On the Frontlines:
After Election Night, Part I, I had little hope The Newsroom would come up with a strong final effort to show why it deserves viewers attention for a third season. For an episode that was supposed to chronicle the rest of election night, the second act was a surprising departure from the messy first entry. With petitions calling for Will and Charlie to resign and the rising sentiment in the newsroom that ACN has lost the trust of its viewers, the episode was set to resolve the Genoa fallout once and for all. As expected, Sorkin settles the tab.
“We are not resigning,” Charlie empathically tells Will. “Are we out of our fucking minds?” And with that Charlie Skinner finally comes to his senses. I thought this latest take was The Newsroom’s strongest job of measuring the Genoa fallout, particularly in dealing with situations where there isn’t always a right answer. Whereas most people tend to view the media as an attack dog, constantly looking for its next victim to “screw over,” Sorkin consciously tries to convey that the people within his newsroom have a moral obligation to do everything in their power to serve their audience.
Will’s crew has been an outstanding embodiment of the effort it takes to do things the right way. However the process of rehabilitating ACN’s image is where Sorkin’s patented romanticism gets in the way of reality. From the top down, respect, egos and the almighty dollar are on the line. Can we really expect an entire senior staff to quit their jobs on principle? In this economy no less? No, probably not. But The Newsroom carries on, finding out that the people upstairs are just that: people.
The Newsroom survived a rocky season by getting back to what it has done well before, intertwining news and pleasure, work and private life. Reese and Leona could easily have pulled the plug on News Night, ending Charlie’s distinguished career and leaving the senior staff with a difficult, career-changing decision to make. Instead, their vigilance in the newsroom is rewarded. It wasn’t overly smart or sexy, but in the end everyone seemed to get exactly what they wanted. Especially Don. “I want to keep doing the news,” he says.
We waited and waited for Will and Mac to finally embrace each other physically. Who would have expected it to suddenly get sprung on us with half an hour left in the season? Will’s flustered proposal was a bright spot in the episode but a little build up would have been nice.
Most of season two was spent ignoring the relationships that made the characters something other than people who always got the news right in season one. If you take away Jim’s Skype sessions with Hallie Shea and Will’s brief fling with Nina Howard, our heat check turned into nothing more than hot air. That’s fine, considering much of the criticism thrown Sorkin’s way was directed at how he chose to deliver old news. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Genoa and Africa arcs took up a good chunk of the season, but I’m surprised Sorkin stuffed the meat of those arcs into essentially three episodes. It left him with a tough decision. At the time of writing this episode, The Newsroom was anything but safe. Still, despite its stars claiming season three is a definite go, HBO is mum about whether Sorkin will be back. Was igniting the spark between Sloan and Don, fixing Maggie’s broken friendship, Jim continuing to spit his game and the inevitable Will and Mac proposal a way of Sorkin making his peace with his passion project?
I’m not sure that the episode was as much of a byproduct of the show’s uncertain future as it was Sorkin taking the easy road — tying together two seasons of storylines with a pretty little red bow and giving the audience closure. It was a nice way to end one of the better episodes of the season, if for no other reason then people really like happy endings.
My prediction is Sorkin and the crew will return for season three to take another crack at getting this thing to where it can be. I suspect that ending the season in this fashion was a calculated move on Sorkin’s part as he now has the chance to re-evaluate The Newsroom and take it in any direction. With everything falling neatly into place, Sorkin made the smartest move possible by setting up season three with the potential to recommit to the relationships that helped move along season one.
More power to the people, Sorkin!