I think this season marks the low point of The West Wing, both in terms of plot and in terms of quality. There are an increasing number of ‘jump the shark’ candidate moments and it’s frustrating to see a series that previously had such sense and consistency degenerate so far, so fast.
Plot wise there are a number of elements that concerned me. The dramatic shifts in Leo and the president’s relationship, CJ becoming chief of staff, peace in the middle east, war with Canada, resolving Cuba… all moderately ridiculous. Continuity also starts to go out the window, failing to remember events and connections several seasons past and even backtracking on more recent episodes.
On a larger scale the season also suffers from a lack of cohesion. The regular team is broken up and now rather than just telling the story of the white house we’re also trying to keep up with at least 2 campaigns. Whole episodes will go by without seeing some of the characters we are accustomed to seeing every few scenes and while the characters/actors can carry episodes, they are always better playing off each other. The good news is that Jimmy Smits brings a wonderful new character to the show, a smart and worth successor to the now ailing and somewhat sad President Bartlet.
Season 6 is very much filler between Bartlet’s presidency and the final race to the election for the new president. It’s not a proper handover because there’s so little interaction, but it’s a necessary stepping stone. I just with the writers hadn’t lost faith in the audience – we don’t need huge stories about peace in the middle east, it’s the dialogue and interactions that we watch for.