Last night was the first episode of "The West Wing" that dealt with the death of actor John Spencer, who had played Leo McGarry on the show. Leo was the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, and when Spencer died suddenly in December we all mourned his loss and wondered how the writers would handle it. Last night we got our answer.
Leo had a massive heart attack on election night and died at the hospital. Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), the Democratic presidential candidate, ended up winning the election by a razor-thin margin. But what was most striking about the show was that it was the first time they'd addressed Spencer's death as part of the show, and as the characters dealt with the grief of losing their friend and colleage Leo McGarry, the actors looked to be dealing with the grief of losing their friend and colleage John Spencer. The tears seemed genuine, the grief seemed real. And I cried right along with them.
Next week the episode will be about McGarry's funeral, so I expect to be crying once again for an hour or so. The show itself is also in its final days, as this is its final season, which is another thing for me to be sad about. "The West Wing" has been my favorite show on television since it first aired, and I'll miss it dearly when it's gone. After all, without President Bartlet, all I'm left with is... Well, the real President. And who wants that?
UPDATE: Chris pointed me to a great article in the New York Times about the show, which includes the revelation about who would have won had Spencer not died.