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Decider Classics

‘The West Wing’ Season 2, Episode 22: “Two Cathedrals”

Written By: Aaron Sorkin

Original Air Date: May 16, 2001

Watch It On: Netflix

What It’s About: President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is still reeling from the sudden death of his closest friend and confidante, Mrs. Delores Landingham. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), killed by a drunk driver on her way to the White House, was the only member of the staff whom the president considered to be like family. Amidst the tragedy, President Bartlet must decide whether to run for re-election, which would force him to disclose to the American people his reason for lying about his recent diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.

Why It’s So Good: On one hand, this essential episode of the series is tragic in mourning the death of such a critical character to the series, while on the other hand, it’s a non-stop thrill ride riding on President Bartlet’s decision to run for re-election. Revisiting this episode 13 years after it first premiered makes it difficult not to bring up its unofficial digital-age successor, House of Cards. Without an episode like this of The West WingHouse of Cards would not be nearly as powerful a show. Sorkin, in his prime, hooks us right away after Landingham’s death through the political drama, reminding us that very rarely are world leaders allowed any time to grieve. Beau Willimon, executive producer and head writer of House of Cards, is able to achieve the same gripping dialogue, even if it’s about political topics that sometimes go over the general public’s collective head.

 

The Saddest Moment: When President Bartlet asks the Secret Service to close the cathedral doors so he can say goodbye to his friend. His goodbyes to Mrs. Landingham turn into an angry speech against God. Martin Sheen won a Golden Globe for this famous monologue and this episode sealed the series win for the Emmy for Best Drama.

 

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Photos: Netflix/Everett Collection

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