Oh, Aaron. You got me.
Here I was thinking you were writing a terrible season about some silly journalism scandal while avoiding the relationships of the charactors in HBO's The Newsroom, and it turns out that the silly journalism scandal was a metaphor for how the charactors fail to connect.
Well, needless to say, the finale of Season Two of The Newsroom came as a bit of a surprise.
It was the second part of a two-part episode — both parts taking place on Election Night 2012. While this kept everybody busy, the actual election held no suspense at all. Everyone (except Romney) knew that Obama would be re-elected. Everyone knew Republicans would hold the House and Democrats would hold the Senate. The suspense in the episode came from Jerry Dantana's pending lawsuit, to be filed in court the next morning, and thereby publically expose all the supposed unprofessionalism of ACN's NewsNight staff.
To stave off the lawsuit's damage, as well as to give credibility back to the network that reported falsely that the U.S military used sarin gas in a rescue operation, Charlie, Will and Mackenzie are trying to convince ACN owner Liona (Jane Fonda) to accept their resignations. She won't, in part because she's high as a kite, and in part because — who would have thunk it — she actually loves NewsNight.
I of course, harken back to my last review, in which I chastized the whole premise. Like the character of Don Keefer, I have to ask: what exactly did NewsNight do wrong? They had a story that the U.S. military used sarin gas. They got seven different sources. But the clincher — the retired lieutenant colonial who admitted using it — that tape was doctored by Jerry Dantana, who was immediately fired. And now he's suing for wrongful termination? And everyone is worried about what the lawsuit will expose? Does that even make sense?
It certainly doesn't to Don, who is much more likeable this season, and who does another wonderful rant at how stupid things have become because of the ease of which idiots can sue. Shower cap warnings that say "To be used on one head" or warnings on irons which say "Do not iron clothes while wearing them". He wonders how people who generate these lawsuits aren't laughed out of court. Just like Jerry Dantana's.
Finally, by the end of the episode, everyone seems to have the same epiphany. Charlie withdraws is resignation (which doesn't matter because even Reese thinks the lawsuit should be fought).
And even though Mackenzie still thinks she is to blame for the whole Genoa debacle (she was, after all, executive producer), Will says out loud, "She did everything right except for what she did wrong."
What he just said causes him to stop in his tracks.
She did everything right except for what she did wrong. So why should she be punished?
Will realizes that applies not only to Genoa, but to Mackenzie's cheating — which he has not been able to forgive her, even six years later. He's been torturing her, and yes, she did wrong — but she did everything right about what she did wrong.
The episode ends up with the sweetest, most awkward, marriage proposal that only Aaron Sorkin could write, pulled off wonderfully by Jeff Daniels. She says yes, of course.
And finally, Sloan Sabbith overcomes her unnecessary awkwardness around men. Her dilemna for the evening was that she donated a signed copy of her academic book for Sandy relief, a dry tome about the post-war economic recovery in Germany. The book sold at auction for $1,000, which surprised Sloan, in part because she never signed it. She gets Neil to track down who bought it, but all he discovers is that someone used names of characters from movies like The Sweet Smell of Success and The Secret Garden to drive up bids for Ms. Sabbith’s boring economics book – ostensibly to save her from the embarrassment of no one wanting to buy it.
Cut to Sloan in Don Keefer’s office a while later, when she realizes that he’s got a Sweet Smell poster on his wall… and this is when Sloan gets awesome. Sloan marches into the control room, signs the book she found in Keefer’s possession, kisses him full on the mouth in front of everyone, slaps the book against his chest and sashays on outta there with a contented smile on her lips. It. Is. Fantastic. When Don recovers, he calls out, “What I have can’t be taught!” but Mac hushes him up and demands that everyone get back to work.
This really was Sloan and Don's season.
So you have Will and Mackenzie, Sloan and Don. And it works. Jim has his long-distance Skype relationship with Hallie, but he also had a chance run-in with Lisa, his ex-girlfriend and Maggie's roommate. He learns that Lisa and Maggie haven't talked for over a year, despite being roommates, and he's concerned about Maggie's hair. If she got a shitty haircut, that's one thing. But if she cut off her own hair — well, that's the behavior of someone experiencing trauma. Lisa confirms that Maggie's hair was on the bathroom floor lo those many months ago. Jim and Lisa take steps to help Maggie heal, if only by assuring her that she is brave, rather than a brave wannabe.
There is a theme running through all the events of the season closer, and Charlie hits on it when he has his change of heart about his resignation. Using the assertion of popular author Jedidiah Purdy and his book, “For Common Things”, Charlie Skinner made the case that ACN’s principled execs were committing noble professional suicide when it wasn’t necessary. Charlie says: “He (Purdy) talks about cynical times. People having terminal irony with a steady refusal to hope and care openly. Sound like us?”
And it's at that point in the episode where Will finds Mackenzie, Sloan finds Don, Jim and Lisa being to address the pained Maggie, and a ray of light breaks through what has been a rather bleak newsroom.
"Hope and care openly." That's the note that Season Two left us on. And it wasn't a bad one at all.