This week’s episode is the first of a two-parter, picking up from last week’s cliffhanger and going back in time using flashbacks to show us some key moments in the lives and careers of Matt, Danny and Harriet.
Sorkin loves to write politics. If four years on The West Wing weren’t enough, He also uses it as material for Studio 60. The battle between religious people and non-believers has been present since the first episode and it’s been hanging as cloud over Matt and Harriet ever since. But he didn’t stop there. When we first learned that Tom’s brother is in the air force, it was clear that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will play a part on the show and that time came last week when Mark Jeter was taken hostage. After last week’s ending with this breaking news, this week this issue takes center stage.
More than anything, this week Sorkin declares his no confidence in the ability of the US government and military forces to bring the soldiers back home safely. By bringing the option of a private company negotiating the release of the captive airmen, and presenting it as the favorable option to resolve the situation, he’s sending a message that the government is no good in situation like this. Cal’s opposing views were there just to give an impression of balance, but the point was very clear.
The show went back to an area that Sorkin used well in the past flashbacks. Again I’ll bring up The West Wing with two examples that are some of the best writing he’s ever done. The second season started and ended with flashbacks. The opening episodes took us back to Bartlett’s first presidential campaign and the last episodes, “Two Cathedrals” to his days as a teenager (I consider this episode Sorkin’s best work ever). This week, on “K & R” we went back to 2001 and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. The flashback closed gave sort of a payback to those who were quick to declare the war over 24 hours after it started, whether they were government reps or anyone else (And by putting Luke on that side while Matt had the more realistic approach, it was also a message about who Harriet should be with).
Sorkin also took shots at network TV during the flashbacks. We finally start to find out why Matt and Danny were fired from Studio 60 in the first place, and the wheels were put in motion back in that same week in 2001. They didn’t want to put on a show but were forced to by Jack who told they have to make a show and it doesn’t have to be any good, as long as they don’t make fun of the president or America. The gloves were off this week and nothing was subtle hell, they even took shots at themselves when Danny told Jordan, when her pregnancy had complications that “Your own network research says that the number one audience manipulator among women is a pregnancy in jeopardy”. This is where self awareness turns into blatant statement.
And finally, Matt and Harriet. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned them before but this week they’re relationship was played perfectly. It wasn’t just a case of two “on again off again” lovers. This is a clash between two very distinct and opposite ways of life, and the way their disagreements reflected the last 10 years in America was done very well. Just like the political struggle seems to go on forever, so does their relationship. Right now, the way it’s portrayed, I actually have no problems with. Not to mentions the writing of this ongoing fight was brilliant, to the point and delivered in a great way.
The story will continue next week. We have Matt acknowledging the existence of God in the final line of the episode, Jordan on her way to an emergency c-section, Tom making sure Mark’s friends will get the same treatment he gets and the network and production team thinking of buying Mark’s freedom. The flashback is supposed to conclude with the background for Matt and Danny’s dismissal from the show, and must admit that of all storylines this week, this one intrigues me the most, even though I can see where it’s going. In fact, everything involving Jack Rudolph seems to be interesting, so bring it on.