Where to begin? As is now the standard for all season openers in “The Newsroom” (and most TV in general), Episode 1 put in motion more than enough plot points to get us through the six-episode final season (five after tonight). ACN is in the middle of a hostile takeover they’re ill-prepared to fend off. Why? Because “News Night with Will McAvoy” has dropped from second to fourth place in viewers, despite the team’s redoubled efforts to do the news well (many, by the way, may see this as a coded message for why “The Newsroom” is ending so soon, since people simply aren’t watching).
Reese (Chris Messina) wouldn’t even know about the shares being taken out from underneath him without Sloan’s (Olivia Munn) fancy new data tracking system. She, meanwhile, is still in a relationship with Don (Thomas Sadoski), though it doesn’t appear to be defined as anything specific.
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Most importantly, though, Neal (Dev Patel) is in serious trouble after becoming an unwitting accomplice to the cyber-theft of documents relating to national security, and Will (Jeff Daniels) is threatening to quit the show because he hasn’t gained back the trust of the public (or at least their interest). These final two threads will make or break Season 3, along with Will and Mac’s (Emily Mortimer) upcoming nuptials. But after one episode, it certainly seems like they’re building something grand.
Meta Sorkin-ism of the Week
Aaron Sorkin has never been one to change with the times, and that’s part of the reason we love his work. His Season 1 assertions that not all news stories have two sides also apply to Sorkin’s agenda for the show itself. Some opinions are just wrong, and instead of bending his will to court critics (and viewers), he will persevere with his mission to civilize.
In doing so, he often brings up off-screen issues or references himself within the context of the narrative. In other words, Sorkin gets meta. Episode 1 examples include the aforementioned jab at his own redundancy (graph seven) and an off-handed mention of Brian Williams as a possible groomsman for Will (Williams is a known fan of the show and met with Daniels when he was researching the role). But the crown jewel came when Don and Jim broke down the search for the Boston bombers improperly conducted by Reddit and Twitter.
Used as a means to illustrate the need for accredited news organizations — and specifically Will McAvoy — the whiteboard illustration of the internet’s failings was thorough, focused and effective. The lesson sure as hell made me side with the ACN crew in their frustration with “citizen journalists,” but it also served as a reminder of the fallout Sorkin faced after mocking the internet in general during Season 1. Will’s dismissal of social media, quest to fix the internet and blind eye to his own blog didn’t sit well with the critics who largely existed online in 2012. Seeing it as a continued attack on the internet’s evils by Sorkin was hard to avoid, considering he touched on it during “The West Wing” as well as “Studio 60” before digging in deep for “The Social Network.” Now he’s back at it.
Sorkin — who famously joined and then quit Twitter quite quickly — isn’t backing down on his stance, fighting back against the angry mob even when they are the populace voice of today (voice your opinion in the comments section below, or on Twitter!). Whether it’s a warning worthy of the lofty goals set by Sorkin himself or an unnecessary dig at a community altogether capable of policing itself is up to you. Either way, we want to hear from you (even if Sorkin doesn’t, at least on Twitter, anyway).
Many critics of “The Newsroom” claim episodes aren’t exciting because the most exciting parts — the news stories — are two or three years old. Well, first of all, the breaking news is only about 18 months old in Season 3, and secondly anyone making that criticism probably also thinks that the personal tales of the ACN crew undermine rather than emphasize the dramatic plot points of the series. In other words, we loyal McAvoyians know better.
Yet what’s also intriguing from episode-to-episode is the analysis of the news being covered. Usually, there’s a lesson — moral or professional — to be learned from Sorkin’s in-depth breakdown of recent true-to-life events, and that’s what we’ll be looking at in this section with a half-ironic, half-sincere title. In “Boston,” for instance, I learned journalists should be working together as a team, supporting one another in good times and in bad because they’re working for the same goal — a well-informed electorate. It may not be as revelatory as the mistake by CNN, for anyone who didn’t already know, but it leads me to recommending our blog’s review of “The Newsroom,” located over at The Playlist, rather then secretly harboring a jealousy of their traffic. Yes, I am the kid at the end of “Camelot.”
MVP (Most Valuable Performer):
Jeff Daniels seems like an easy pick to make every week in this category, considering he’s the lead of the show, but he earned the title on numerous fronts with his multi-faceted take on a news anchor still recovering from the worst moment of his career. Cynics may claim Will’s sudden inability to audibly emote was a writer’s choice. It’s means to provide Mac with some credibility, without losing her tendency to fall apart under pressure. “She can’t be the silly one anymore because she’s a woman and the Internet? Well, let’s make Will do it.”
But it’s more in line with the writing — you know, what’s actually depicted on screen, rather than made up in some pessimist’s head? — to believe that Will still hasn’t recovered from the public humiliation of Genoa. He’s flustered and needed proper motivation to get his mojo back. Daniels, who’s always walked the very thin line between focused idealist and romantic dreamer with impeccable grace, does it again under new circumstances here. He’s not giving up, and that’s exactly what we all needed to hear.
Most Inspirational Quote:
“It’s not the beginning of the third act. It’s the end of the first.”
With these closing words from Will McAvoy, “The Newsroom” did one of two things for fans. It either a) energized viewers hungry for a strong final year with the ACN crew, by reminding them there’s far more to come than just saying goodbye, or b) it left fans wondering why there needs to be a goodbye at all. If the first two seasons were just warm-up for the third, why not have a fourth and fifth season as well? It certainly doesn’t feel like anyone is slowing down, with each season being better than the one preceding it.
In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Sorkin said these may be his last six episodes of television ever. While I believe I can speak for most of the TV audience — certainly anyone who still loves “The West Wing” — when I say this is a sad and hopefully presumptuous statement, it’s also curious he considers himself to have had “more failure […] than success” in the medium. He said ending the show after the third season was his choice, and in no way a response to critics. That’s hard to believe, given how long “The West Wing” ran and knowing Sorkin’s testy relationship with criticism. Whether or not the finale that began tonight was Sorkin’s decision, the final speech by Will — and the first he was able to get right in the episode — notes that “The Newsroom” will be going out on its own terms. What more could fans ask for than that?