“The Newsroom”: S2E5 Review

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

An odd episode, this one.  It's title? "News Night With Will McAvoy".  Hmmm.  That's pretty on the nose.

Unlike most recent Newsroom episodes, this one did not jump around in time with flash forwards and flash backwards.  In fact, this episode took place in real time — the 50 minutes of the newcast on April 23, 2012.  We've jumped six months ahead now.

The whole old gang is back.  Gone is Halley on the Romney bus.  Gone is Danny Fantana, filling in for Jim.  That's because Jim is back, as is Maggie and Gary Cooper from their Africa trip.  They have all been back a while.

Maggie is back at her desk.  It's a little odd because, even though it is six months after her Africa trip, her hair isn’t cut short and died red. Was that not a direct response to her Africa trip, as in it happened right after? Anyway, Maggie seems to be coping fine until she starts tearing into Jim about Hallie’s diatribe about Sandra Fluke’s treatment by Rush Limbaugh, which was picked up on the Huffington Post, where it’s ironically ranked behind the latest nip slips and side boob articles. Fair enough, but then Maggie segues into a defense of sluts saying that the country is divided into people who like sex (sluts), and those who are creeped out by it (Limbaugh, et al), and the small percentage of the latter should leave the majority in the former alone. Jim then tells Maggie that she should switch to vodka so her breath doesn’t smell so drunkenly. Oh boy. Maggie later makes the same famous mistake with the George Zimmerman 911 tape that MSNBC made: cutting the tape so that the 911 caller's question is missing.  (For those who don't remember, it was the 911 caller who asked aboutr Trayvon Martin's race; Zimmerman did not voluntarily raise the subject).

Another development involved Sloan, still The Newsroom‘s best written female character, now completely ruined by the online publication of naked pictures that were taken by an ex-boyfriend.  Reese is in a tizzy, Charlie is defensive and Sloan just seems destroyed, and naturally the only way she can feel better is to let a man take care of her, in this case, Don.  Don had his own fish to fry: Don had spoken on the phone to someone named Phil Adams, who Don cheerfully describes as well connected in the acute caucus of the mental patient wing of exotic disorders extreme of the GOP. Don joked to Phil that he thought a man named Simon Weingarten would easily pass a confirmation hearing as Solicitor General so long as he never gave a speech to the Righteous Daughter’s of Jihadi Excellence. This was naturally leaked to a website called World Net Daily, who consider Don’s joke to be a legitimate tip.

Don’s absurd journey to the belly of internet journalism inspires Sloan, who visits her ex at the offices of AIG, kicks him the nuts and socks him in the face getting righteous payback, with Don at her side as protective wingman.  It gelt good to watch, although it seems out of character.

At the newsdesk, Will is dealing with his ego on two levels.  First, before he goes on the air, he gets a phone call from his dad.  He can't take the call.  Second, Neil keeps informing Will about some woman who tweeted how rude he (Will) was earlier that day, and Will cannot stand this (even though he doesn't know the woman).  During a commercial break, Will leanrs that his father had suffered a heart attack, but the damage might not be that bad. Mackenzie encourages Will to call back and leave a message as a way to start to mend fences with his father. Encouraging eventually becomes nagging, and finally Mac breaks Will down and has him call his father and leave a message. In between raking Newt Gingrich supporters over the coals and covering the news of the day, Will learns that his father has passed away. Coming back from the final break in the show, Will seems frozen, and after some serious prodding from Mackenzie, he looks into the camera and says cryptically, “Well, I guess it’s just us now…”

Mackenzie also deals with a Rutgers student who intends to come outof the closet on News Night.  The student is there to talk about Tyler Clementi, who he knew a little bit.  Mackenzie explains that a news program shouldn’t be used by someone wanting to make their personal life entertainment, and that doing so is to "use" Tyler Clementi in the same way his exploiters did.  I wasn't entirely convinced by Mackenzie's argument.

And finally, it wouldn't be Season 2 if we didn't have a little Genoa.  

Charlie is visited by a man named Shep Pressman from the Office of Naval Intelligence and he knows that Jerry Dantana’s been sniffing around about Operation: Genoa. Shep warns Charlie that the story will have a negative effect on people whose help he’s going to need on future stories. He then poses a hypothetical: what if Charlie’s son had been a marine, would Charlie not want his child to be rescued by any means necessary, including the use of poison gas? And really, who takes the Geneva Convention seriously anymore anyway?

Before leaving Shep leaves a piece of paper behind that we learn is the manifest for a helicopter mission. As Mackenzie notes upon seeing it, it’s the first scrap of paper that they (and we) have seen with the actual words “Operation: Genoa” on it. Charlie notes the odd reference to the chopper carrying “MX76,” which his military sources identify as completely made up. Charlie recalls back to his days in a college acapella band called the “Whisky Sodas” and how they’d buy weed with group funds, but write “chicken” in the group ledger to expense it when they got back. Charlie’s now been convinced that Genoa is real, but the question is, just how much validity is out there, and from how many official sources, for what we know is a fake news story?

There one thing I noted about this episode was that Sorkin seemed to take great pains to left-bash.  Outrage about Sandra Fluke being overblown.  People exploiting the suicide of a gay student.  Journalistic screwups which show bias against George Zimmerman.  It seems Sorkin was stung by criticism that he leans left too much, and so, like Will, he takes some potshots to show his "unbiased" cred.