The Newsroom season 2 finale review: Election Night Part 2

Review Mark Harrison 19 Sep 2013 - 11:16

The Newsroom concludes its uneven second season with a happy ending. Here's Mark's review of Election Night Part 2...

This review contains spoilers

2.9 Election Night Part Two

“Except for the things we did wrong, we did everything right.”

The Newsroom’s bumpy second season reaches a close with Election Night Part II, an episode that reconnects with many of the core elements that started off the show and finally absolves itself of the Operation Genoa storyline. 

As discussed last week, the title has very little to do with the main thrust of the action. The 2012 presidential election was not exactly a tense race, and Aaron Sorkin’s script only occasionally pays lip service to delusional supporters at Romney HQ who thought otherwise. Once again, this is about the News Night team.

When we left them, things looked set to go to hell this week. Charlie Skinner was begging his bosses to accept his resignation, and Will McAvoy fired producer Mackenzie McHale and stared down the camera for what could be his final broadcast. Oh, and er… Sloan still hadn’t found the owner of a signed book that she hadn’t really signed. 

That momentum seems to have dissipated in the last week. Here’s a finale that seems optimistically final, rather than ramping up the stakes any further. Charlie appeals to Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda, playing high again) to accept his resignation, and she announces that she's going to let her son, Reese, make the decision. 

After last week's hilarious “My mom won't let me” scene, Reese is missing for much of the episode, with most of the team assuming that he'll let the team go in order to save face. There's a nice scene in the middle of the episode in which Jim, Don and co. stick to their guns and promise that if Charlie, Will and Mac go, then they go too. All for one, and one for all, the same spirit that Jim was looking for on the press bus, way back in Willie Pete. 

The other dangling thread from last week's episode is the opportunity to break the General Petraeus story, which is resolved in a nice callback to News Night's whole mission to inform the voter. They're meant to bury a story that could affect a Republican candidate's campaign, while the polls are still open, and the team make the decision to cover the story that the electorate needs to know about. 

It's high-faluting, sure, but it feels like a grounded continuation from the impeccably timed and delivered Petraeus gag last week- as was discussed in the comments section on last week's review, it's another military scandal, the only area in which ACN has no credibility after the disaster that was the Genoa report. 

Happily, the team slowly but surely absolves itself over the course of the finale. The overall tone of the episode, which could as easily be mistaken for Sorkin responding to critics of the series in general, is “haters gonna hate”. The line from Will, quoted at the top of this review, would point to the same basic argument. 

One benefit of drawing out the Genoa story over the course of the season has been to show that the core team pursued it dutifully, and had every reason to believe it before they broadcast it. Although there's only one firing, for broadcasting a half-hour special report that accused the US army of war crimes, it's not a swerve on accountability, the one person in the wrong already got his comeuppance a few weeks ago. 

Sorkin's far more interested giving us a happy ending, a goal which is not, in and of itself, a cop-out. The bigger results here come from tying up the team's complicated romantic lives. Sloan discovers that Don was the anonymous bidder who staged a bidding war to make it look like her book was being fought over, and finally breaks the sexual tension between them by barging into the control room and kissing him. 

It's a great 'Just shut up and kiss' moment, after weeks of banter and verbal procrastination between the two. Even the much less interesting Jim and Maggie arc comes to an amicable close, but it's best friends who get back together. 

We haven't seen Kelen Coleman since her blistering rant at Maggie in The Genoa Tip, but her return as best friend Lisa gives Maggie's rough season arc some sense of closure. And by the way, Maggie cut her own hair, but apparently waited eight months after her traumatic experience in Africa first. Hopefully this marks an end to the over-analysis of Maggie's hair on the show. 

Anyway, all of this is preferable to having a romcom ending where Jim dumps his perfectly nice long-distance girlfriend to declare his love for Maggie, when Don and Sloan usurped them as the most likeable couple early on. Both parties seem to be over it, and besides, the romantic comedy ending is for Will and Mac. 

The two pivotal scenes happen in the middle of the episode and at the end. Will spills the beans on his wedding ring ploy from season one while arguing with Mac, and she storms out. Before the episode is over, he comes to his senses and proposes to her. 

She accepts, in the midst of everything else going right too. Reese decides to back the team and face Jerry Dantana in court, Don and Sloan get together and it's all... achingly happy. The show is hit and miss with its musical choices, but on a scale of Fix You to Baba O'Riley, Luminate's cover of Pete Townshend's Let My Love Open The Door seems appropriate for an essentially happy ending. 

That doesn't mean that there's no time for a quick rant about politics, though, and it's pertinent to mention that at this point. When he's once again accused of being a Republican In Name Only, Will launches an unusually calm rebuttal. As it's actually of a more moderate length than previous rants, I'll reproduce the dialogue in full here: 

“No, I call myself a Republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions and I believe in common sense realities and necessity to defend itself against a dangerous world. The problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con.

“I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect in the 21st Century. Most of all, the biggest new requirement - the only requirement - is that I have to hate Democrats.”

The whole episode is typified by this approach - throwing out the hate to ask why we can't just be nice to each other, but with an irresistible 'fuck yeah' attitude that makes it far more difficult to dismiss as blissfully ignorant. It's like the name “Mackenzie Morgan McHale-McAvoy”- though it may seem silly, it signifies something much nicer.

And just as it has won through some of the series' best moments, that optimism has a tendency to overpower some of the more incredulous developments in Election Night Part II, and although it doesn't fulfil the foreboding climax of last week's episode, it leaves fans with a satisfied smile on their face, while they wait for next year's third season.

Read Mark's review of the previous episode, Election Night Part One, here.

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The finale felt much more like a full closure rather than leaving some questions behind. That saying I really would like to see a third season and I'm hoping it will be confirmed by HBO.

There are some who will knock Sorkin whatever he does, just becausde. Let's face it: the man is a genius with West Wing his triumphant coat of arms. The Newsroom finale was a little bit brilliant. If the ending didn't tear you up, check your pulse. Sorkin is one cool, hip dude who relishes romance. Shouldn't we all, for a better place all around?

Tying up season long arcs with a montage? That was just lazy and a writer of his level could surely have given us something much better.

This show keeps me laughing. Their constant preaching of presenting the news in a non-political way while doing nothing but bashing conseratives and glossing over liberal mistakes is just ironic. To make up a fake story arch when real news stories like Bhengazi happen is just awful. We have coverage of Romney's "mean" anti-press bus, but not once do they cover anything O'bama. And then Will's rant about being called a RINO is a liberals wet dream about what they want real republicans to say. If Sorkin wants this show to be taken seriously maybe he needs to stop getting his news stories from MSNBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.
I'll give this show 1 more season. I like the writing outside the political BS, but if next season they somehow gloss over the Bhengazi 9/11 aniversary terror attack, the IRS targeting of conserative parties, the NSA spying on journalists and the American public, and the Travon Martin case, all of which make O'bama look bad, I will stop watching.

Yes I got the impression that Sorkin was saying, "Well if gets cancelled, I have given it an ending". Nothing wrong with that. I too want a 3rd Season.

Perhaps you missed Dantana's attack on the newscrew telling them that they fail to be objective because they like Obama. Will's RINO speech is spot on. By the way "liberal" is not a dirty word. Well only in a facists mind-set.

You forget that Dantana was the antagonist of the season. Your point would've been spot on if someone of any real relevance to the actual newscrew made that statement... someone like McKenzie.

I have a cable bundle that includes HBO, so I watch this show as background while working because it's already paid for. Some of the personal interactions...while sometimes over-the-top...are fun to watch. However, anyone thinking that the political elements are anything but Sorkin's liberal wet dream fantasies is just being delusional. Hilarious to hear Sorkin saying that his writing can be 'too earnest' and that 'none of the characters are cool'...when he gives them super-clever, rapid-fire dialogue and a smug, always-on-the-right-side demeanor. The worst omission was the lack of spontaneous clapping, cheering, and hugging when the re-election of Obama was called. It's bad enough that Sorkin portrays conservatives as soulless idiots (evidently Will is GOP simply because he likes military action...he should love Obama's drone strikes...and because he believes in free market solutions. Really? Everything else he mistakenly believes about Republicans marks him as a liberal fellow traveler). But does Sorkin really expect anyone to believe that the media newsroom is not dominated by liberals (the '15-year-old survey' he scoffed was amazingly out-of-date in that it far UNDERESTIMATED the number of rabid liberals in the media) or that they are unbiased? Sorkin is preaching to the choir, but is that sufficient reason to air the show despite HBO's perfectly obvious liberal agenda?

If "liberal" is not a dirty word with fascist connotations, then why have liberals adopted the oxymoronic designation as "progressives" (a misnomer to be sure...they would better be described as "destructives"). According to you (per Will), Republicans only believe in free markets & military. By that "logic", Democrats only believe in higher taxes, wealth redistribution, and no restrictions on behavior (except for imposing their own view of morality through coercion).

What "teared you up"? Will & Mac? That ending was telegraphed in Season One, Episode One. The only touching thing this season was Maggie's relationship with the little boy in Africa and her tragedy.

I freaking love this show. That's all. That and how will Will and McKenzie being married (if they get that far) affect the next season, which has already been confirmed? I can't really imagine how it'll make things more interesting to watch, but we'll see.

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