Monday, 18 June 2012

S01E11: Lord John Marbury

So we're half way through season one and we finally get something really meaty for Bartlet to deal with. Posturing between India and Pakistan is no joke - even the might of America gets hot under the collar at the thought of tensions between these two. I love the way Sorkin manages to straddle the line between taking the situation seriously, giving it appropriate gravitas and injecting levity in the form of our eponymous Lord. There's also a nice subplot to the whole thing with CJ having her nose put out of joint over being kept out of the loop.

I honestly don't have huge amount to say about overall episode beside the fact that generally I think it's a pretty strong one. Even though I mention it in the random observations section, I really do have to single out the performance of Roger Rees. The scene where he deconstructs the problem they're facing is wonderfully done. I also love the scene where he steals from Barlet the opportunity to give a rousing speech to the troops.

Random observations:

Mandy was really starting to annoy me at this point. What kind of PR hotshot can't see the PR nightmare that would come from a major presidential advisor moonlighting for the other side (especially in view of a certain memo which I won't say any more about for the sake of first time viewers)?

The Claypool deposition is really well done, as it furthers the Leo substance abuse arc and dovetails really well with the Mandy/Mike Brace subplot.

The India/Pakistan briefing is hilarious. The Encyclopaedia Britannica reference tells us this is a pre-Wikipedia world we're in.

Leo's dismay over the possible appearance of Marbury prepares us for the fact that this isn't going to be the standard stuffed shirt, but Roger Rees manages to exceed expectations. His opening scene is fantastic. Speaking as a viewer from the UK I'd say the closest thing we have to a bona fide Lord John Marbury is the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (or BoJo for short). On the face of it he's a complete buffoon, but underneath all the bluster is a highly intelligent man who's fantastically entertaining to boot.

Gail the goldfish appears again. To me it looks like there are two tanks facing each other, which would clearly represent the two opposing nations. I'm not 100% sure though, so if anyone has any better ideas let me know (you see it at around the 20 minute mark when she's talking with Toby - you also see it briefly when CJ is on the phone at the 33 minute mark).

The Chinese ambassador has been in a truckload of stuff, but I remember him most strongly from Big Trouble in Little China. The Pakistani ambassador is Suresh's dad from Heroes, the Indian Ambassador is Abed's dad from Community and Claypool is the chief from The Shield.

"I'm Spencer Tracy at the end of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." I've always thought that line was brilliant, because there's definitely an argument to be made that there was some racial bias even at the end of the movie. It was effectively saying that as long as a black guy is a rich, intelligent surgeon then he's just about good enough for some nobody white girl. To someone younger Bartlet's comment may indicate that he's not as liberal as he claims on this issue, but it wouldn't generally be perceived that way by an older person, so I think the comment is pitched just about perfectly.

Margaret nodding when Josh asks Leo if his family knows about his addiction is a really nice touch which adds something to their dynamic.

Episode grade: B

So what did you all think?

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