Two episodes in, and we see more of the puzzle pieces come together in what has been established as the arc for this season: how did News Night blunder a story. This week’s episode showed all the little factors that contributed to the mess – it’s a butterfly effect of tricky journalism with repercussions across the board, and from unexpected places. Instead of following the same format as last week – flipping back and forth from flashback to current investigation, we watch the events play out in real time in the distant past, as we have before. Overall, the pace moved swiftly through major plot points that we know will start the runaway train to chase the Genoa tip given by crazy Cyrus West from last week (THANKS Dantana… -_-) There were a few dramatic hiccups that we maybe could’ve done without, but the news stories covered in this episode were powerful and show us that our recent past can still have so much relevance today.
The major plot points this week involve Neal and Occupy Wall Street, Don and the execution of Troy Davis, Dantana searching for a retired Eric Sweeney who was an operative in the supposed Genoa operation, and Maggie searching for her Africa story. These all directly deal with what we know results in the investigation launched last week.
For Neal and Occupy, he is at first teased for hitting a dead end with a story Mac didn’t take all that seriously at first. His character takes a major step from just the web guy to active character in what I can imagine will be covered in an upcoming broadcast by Will – perhaps in next week’s episode? He is at first disappointed when teased during a pitch meeting that a protest he tried to attend had low attendance. An intro video plays and the anonymous members of the News Night team crack jokes and commentary. Lo and behold, Neal’s Occupy contact that he met last week calls him down to Wall Street just in time for the first major Occupy protest. Equipped only with his phone, Neal attempts makeshift coverage in the field, only to be beaten and arrested. Even though his phone was confiscated and destroyed, he was smart enough to post to Ustream (loving the social media integration all throughout this ep) for Mac and Will to see. Considering the mood of the country today – still with frustration over the injustices within the justice system in place – the protest footage shown totally leaves a powerful impact, enough for Will to make a powerful speech revealing his inner feelings about said injustices at the police station when he petitions to void Neal’s arrest.
Now, earlier in the episode, we’ve watched Will try to stay levelheaded about his stance on stories and angles that are based more in advocacy than straightforward facts. As we know, journalists are supposed to report as unbiased as possible. We see this basic tenet get tested with Don, who shows himself as another thinning thread in the News Night universe. He is impassioned by the impending execution of Troy Davis (we’re rolling into September 2011 here) and wants to cover it, but it’s clear Don wants to spin it with advocacy, as Will put it. Don believes Troy’s innocence, and his bias in discussing the facts is very clear to Will at first. Don gets a tip and pushes to report it, even though the tip isn’t 100% confirmed. Foreshadowing on Genoa, anyone? Anyway, he and Charlie duke it out over whether to report now, or wait for the tip to confirm itself. Don fights for this hard, pushed more by his passion about his personal opinion on the story. Charlie keeps them out of dangerous waters for now by shutting down Don, and Don only gets his moment of sunshine to get the story reported minutes after the execution occurs. Cue in full blown Troy Davis news package.
Remember Maggie’s horrid hairdo of last week? We start to see the root at what brought her to that scarred place in this episode. Maggie – eager to be taken more seriously – researches and is pursuing a story on Africa. Even as I type that, I just hear Mac saying it’s not specific enough. Maggie confesses she wants to be the go-to person on a topic, and her chosen topic is Africa. She is looking for her angle. It shouldn’t be a real surprise that the person who tips her in the “right” direction is Dantana. (Damn you, Dantana!!!!) She starts looking into it – kinda cheesy that she gets a textbook about Africa, but whatever, then finally makes her pitch to Mac. Mac greenlights it – even though we know she’s skeptical (her judgment is very much tested this season it seems – and Maggie starts planning her trip. She tells her partner in crime, and even though he reports ominous reports in Compala – exactly where Maggie wants to head – her overeager brain goes, “We’re still going. Don’t tell Mac.” That smells like trouble.
The last major development? Dantana. He mentions to Mac the “big tip” from Cyrus. She is rightfully skeptical. Dantana, still looking to make his mark, digs at Mac – he asks if he were Jim whether she’d take him more seriously. After being called out, Mac lets Dantana indulge. He goes on a wild goose chase for a mysterious retired officer Eric Sweeney. He even makes a joke with someone on the phone, “Yeah, I know, it’s a common last name.” Sound fishy? Does to me! He goes on and on, and finally we get the clincher at the end – he found his guy. They go on speakerphone and he says everything Dantana wanted to hear. (He also sounds too young to be “retired” but whatever) Mac almost looks shocked as she hears the source confirm the suspicions from the tip, but since they have someone claiming, she allows it. And therein lies the beginning of this particular end.
A couple odds and ends:
-So the 9/11 10-year anniversary broadcast happens. We get a nice nostalgic view of what Will once was in ACN – some tech guys pull up footage from Will’s broadcast on 9/11. It makes Will pretty nostalgic too, and he is more visibly upset about being pulled from the broadcast – the repercussions of him actually proclaiming his personal opinion. (No wonder he’s trying to get everyone else to check themselves!) Will tries to play it off like he made the decision himself to step down from the broadcast, to save face with Sloan. But it’s later revealed that Charlie was up to it. Aside from that, we also see Will’s bruised ego continue to spiral download, with Google searches of hate opinions on him. He even reads it from the news desk! Oy vey.
-I kinda hoped that last week resolved the issue enough with the Maggie-Don breakup. But no, we have a kind of ridiculous adventure for Maggie’s pursuit to get the infamous Youtube rant taken down. Stalking on Four Square with someone who clearly doesn’t watch the news so she doesn’t recognize Sloan? Okay. Bit of a stretch there. The friend break-up was also pretty meh, but I guess it sets the stage of motivation for Maggie to just get herself out and in the field and pick up her life and walk away from these upsetting problems. I did enjoy Maggie and Sloan’s chemistry together, though.
-And Jim is on the road with Romney! What I appreciated here was seeing ACN’s news competitors at work. It’s also a nice comedic break with the head of the Romney press van digging at Jim every chance he can get. Although I’m not sure I’m feelin Meryl Streep’s daughter’s character. She’s also nearby and eavesdropping. I mean, she WAS the gateway for Jim to even get ON the press bus. It makes me wonder what’s her real motivation? She clearly knows who he works for. New love interest since now Lisa broke up with him? My hope here is that Jim gets something good while he’s on the road and it puts his career in a slightly different path when he returns.
Overall, there were, as I said, a few things I could’ve done without in this episode. But the intrigue is there. Even though all of the internet is saying where the Genoa story is inspired from, I want to see how this event is affecting everyone, and what it means for them. Are we going to see Maggie on the road in Africa? How’s Jim going to react when that happens? How far down the rabbit hole are we gonna get with Dantana? Till next week…