The Newsroom: Willie Pete, Review

The Newsroom redeems itself, pulls it all together after what might have been the weakest episode last week.

Sorkin Watch:

I couldn’t help but think of a famous Jeff Daniels quote after dishing out my first one star review last week and witnessing this Sunday’s rebirth of Aaron Sorkin’s newsroom.

“Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!”

The ratings held steady after the strong premiere episode, however I’m curious to see if The Newsroom will see a drop off after a disappointing second episode. I can make the case that it was the worst episode of the series to date. Curiously enough, the latest installment of The Newsroom, “Willie Pete,” was the series’ most cohesive episode, ably refocusing to develop the key plot points that were hastily introduced last week.

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On the Frontlines:  

It’s no secret that Sorkin leans left. Just look at the idealistic fantasy of news coverage his newsroom tries to project on its colleagues, rivals and viewers. In “Willie Pete” not only is Will’s self-righteous “mission to civilize” taken to an extraordinary new level, but also it rubs off on Jim, who fails in three weeks of political reporting to understand that politics is one big charade.

Will is, in essence, supposed to be this tried and true Republican, a former Bush 43 speechwriter whose gifted law skills have allowed him to do what every journalist dreams of: making those in charge accountable for their actions. Will can be that guy but he’ll have to lean left as Sorkin dreams of loftier ambitions for his main character. This starts in the episode with Will’s commentary on a 2011 Republican primary debate in which crowd members booed a soldier who asked a question about gay rights in the military. Will gets as fired up as we’ve ever seen him, wondering aloud whether the candidates should have addressed the issue and promising that the boo birds would soon “be in hell, but not soon enough.” 

A bitter Will continues on this path of redemption in the wake of his “American Taliban” comments that are still causing issues. He even challenges Charlie, claiming that they can be “decent.” The Newsroom was more than decent on Sunday and you have to give Sorkin credit for sticking with his game plan. After overwhelming us with a mother load of interesting scenarios to be played out during the season, Sorkin honed in on what he does best, creating dialogue that is fast-paced and witty while committing his characters to find an emotional connection with each other.

Nowhere is that more evident than between Will and Mac, who don’t seem all that far off from engaging in something other than a heated work discussion. Once again there to thwart any sparks is Nina Howard, who easily buys into Will’s “mission,” and his pants. We’ll sort out those juicy details in the next section.

As the title suggests, Jim remains on the frontlines of the Romney campaign and what seemed like a bleak, hopeless dead end has fruitfully evolved into one of the more promising plot points. Jim carries out the mission to be “decent” by pushing the Romney campaign advisors on specifics of the former Massachusetts governor’s plans for the White House. He then leads a rebellion of journalists – one that would surely get a few people fired in the real world – to fight the good fight and cover a campaign the way God intended them to do it, alone, without the comfort of free turkey sandwiches and a cushy Mitt approved tour bus.

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The good news is Hallie, easily the most annoying person in episodes one and two, has lightened up and could be the next Jim Harper groupie. After the hero stunt he pulled on the tour bus, Jim proved that he has balls, big ones to be specific. We’ll see where that gets him.

Finally, we get to the big Jerry Dantana scoop that Mac and Charlie are rightfully hesitant on. “Whistle blowers can be patriots,” Jerry points out. The scoop wasn’t a major focus until toward the end of the episode, but we got enough little snippets to realize this is going to be something that rocks the newsroom. Jerry has kind of just been doing his own thing quietly, whereas when Jim was doing his own thing last season and somehow still commanding everyone’s attention. I think Jerry will eventually become a necessary part of Will’s “mission,” though for now it’s Jim who is showing that he has what it takes to help The Newsroom find its balance in news coverage, as well as theatrics.

Heat Check:

Mac still wants to hear the “I’m not just saying this because I’m high” voicemail. She wants to hear it so bad that she’s brought it up everyday for two months. The anticipation just continues to build for when Will and Mac inevitably give up their past squabbles and embrace the feelings they have for each other. I can’t image Nina Howard getting in the way of that for too long.


Don showing signs of having a crush on Sloan as he enters that gushy post-relationship period where you think every little open door can lead you somewhere promising. I like the idea of Don/Sloan eventually but it’s too soon. Think of poor Maggie!

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I tried to get #FreeJimHarper trending last week to no avail. He’s now freed from the shackles of the unresponsive Romney campaign and he’s possibly found a potential love interest that could take the sting of out the Maggie rejection. Win-win.


You have totally redeemed yourself, The Newsroom. Now that he seems to have figured out a formula for success, can Sorkin build off this episode and keep the show flowing just right?


Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars


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4 out of 5