguity down the road and clarify this character a bit.
This plot line has been dragging on for months. How could it be possible that the various puzzle pieces still don’t fit together to prove the President’s traitorous relationship with Vladimir Putin? It’s getting ridiculous. We don’t need another Josh and Donna will-they-or-won’t-they. Let’s resolve this, writers!
If you can believe it, this recap doesn’t even cover everything that happened last week. Clearly the show has gone off the rails. But unless you live under a rock — or have been watching CJ do The Jackal on an endless loop for the past six months in an effort to block out reality —it’s impossible not to follow every twist and turn. Here’s hoping the writers get things under control before the fall season starts.