The West Wing Season 1 Episode 3 Review: A Proportionate Response

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President Bartlet is a very cool dude.

What we learned about the man on The West Wing Season 1 Episode 3 is how human he is. Granted, every real president is probably just as human, but we don't get to see into his thoughts, nor do we see many of them standing up against their own administration to do what they feel is right.

Bartlet listens, takes advice and then acts as he feels is appropriate. Seriously, how cool is that?

An American Response - The West Wing

"A Proportionate Response" picked up right where The West Wing Season 1 Episode 2 left off. 

President Bartlet had called for strong action (to blow Syria out of the water) against his new friend's helicopter being shot out of the sky. His advice from Leo was the phrasing was a bit on the harsh side and the action seemed overindulgent.

It seemed doubly so when President Bartlet used "him" instead of "them" for who was killed. He didn't even use the "we" as in the United States. Bartlet was making his position about as personal as it could have been.

And why not? He's new to the presidency, and it was his first time losing someone he knew in an act of aggression. There aren't any classes Presidents take telling them how to respond in such conditions.

All of a sudden, you have the power to respond however you see fit.

Not Impressed - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 3

What he learned was the Joint Chiefs didn't think he was responding appropriately. That's kind of ironic since up to then, President Bartlet felt like he was the odd duck, not necessarily interested in using aggressive tactics against their purported enemy.

Yet there he sat, listening to the group as they told him his approach was over the top and they couldn't really recommend it.

President Bartlet's response to their recommendation was thanks, but I'll just go ahead do what I want because I'm the President.

Well, not in so many words, but what he was trying to get everyone to understand, and I loved his argument, was a tit for tat response was more like the United States was going to take away Syria's allowance. 

President Bartlet wanted the enemies of the United States to know that when you come at our country with a form of aggression, what you are going to me met with will not leave you in the same state when you leave. You may not be obliterated, but you will probably wish to be.

Leo says we've become pretty good at bombing so they can rebuild and bomb again, and President Bartlet honestly wonders why that's OK. It seems to waste resources and is more of a game than an effective strategy. 

Under Pressure - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 3

And who didn't love when the stress got to President Bartlet, so he lit up a cigarette? Now I've never been a smoker. Everything about it grosses me out, but I'm not against people having vices. If ever there was a time of pressure that called for your own personal vice, it was when making that call.

Like I said, President Bartlet is human above all else. He has weaknesses, and even if he wanted to hide them from everyone, behind closed doors, he gets to let his freak flag fly.

He does it even at the most inopportune times, too. Josh found a new personal aide candidate for the prez in a young man named Charlie. There are no special qualifications, and Josh goes but gut instinct when choosing a candidate.

Charlie happened to be applying for the job of White House Messenger. First of all, young Dule Hill is so darned adorable. Second, adding Hill to any cast is always a good thing. Yay!! 

But Charlie really wanted that messenger job. Given that he is caring for his younger sister, there are probably a lot of reasons why he wanted the flexibility of being a messenger. Being a personal aide to the President, we know, will be a much better option.

But President Bartlet shouted in front of everyone he didn't have time for new people. It wasn't the best welcome by any means.

A New Body Man - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 3

But Josh hung in there, keeping Charlie by his side, and when Charlie had the opportunity to see the President make his address on Television, even helping him find his glasses when all the others couldn't, a kinship was formed before the job was in the bag.

Charlie had time to rethink the opportunity he had been offered despite the less-than-stellar welcome by the Commander in Chief. He was a bit awestruck. Josh told him the feeling never goes away.

President Bartlet also had time to realize he hadn't made the best impression, and his outstretched hand to the young boy was everything I expected the human Jed Bartlet would do to welcome him with a touch of the President. 

There was more to the episode, but the overwhelming point was about President Bartlet standing on his own two feet. It was impressive, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the episodes featuring his stance on so many other topics.

Watching him weigh what he considers right and wrong and how to act upon it should be very interesting indeed!

A Proportionate Response Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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