It’s disappointing that we’re 1/3 of our way into the final season of The Newsroom and we’re diving fast into so-so territory. There were things I liked about this episode, but there was a lot of disappointment. Like season 2, we’re taking a storyline influenced by real events (at this point, the Snowden leaks) to showcase something the ACN crowd is ultimately going to learn from and grow from as “good” journalists. Usually, in every episode we’re peppered with the covering of actual news events, or something of the like. We get hints of hot news topics sprinkled here and there in this episode, but we never actually hit the news, or any semblance of reporting on action. Things about this slightly different style worked, but a lot of it didn’t. We had vignettes of drama circling around and around until the big reveal of Neal on the run (and we knew from a mile away that’s what Will scribbled on the menu, which was a ridiculous move to begin with). Because we’re not concerned with actual journalistic activities (besides dealing with Neal), the pacing was off, even if moments in these dramatic vignettes were palatable.
The storyline I was glad to have end quickly was Hallie’s ill-fated tweet. They definitely dealt with her social media obsession quickly. It’s funny – I pegged her for being more sophisticated, and not naive, especially if she was on the campaign trail and responsibly reporting regularly. I had respect for her then, as a sort-of adversary to Jim. Somewhere between Romney and now she got dumbed down, enough so that her hyper-millenial obsession with the validity of social media bites her in the ass. I definitely didn’t feel sorry for her – if she wanted to make that joke, she definitely should’ve just done it on her own damn Twitter account. And again, you’d think from the way she was introduced to us she was smarter than that. But whatever. I’m glad she doesn’t have to be parading around the ACN newsroom anymore – she was cheap tension for the Jim-Maggie thing, if that’s still even a thing worth talking about. Her presence in the office weakened Jim some more. He’s not a bad character, or at least he wasn’t. After all the romance triangle crap, he’s become this shlub whose journalistic integrity I can’t even remember exists anymore. And it’s a shame, because he is a pretty good actor otherwise.
The other thing that didn’t play right to me – even though I knew it’d have some purpose later on – was Mac in the shooting range. I’m sorry, but that image of her is totally ridiculous. It’s like they’re trying to steer the complete other direction after her weird obsessive rant about wedding planning. What counters being high maintenance? Shooting a gun! Gosh. I also don’t buy that she’s just randomly good friends with this FBI agent, who then raids ACN. Their chemistry as friends is off, and I love that she has to ask for a friend (and literally for a friend) what would be the consequences of being in touch with a leaker. Too on the nose there, guys.
Maggie’s storyline this episode wasn’t that bad. It’s actually been better than it has for a long time. For the first time since season 2, I feel like Maggie’s been normal, productive, tolerable. No one’s worrying about her mental stability post-Africa, like they still were before they sent her off to Boston. She seemed like an almost different person, able to carry herself more confidently. Maybe that’s what being on camera does to you. Or a promotion. Whatever. She plays a smart, if not morally sneaky, move eavesdropping on an EPA employee (Toby from The Office) having an off-the-record discussion with a reporter friend about what’s going on and his opinion on the president. The eavesdropping itself was a touch ridiculous, but the dialogue that ensued with her and both the EPA rep and the Fordham law professor (what’s up, Rams) was wonderful and an amazing reminder to the audience that while Maggie is often a poorly written character, Alison Pill is a dramatic star. This is where she excels. She plays cool with the EPA guy, and spars nicely with the Fordham law professor. And she gets two little rewards from it – a possible date, and a story scoop. My only worry is that Fordham law is going to be trivialized to continue some weird Jim-Maggie tension. But maybe it won’t. You never know.
Now, I know the whole ACN maybe getting liquidated in 10 days thing is supposed to be important, but I found the whole board room meeting thing with Reese’s step-twins insufferable. Once they finally showed up, the twins just felt so much a plot device. I’m sorry, I don’t believe Kat Dennings as this vengeful business guru looking to take over a company. She plays the bitch just fine, but the back and forth sparring just became a snoozefest. I stopped caring what it is that they wanted to achieve, and it was clearly really about money and family tension. The best part about this is Jane Fonda’s Leona, and the only thing interesting about this is that they could win over the shares the twins have if they cough up $4 billion, which they unfortunately do not have. I wonder – does this mean the third season will only take place in the span of say 15-20 days, if we count the whole first week or whatever of the Boston Marathon bombings as episode 1, and this as literally the day after Neal drops the bomb on the leak?
Anyway, speaking of the leak, having Rebecca Halliday was a welcome surprise to deal with the aftermath of Neal’s leaked government documents. Marcia Gay Harden kills it in this role. The Mac and Will fighting over whether or not to cover the story thing got old, until everyone was in the room debating journalistic ethics and Will and Neal slipped away unnoticed. The moment Will and Neal shared in the studio was great – this was definitely a goodbye moment for these two, with Will acknowledging he used to never give much of a care about Neal’s existence. And even though he objected to Neal’s urge to report on the story, he was still willing to protect him, meaning somewhere deep down he knows it’s probably the right thing to do. This is the side of Will I enjoy, minus the weird make-Jenna-pass-a-secret-message-that-should-be-obvious thing. My only other objection? The FBI raid feeling way too much like a dramatic fantasy of what it’d be like to be caught in the act. It’s almost like we’re dishonoring what’s to come of this story. Clearly, Snowden is the influence. But to pre-empt the power of Snowden’s NSA leak to come (since they can’t rewrite history THAT much on this show) with a heavy-duty FBI raid of a news agency? Something about that just felt wrong. It’s definitely a move in the play for drama, if only to flavor the moments of Neal in a suit running away, smashing up is phone, and burning Will’s over-obvious advice note. Dev Patel played this role nicely here, even if it became too theatrical for the purpose of creating suspense.
Though this was definitely not as important, I save this for last because it’s the most enjoyable. I used to not care all that much for Don or Sloan as individuals. But ever since their romance has blossomed – from the flirtations in season 2 – they’ve definitely become the highlight of the show for me. Though their scenes focused on them as a couple out of the office, they were still thoroughly entertaining and funny. They’re both actually really funny together! Their strange callousness meshes nicely. They both have odd ways to responding to long term commitment, even if they both have a little bit of a heart underneath the front they put up. Sloan definitely won me over way more this week caring so much about her public appearance and, therefore, her celebrity. Bossing around Don about the buffet is such a fun and funny way to show her character and her strong holding in the relationship between her and Don. This is a fun way to play up the cute factor between a couple that works – it’s sappy without slapping you in the face with a heartwarming, tearjerker moment.
So, in the exploration of different moral-ethical challenges presented to our ensemble members, we find ourselves steering the drama towards an FBI investigation and a runaway story for the sake of righteous journalism. Will the FBI presence affect the potential Savannah Capital shares-buying and possible takeover of ACN? Will we follow the chase for Neal, if Will knows the source of the leak? Will Maggie go on that date and talk about climate change? Will ACN survive? How much of each of these questions do we really want to see answered over the course of the next 4 episodes? Till next week…