|Courtesy of HBO|
Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that need 4 billion dollars, cash.
Like last week's episode, this episode began with everyone doing their own thing, and slowly brought them all back together. Unlike last week, which saw three major clumps of plot orbit around each other, this week separated the characters into the best of all possible pairs (or pairs of pairs) and had them talk at one another until the end, when events brought everyone back together. The notion that a Sorkin script is a larger thing than a usual script because that sheer amount of words that he can pack into a scene was clearly in full effect, because there was rarely a moment of this 57 minutes that didn't feature someone talking, and they were talking fast. This was rapid fire, energized and deeply funny. And to suit that, the episode was stalked with a prime crop of guest stars, all equal to the task. Kat Dennings, Paul Lieberstein, Mary McCormack, Marcia Gay Harden, and a welcome return from Jane Fonda for a single wonderful scene made the episode crackle.
Charlie and Reese took on the trust fund half siblings threatening to sell Atlantis, while Will goes up against Rebecca Halliday on behalf of Neal, whilst Don and Sloan have brunch because they're adorable, and Maggie debates journalistic ethics. Again, three core stories concerning three core arcs: the future of Atlantis, the Snowden leaks, and some general adorable romantic comedy shenanigans. Each in balance, and each providing what the others were lacking, adding up to a whole and complete episode. When the Will/Neal scenes were getting too preachy, Sorkin would shift over the Don and Sloan, who would be enchanting until your teeth started to hurt, then it would move to Charlie yelling at children, cause whens that not fun? And occasionally, Maggie would be charming while she completely befuddled a Washington insider.
The weak knee of the episode was a minor story involving Jim and his girlfriend from the Romney bus last year. It felt out of place between everything else that was going on, and because of Maggie's unexpected uptick in terms of characterized interest this year, Jim is now the most boring and least interesting character on the show. While the notion of a low-level staffer being fired for an embarrassing tweet is something that happens in the modern news media world, and Sorkin likes getting his shots in at the internet, ultimate what this subplot did was victimize and vilify Jim's girlfriend (who was never really distinguished enough to be anything other than Jim's girlfriend), and then get rid of her. And while it treated her badly, it wasn't interesting enough to treat her badly well. This seemed like the sort of one-off story that Neal might have tackled with in season one, but we've and he's moved on, and there are more interesting things happening.
Sorkin is at his best, I've long considered, when he's writing angry people. Angry people are more passionate, and in the guise of a comedy, are more likely to make mistakes. This was true when he was getting Richard Schiff to scream at Rob Lowe or Martin Sheen, it was true in the few golden moments on Studio 60, and it is true here. This was all over the place here, as Will and Rebecca needle each other over their legal advice, and Will trips over his metaphors as only he can (Daniels also gave us a beauty of a line read on the Dr. Pepper bit). Elsewhere, he had Charlie, Reese and Leona loosing their tempers while trying to speak idealistically and highmindedly to vindictive children. What made these tantrums work is that it wasn't just hot air, and it wasn't all one sided, as Sorkin can slip into. He never lost the salient point of the argument in the heat of the moment, and he kept the arguments in balance. He didn't have a room full of people all arguing the same side, he had a room full of people arguing all sides.
I know that some people don't like the relationship stuff, and I was not a fan of the love triangles of season one, or the slap-slap-kiss-kiss structure of Will and Mac's story. But I chalk that up in part due to a lack of chemistry, and Sorkin's conventional approach to very traditional romance tropes. But I'm a big fan of the Sloan and Don romance. It is entirely down to the actor's fantastic chemistry, and has been since day one. Sorkin clearly saw it, because there wasn't a hint of it in season one, but their few scenes together sparked. Season two elevated this to a wonderful flirtation, and this season into a full blown romance with the two most emotionally unstable and codependent characters on the show. I'm enamoured with these two, as they try to trap and destabilized one another all for the sake of not being mature enough to fully and freely admit their attraction, while being in the middle of a relationship. It isn't any more complex or original than any other romance Sorkin has written, but damned if Sadoski and Munn aren't incredibly compelling to watch.