Happy New Year, viewers. It’s been a minute since this show ended. But I thought what better time to give this show a farewell than now?
The end portion of the season – other than me falling behind – went a lot of places since the very focused direction of the first two I had reviewed more in depth. There were definitely things that happened I did not expect, and maybe if given more time and space to let certain things breathe, things would have turned out differently. There were things I appreciated, but of course, tidying up some of the loose ends was maybe a little messier than I thought. Though the lead up to those final moments may have been a bit all over the map to me, those final minutes are why I appreciate the show. They know how to portray the art of putting on the news, and usually do so poetically. That’s why I couldn’t feel THAT frustrated when the last words I heard Will say were, “Good evening.” Classy sign-off, Sorkin.
So let’s dive through some of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The ugly? The Jim-Maggie love triangle-square thing. I was so over Hallie the minute she showed up as a staff member of ACN, and even more over her when she decided to write for faux news blog Carnivore. The minute she took a job with a competitor, it was easy to tell where the relationship was going. The Jim-Maggie thing was boring to me ever since he essentially screwed it up and didn’t immediately court her post-Don. Like, come on, dude. Do you really deserve her anymore at this point? I did wind up enjoying the banter between Maggie and Fordham Ethics Professor, but of course, you knew he was going to call out Maggie on her shit as well. The funniest moment of this, I will say, is seeing Jim in all Sochi Olympics gear when he and Maggie finally consummated their three-seasons-long otherwise unrequited romance on the plane from Russia to Havana. To threaten this romance again with the thought of Jim pushing for a field producer promotion maybe too soon was then super frustrating in the finale. They already had enough conflict. If you’re going to resolve, resolve. At this point, since we know the series is ending anyway, why do we need to throw in stakes like this? Anyway, I guess their love is going to be strong enough to withstand long distance. Blah, blah. This was definitely one of the worst love stories ever, if only because it dragged for so long and so much ridiculous stuff had to happen in between to make it happen.
Also bad? Don and the campus rape story. Now, maybe this is just because it’s a subject I can’t be objective on, and I could clearly see the ways they tried to dance around being as PC as possible, but it still just comes off wrong. It’s the first time Don’s been unlikeable to me since Season 1. Even with him justifying his argument to the Princeton girl that he’s really just trying to talk her out of wanting to do the segment, what he says to do so is essentially part of the problem. The smart thing the show did was avoid actually creating the scenario for them to cover the story on News Night. How they got to the point of dropping the story? Not so much.
This teeters between being good and bad, but the way we wrote off the document leak story felt like a punch in the face. I was really hoping this was the lead-in to Snowden, but I guess based on the story they uncovered that wouldn’t make sense. Needless to say, this just felt like a major hanging chad in so many ways. All the intrigue before Will’s appearance before the grand jury was definitely interesting. All the cards just conveniently stacked against Will and ACN when they realized where Neal has sought refuge, and with Will knowing the name of the source, and then the source seeking out Mac. I was really hoping they’d air the story, and I wasn’t even all that upset when they had to pull the plug to properly sell the network to Pruit. But they tried to pass it off to a trustworthy competitive journalist, then what? Clearly, nothing happened because 2 months later the source killed herself in front of the DOJ, and THAT’S what god Will out of jail. Aside from the scenario itself being a bit fantastical, this end result also feels fantastical. Plus, the scenes of Will in jail were kind of blah. The direction this story took totally nosedived and steered the last two episodes away in a way that just undid the cool work it was doing otherwise.
So what was really good about the season? I will say, though the second half fell victim to the Pruit takeover, I enjoyed how much of a stab the show was taking with what news reporting has become. It was a very clear commentary on “citizen journalism” and social media dictating the news at times. Sloan’s takedown of Neal’s replacement who designed this insane new app was brilliant and on point, and Mac even became likeable again with her fighting for her own dignity at work, sarcastically talking about what will make the news broadcast vs. the important news that’s being shoved to the wayside for ratings. Though one dimensional, BJ Novak was kind of a perfect pick for the prick-ish, slick, “millenial” owner of a media company. Charlie’s frustration in the fight against him was so perfect and passionate, and watching him succumb to Pruit to keep ACN afloat was heartbreaking. This was the last good battle for journalism the show could’ve fought, and though this fight was very short-lived (both in The Newsroom timeline of events and across episodes), it was effective in making a statement. From Jim criticizing Hallie for using their relationship as sensationalism to get pageviews to criticizing an app and Sloan protesting having Lady Gaga’s manager comment on her latest tweet, the hunger for righteous journalism is built up in the audience. And though the finale was super sentimental (I didn’t expect all the flashbacks to the first episode of Season 1 and the flash-around-the-flashbacks to how everyone got to where they were) we still felt the justice had in Will coming back to the show, and Mac being able to put on the broadcast she wants. Again, those final moments, unscored, with just the noise of the office bustling to put on News Night, punctuated the sincerity the cast has returned to in the news.
Other fun mentions to add? Sloan and Don’s relationship hiding from that HR person – though pointless in the end – was fun to watch, since these two are just simply a joy to watch on screen. Banter for a couple has never been more perfectly matched on this show than them. Mac and Will get their moments, too, as do Will and Charlie, but these two totally take the cake. Neal’s triumphant return was also – though a bit sappy – brilliant. It was totally appropos for him to shutdown Bree and his minions so swiftly and smartly.
Overall, the journey was a rocky ride for sure. I wish we spent more time on the grander message of fighting what’s been rising as the new journalism – maybe then the different stories covered throughout would feel more cohesive, and things would’ve tied together in the end much better. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied with the happy ending everyone else got on the show. I’m happy to close the book on The Newsroom. Good evening to you too.