The West Wing

Season 2 Episode 22

Two Cathedrals

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM May 16, 2001 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (19)

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  • About this episode

    This had great single camera picture editing.
  • A Boy King and a Real Dame.

    The flashbacks to to the early days of Bartlet's and Mrs. Landingham's relationship were excellent. Aided by the perfect casting of the young Bartlet and Mrs. Landingham(especially Kirsten Nelson). I loved the scene when Jed is working on his car and she's trying to convince him to talk to his father about the salary discrepancies. The way it tied into the final scenes was done incredibly well also.

    Bartlet: "Why do you talk to me like this?"
    Mrs. Landingham: "'Cause you've never had a big sister and you need one. Look at you. You're a Boy King. You're a foot smarter than the smartest kids in the class. You're blessed with inspiration. You must know this by now, you must have sensed it."

    I never expected Bartlet's father to be so cruel. In a way it explains why he works so hard, trying to earn his dad's respect that he never can. But for him to be such a kind person in spite of that, is a miracle. Made more so by the fact that is father was probably jealous of the greatness in his own son, as he was of his brother's intelligence.

    Bartlet's scene in National Cathedral was without question the best moment in my television viewing history. Sheen's acting was phenomenal and Sorkin's words were superb, both were incredibly moving. I'm only going to post the moments that made the biggest impact on me, but it was obviously extraordinary from start to finish.

    Bartlet: "You're a son of a *****, you know that? She bought her first new car and you hit her with a drunk driver. What, that supposed to be funny?...What was Josh Lyman? A warning shot? That was my son. What did I ever do to yours but praise his glory and praise his name?...Yes, I lied. It was a sin. I've committed many sins. Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?...Cruciatus in crucem! Eas in crucem.(To hell with your punishments! And to hell with you.) You get Hoynes!"

    I really respected the choice of making some of Bartlet's monologue be in Latin. I can't imagine the network execs were thrilled with that decision. But it fit with his character and the moment so well, that I didn't mind looking up the translation, and I certainly didn't mind rewatching the scene. I couldn't imagine that part ever being surpassed in excellence; until I got to the final moments of the episode.

    The scene between Mrs. Landingham and Bartlet in the Oval Office, with the wind and the rain ripping through the open door was truly brilliant. I loved watching Bartlet's subconscious try to convince him that America needed him to run again. And Mrs. Landingham was also incredible in that scene.

    Mrs. Landingham: "You know if you don't want to run again, I respect that. But if you don't run because you think its going to be to hard or you think you're gonna lose; well God, Jed, I don't even wanna know you."

    I thought Brothers in Arms was a superb song choice to play over Bartlet's trip to the press conference, though I am pretty partial to Dire Straits, but BiA in particular is a great song. Even knowing the series went on for another five seasons, I was pretty nervous going in to the final scene. The staff waiting to see if it would be Answer A or Answer B, Bartlet's hair and jacket being soaked from the rain, and his silent answer of looking off, smiling, and putting his hands in his pockets was one of my favorite moments from any series. Beautiful way to end an unblievably good episode, and an altogether excellent season.

    10/10, Simply put, the best episode of any TV show I've ever seen. A 10 really doesn't do it justice, as it exceeded the quality of everything else. It could never be over-hyped, over-rated, or over-praised.
  • One of the best episodes ever!

    Every time I watch 'Two Cathedrals' I get goose bumps. The performance of Martin Sheen is just breathtaking.

    The flashbacks are a very powerful element to bring the relationship between Mrs. Laningham and Jed Bartlet in the viewer perspective.

    The way he 'talks' to god in latin is just brilliant. Lighting his cigarette to pay his disrespect to HIM. Brilliant and cunning.

  • An amazing episode, from start to finish.

    This episode is definently one of my favorites. Bullet time!

    *So much in this episode is going on at the same time, and it's quite amazing how it's done...

    *Bartlet's speech in Latin is utterly amazing, it gives me goosebumps and I love it. It's the most amazing acting I've ever seen, Bartlet yelling at God and announcing his defeat. I want to cry.

    *The great flashbacks are amazing, because the foreshadowing was so great, and I loved Mrs. Landingham and her scenes with Jed.

    *The end is so amazing, where it's raining and Brothers in Arms is playing, with everybody walking and it's just so great. Then when Bartler gets up to the podium and is asked by reelection, I just sit there and watch as he puts his hands in his pockets and looks away and smiles. It's so amazing, I don't know what to do. Truly an amazing episode. I heart Aaron Sorkin and Martin Sheen!
  • Inspired!

    This is the best episode of the best series on television. Ever. I just re-watched it and it has lost nothing in the few years that have passed. The superb quality of the writing in this episode was even more pronounced after this past week's crop of contrived and hackneyed season finales on the various networks. There is a way to use car accidents and there's a way to make dramatic television in a way that does not come across as forced and revisited for the umpteenth time. And Sorkin is the master. Plus who else would put a whole speech in Latin in prime time?
  • ^^^^5!

    ^^^^5!!! Oh I wish I wish some network would run these episodes. Hint,hint TV Land. I miss it! And this is the most outstanding episode of all. Although I was disappointed that the character of Mrs. Langdingham was eliminated. She was one of my favorites. I'll bet when the time comes when Mr. Sheen passes away the cathedral speech will be one of the clips shown when the TV networks do their tributes. Now to fill out the remaining text.... great, well written, superb, outstanding, award winning, Emmy worthy, ten more words to go. I'm not much of a writer. :/
  • One of the best episodes of "The West Wing"

    This episode was just a tearjerker. Not only the reason that this was mrs Landingham's funerals and the speech on the church was just unbelievable. And those flashbacks to the past and showing how they met and the decision he made there leads to decision on now - will he run again. And the ending it is not said out but I think we got the idea. And it was done so emotionally that I have no words. The storm outside, those last sequence of scenes from White House to the place he was giving the press conference. The amazing song on the background. It is all just so emotional and so powerful. Very well done. I adore the episode.
  • One of the best episodes of The West Wing.

    No sooner have we gotten over the shock of Mrs. Landingham's death than we are thrown right into the most crucial and potentially dangerous day of Bartlet's presidency as he goes on live television to reveal his illness to the nation. To add to his woes, a war with Haiti is on the cards and a tropical storm from North Carolina. And then there's devastation of Mrs Landingham's all-too noticeable absence from the west wing just when Jed needs her most. In one of the finest scenes ever, Bartlet rages at God in the National Cathedral after his loyal secretary's funeral and he speaks for all of us as he vents his anger over the cruel workings of the Lord. A stunning episode, capped off nicely in the final minutes with a cracking soundtrack and amazing final moment.
  • the greatest episode of any tv show ever ever ever

    Bartett is up shiite creek.
    his MS is out in the public domain and the electorate are feeling a little bit mislead by the whole debacle
    The media are asking if bartlett is going to go for a second term.
    And most of his close knit staff are feeling a little pissed off also.
    Betrayed might be a better word ,as bartlett`s wife also has a world of hurt to deal with.
    The song at the end is a classic piece of tv and bruce springstien is a rock god.
    The rain and bad weather was fantastic the refusesal of the coats was a great move of solidarity
    And the final line was absolutely fantastic for anyone
    a president that believes in the fututre
    were is clinton when we need him
  • A beautifully written, stunning shot and wonderfully acted episode.

    "Two Cathedrals" for me is THE best West Wing episode in the entire seven seasons of the show. Everything, aside from the fact that Aaron Sorkin wrote Mrs. Landingham out, is perfect about this episode. Bartlet's muted reaction, the fallout from the MS disclosure. It's beautifully shot and for me my favourite shots are of Margaret, Carol and Donna sitting in the Cathedral listening to the service and we see a tear slide down Carol's face. Possibly for me, the best episode of any television series. Brilliant doesn't cover it at all.
  • Overall well done

    Overall a well done episode. Only part I didn\'t think was on the money was the speech alone in the cathedral. Just seemed kind of forced and not natural, especially the Latin portions.

    Just about everything else was great, though, especially the flashbacks, making me look forward to season 3.
  • Two Cathedrals

    A great line: \"You get Hoynes.\"

    A scary-smart man\'s emotional and despairing thoroughly angry with God finish. It got me. It took the curse off the latin bit. I understand why they chose to do it in latin, but maybe it would have been less distracting if they\'d added subtitles. In any case, the character\'s intellectual and religious integrity are a difficult thing to popularize in this day and age. Apparently we don\'t value those things together any more and that saddens me. We seem to be called upon to choose one over the other as if they must be, or ought to be mutually exclusive.

    Somewhere around series four I started feeling as though the writing was losing something -- the beginning of the end -- but I\'ll hang on to the bitter end because there\'s so little out there that asks for enough and this show does.
  • Quite possibly the most powerful piece of television i've ever witnessed.

    In Australia this episode was screened about 1 month after 9/11. I remember watching the preceeding episode, "18th and Potomac" as a was trying to fathom the scenes i witnessed on the other channels. Due to the extended coverage over the next couple of weeks, this season finale was postponed until eventually screened at a stupidly unusual timeslot without any advertising or even listing in a TV Guide. I was lucky enough to get a copy from a friend who got it straight from Channel 9 Australia.

    I was not in any way disapointed.

    I have never witnessed a more potent and mesmerizing piece of televsion drama. The flashbacks give an insight into Bartlet's true character. Whilst the interaction of the staff as they come to grips with the news of Bartlet's MS, questioning everything they believe, is superbly done.

    But the episode belongs heart and soul to Martin Sheen and Aaron Sorkin. It is testement to this show that it is happy to have the president having it out with God in the middle of a Cathedral, railing on the almighty in Latin with no subtitles. Sorkin says "I believe in the intelligence of my audience," so doesn't use subtitles. And he doesn't need them. Although i did not understand the words, i completely understood what he was saying. Then he goes on to make Bartlet have a conversation with the oldest and closest character in his life. For Bartlet, Mrs Landigham had been around longer than his wife. She was the rock upon which he built his self-belief. And the rock by which he refinds it.

    The climax of the episode, as Bartlet walks through the rain with Dire Straits beautiful tones of "Brothers in Arms" in the background shows just how beautiful a creator of moments Sorkin can be. I am not ashamed to admit that tears come to my eyes every time i watch this scene.

    For me, as good, if not better, an episode as the final of MASH.
  • The now famous "Cathedral Monologue" is one of the greatest acting moments in Martin Sheen's stellar career, and could with out a doubt, be remembered as one of best in television history.

    The now famous "Cathedral Monologue" is one of the greatest acting moments in Martin Sheen's stellar career, and could with out a doubt, be remembered as one of best in television history.
    As a whole, the episode was a prime example why The West Wing was the best Drama of 2001. With insights into Mrs. Lanigham's long time sisterly relationship with President Bartlet, Bartlet's post funneral scene in the Oval Office, His rant with God in the Cathedral, and the season finale cliffhanger, this is by far the best that TV dramas have to offer.
  • one of the greatest

    This is one of the many reasons i watch west wing!! if not for this episode i think west wing would have a little less press. i love this episode and i have it on dvd im so excited. i love west wing and this eppy. a real classic tearjearker
  • This is the most emotional episode in my opinion. I have never been so moved by an hour of television before.

    This was an impectable episode. The funeral was sad and angry at the same time. With a moving speech in impressive latin-tongue, Marting Sheen reserves his place as one of Hollywood\'s greatest actors. The funeral scene is only followed by numberous flashbacks revealing the past relationship between Bartlet and his father\'s loyal assistant. There is a history given through these flashbacks that shows his respect and honor for his loving friend. The flaskbacks lead up to the pinicale of the episode, being Bartlet envisioning Mrs. Landingham back in his office when he routinly calls on her. They go on a back and forth of statistics paralell to the one back on his academy campus. The episode also draws paralell to the fact that at his private school he used to smoke in the Cathedral and leave the butts on teh floor. In the final moments of the episode we see the cigarette butt on the floor and then pan to the motor-cade drive by the chapel doors. The last and most moving of paralells is when the President is asked if he is running for a second term. A straight answer is not given, but, as noted in the flashback, when he puts his hands in his pockets and looks away and smiles, he\'s going for it; he has his mind made up. The other portion of the episode I found quite impressive and moving was the use of the Dire Straits song \"Brother in Arms\". It led the trip from the West Wing to the State building while showing the journey and occurences along the way. The song gives a strong backdrop as we travel from the motor-cade to the press conference into the Cathedral and back again. When Bartlet arrives, followed by his loyal, supportive staff, he approachs the podium and looks to the room of press, knowing that no matter when he is asked the inevitable question he would know the answer. The moment the President is asked the question of the night, we pan the faces of the staff going from C.J. to Josh and Sam to Donna and Margaret, in the crowd, to Toby and finally Leo. And then we look to the President for a reponse and see him slide his hands into his pocket, a sign only his dear, late friend, Mrs. Landingham would understand. No real response was given at the end of this episode, but the overall tone; the music, the dialog, the expression, and that one final sign we get from Bartlet gives an unspoken answer that is better than any verbal response. An emotionaly empowering episode that demands an applause for Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Richard Shiff, John Spencer, Dule Hill, Janel Moloney, NiCole Robinson, Robe Low, Kathryn Joosten, Aaron Sorkin, and Thomas Schlamme. There is something remarkable to be said about the right combination of people, music, story, and direction. This episode made a lasting impression in my mind and I can only hope that this is the same for other viewers.
  • Best episode yet. It's Sorkin and Schlamme at their best.

    From the previous episode there's a question looming all over 'Two Cathedrals': is he gonna run for re-election after lying to the country about his health? The party is worried, the staff is worried, even the First Lady is. Jed Bartlet has to make up his mind while mourning the sister he never had, Mrs Landingham.

    We can see Bartlet 'gone', shocked, he can hardly focus on anything but his relationship with Mrs Landingham all these forty years. The transitions to the flashbacks are smooth, well carried-on, a cigarrete, a jacket, a door. The actors playing Jed and Mrs Landingham in the early years are great in their performances, is a pity we can't see them again in the series. They show without a hard work a believeable friendship between both characters that is vital in Jed's life.

    Bartlet's speech at the Cathedral is superb and splendid. All his anger to his father and his wrath to God join together and explode in a magnificient interpretation by Martin Sheen. And I'm sure that at any point in his or her life, everybody has felt the same way, willing to shout at God asking why. The fact that this person doing it is the President only makes him even more human. But Bartlet speaks to God in his own language, Latin, to be closer to him. Also, to tell him things the censorship wouldn't have allowed in English...

    We don't see the famous interview to the President as it is being made, we're only shown clips of it running on the news on and on. This help us focus on the press conference and on the great decision itself. We see the reactions of the staff, they are willing to go for another term with their President, they believe in him.

    The appearance of Mrs Landingham's ghost to bring common sense to Jed in this bad time is a great resource. 'God doesn't make cars crash, and you know it. Stop using me as an excuse.' We see him reorganize his thoughts and his life while talking to her, with the door open to the tropical storm.

    The tropical storm is an image of what's going on in Bartlet's mind. It is as unusual and annoying as the thoughts the President has running on his mind. When he faces the storm after he's made up his mind, he is baptized, he is filled with the energy he lacked the last episodes, he's reborn. That's why he won't put up his coat, he needs this water to go on.

    From this very moment, Bartlet going out of the Oval Office to face the press, 'Brothers in arms' leads us to a crescendo that ends with the episode itself. We only hear the necessary words and the background noise while the song fills the atmosphere and calms the storm. We see the blind faith of the staff following their leader while knowing he won't run again. It's maybe their last walking together.

    The use of the light, the contrast between the motorcade and the press conference, the shot of the cleaning man finding the cigarrete in the Cathedral while Bartlets passes by, the use of the slow motion while Bartlet faces the press and sees the lifeboat CJ has prepared him, that reporter... All the sequence is carefully prepared and wonderfully written and directed. It's Sorkin and Schlamme at their best.

    It ends with Bartlet facing the world, hands in his pockets, looking away and smiling, while the American flag keeps fluttering on the storm.
  • Martin Sheen at his finest

    Two Cathedrals is a great episode, one of the best West Wing episodes ever. But the thing that sticks out in my head is Martin Sheen's performance. The scene in the cathedral always makes my eyes well up, his anger at good, his long speech in Latin and the final close with him stubbing out a cigarette on the floor. Excellent. Also, the scene on the North Portico where he stands in the pouring rain and you can see, without words, his determination being made. I love it.

    Also worth mentioning is Thomas Schlamme's excellent direction. The episode is filled with great shots. Once again, the scene in the cathedral when the camera follows President Bartlett while he's shouting at God and a scene with Toby and Leo, when they're talking about whether or not the President is going to run again, and Mr. Shlamme keeps Leo out of focus in a full shot at the end putting the emphasis on how Toby feels.
  • Bartlet comes to terms with the loss of Mrs Landingham and his decision whether to stand for a second term or not.

    The season 2 finale is possibly one of my favourite episodes from The West Wing. It had everything for me, superb slick writing at its best, interlocked storylines between Jed and Mrs Landingham and the continuing major storyline of Jed's illness. the episode was centered around the President for the most part, coming to terms with the grief of loosing his assistant to a drink driver and the realisation that he is not going to seek re-election for the Presidency.

    We also learn about his relationship with his father and how he was a domineering father, strict and in control. Mrs Landingham is introduced to Jed at school following an admonishment from his father about smoking in church. They immediately strike up a friendship and Mrs Landingham taking on a sister like role.

    The funeral is moving, Jed requesting a lock down at the end so he can talk to God in Latin and English, not having come to terms with her death. As he is about to leave he lights up a cigarette and takes a puff. he stamps out the cigarette and leaves the cathedral declaring he would give Hoynes to God.

    When an unseasonal tropical storm hits Washington, the President is left alone in the Oval office. When the door opens because of a wind tunnel he calls out for Mrs Landingham.. She enters telling him he doesn't need to shout but to use the intercom, she laughs saying he can't use it. They talk about the storm and the significance of it hitting the US out of season.

    Bartlet leaves for the press conference now that his MS admition has been released to the public. He must announce whether he is to stand for a second term or hand over the nomination to Hoynes his Vice-President. We are left with Bartlet, hands in pocket looking out to the audience smiling. Season 2 ends.
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