Monday, 11 June 2012
S01E10: In Excelsis Deo
I don't know what it is about this episode. Almost everyone I know loves it, and it seems incredibly popular online, but it just doesn't do it for me. There are lots of little moments which are really nice but I don't think the whole works that well.
If you were picking a theme for the episode I suppose it's all about the giving of gifts. Toby wouldn't normally go out of his way to organise a funeral for the homeless war veteran but he does. Josh (and Sam) wouldn't normally go to a hooker to try and dig up some dirt on the Republicans, but he does because he wants to give Donna (and to a lesser extent, Leo) a gift that really means something. Jed should tear a strip off Toby for pulling strings and backing it up with the office of the Presdency, but the gentle scolding, and tacit approval, is his gift.
I really loved the scene in the antiquarian bookshop. I liked that Bartlet didn't want to it be a photo-op. I liked that with all Josh's ambivalence toward it he was still actually looking with interest, as revealed with his gift to Donna. More than anything, I like books. I like their smell and their feel in my hand, especially an old book, steeped in history. In the age of Kindles and Nooks the value of a real book is heightened somehow. I like that this President feels the same way.
In Excelsis Deo is presumably a reference to Gloria In Excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the Highest). Why does Sorkin remove Gloria? Is it because he's reminding us that a lot of pretty inglorious things happen over Chrismas. In the episode we have a veteran dying, a homosexual man being beaten to death and someone holding the sins of six years ago over Leo's head. I found it strange that given the episode title and the fact that they have a choir on set, it never gets sung.
Flamingo. Well I suppose she is a tall bird with long legs.
The cop talking to Toby is Daniels from The Wire and Broyles from Fringe (he was also in Lost briefly, but I can't think of the character he played off the top of my head).
One of the best parts of the episode is showing how Bartlet has to switch into happy mode at the drop of a hat, putting on a brave face for the children after hearing about Lowell Lydell dying.
With Kathryn Joosten dying recently I thought this episode was particularly poignant. Her speech about her children is one I've always found moving, but knowing that she isn't with us any more adds to it.
Gail's bowl appears with a Christmas tree in it. I hope the significance of that doesn't require any explanation.
When Josh says he didn't mean it that way when talking to Laurie, I struggle to see how it can be meant any other way when you're talking to a prostitute.
When Leo admits to Sam and Josh that in spite of his annoyance he was touched by their gesture it's a really nice moment between them.
The interplay between Danny and CJ in this episode is wonderful.
The montage as the choir sings Little Drummer Boy is really nicely done.
Episode grade: C+
So what did you all think?
Spoilers for the future follow.
Out of all the lovely moments in the episode my favourite is the scene where Josh gives the book to Donna. I'm glad that we don't get to find out what Josh wrote because nothing really would come up to scratch. I know their have been other moments in the series so far that tell us that they're more than just friends, but this is the most blatant sign so far that they really need to get a room. The additional look he gives her after he's walked back to his office is a fantastic touch.