While I don’t think anyone reading this review would say they disliked either of the first two seasons of “The Newsroom,” I’m sure some would admit the second had more urgency to it. The first worked over various concepts, structures and characters, but found its footing in its sophomore season with the Genoa scandal plot thread. Now, though, with Neal on the run from the government and FBI agents taking over ACN terminals, events have reached a new level of dramatic intensity on Aaron Sorkin’s fast-moving drama.
It would be easy to throw the cliched tagline “This time it’s personal” on “Run,” the second episode of a shortened third season. It would be easy, but it wouldn’t necessarily be true. It’s not personal in the sense that Will McAvoy & Co. are trying to save Neal at all costs—despite Will and Rebecca trying at the onset—it’s that they’re trying to protect the story, or rather, tell it. What makes the action movie coda relevant and this season the most thrilling of all (assuming the Snowden parallel continues in such fashion) is Neal himself being in the middle of it. He hasn’t become the story any more than Glen Greenwald did with Snowden, but he is, aptly, just as much a part of it. So strap in, Sorkinites. We’re about to go for a ride.
Best Ping-Pong Dialogue
Sorkin has always been a fan of repeating himself, but it’s not always self-plagiarism. More often, it’s a writer’s device in which he uses the same word repeatedly in dialogue between two or more people to build tension or establish timing for the punchline. If you need an example, Seth Meyers illustrated this in a rather unfunny bit this week—one, say, worthy of the “Studio 60” crew?—but if you don’t want to waste the click, just imagine that the first two lines of the paragraph above were between two people instead of from one ramble-y writer.
This week’s episode featured a number of appealing exchanges, none of which were better than those between Don and Sloan. The first highlight came with a repetition of Don Keifer’s name of all things, when Don accused Sloan of avoiding commitment the same way he did with Maggie. (“I can’t believe I’m being Don Keifer’d.” “I would never Don Keifer you.”) This eventually lead to the episode’s funniest scene and one of its more, but not most, heartwarming. This dialogue—”I can’t use the stock tips,” and Sloan yells, “WELL THEN WHAT ABOUT THE SEX?”—was the funniest, while—”I’m not good at not being alone. it’s what I’m used to.” “Let me know if you want to get good at it.”—was almost the most charming. But more on that later.
Meta Sorkin-ism of the Week
This pick was an easy one: Maggie’s exchange with her very convenient ethics professor when he calls her out for speaking in a monologue. “Can I point something out to you?” asks the McPoyle brother from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” who’s somehow disguised himself as a “normal guy” but is given away by his inability to wear earbuds correctly. “You’re giving a monologue.” “I know,” Maggie responds. “Everyone does where I work.”
Setting aside my personal grievance against casting an actor so convincing on the FXX comedy he’s a bit too distracting as an Average Joe Train-rider here, the scene itself was brutally hard-to-watch, as are most scenes involving Maggie. I went over her odd transitions last week, and now this week she’s given the one scene in an otherwise stirring episode to elicit eye-rolls. There’s plenty to dislike about the morally-bankrupt practices of a supposedly-grown-up ACN producer, as well as the oblivious nature of Executive Producer Paul Lieberstein’s EPA agent, but it all can be summed up in what has to be the most dishonorable statement ever uttered by someone who’s seen, let alone imitated, the film “Rudy”: “You were off the record to him, not to me.”
In the “Things I Didn’t Know Before This Episode of ‘The Newsroom'” column, let’s go ahead and list the following:
- • You can’t go to a gun range alone.
- • This rule is in place to lower suicide risk at gun ranges.
- • Webster’s Dictionary expanded the definition of the word “literally” to include its commonly misused meaning. Doesn’t that go against the coda of what dictionaries represent?
- • You get the face you deserve, so be nice!
MVP (Most Valuable Performer): Jane Fonda
Jeff Daniels once said the scene in Season 2’s “Red Team III” when Jane Fonda set the room on fire (not literally) with an impassioned speech while high as a kite was the “Jane Fonda scene to beat all Jane Fonda scenes.” Not only was he right, but Fonda and her character Mrs. Lansing (don’t call her Leona!) has been exponentially enlivened since that moment. Her hot streak continued when she told off the twins this week, inspiring millions of the AARP crowd—probably the show’s biggest fan base—to chin up around a culture dominated by party-going Twitter users (AKA, what Sorkin seems to think of my generation).
Most Inspirational Quote:
“It’s my superstition. I never asked anyone else to do it.”
In a week packed with snarky humor and a few impassioned speeches, it was again Will McAvoy who left a mark. His forceful repetition of “Neal Sampat” as he left the studio was certainly the most heartwarming moment, but it was his speech introducing it that really hit home. Will spoke of how the staff never entered the studio by crossing the “threshold,” instead choosing to arrive and depart via a longer avenue out of respect for a tradition McAvoy began. “It’s my superstition,” McAvoy said. “I never asked anyone else to do it.”
That, however, isn’t necessarily true. Will may not have asked his staff to do this one very specific thing, but he did ask all of them to buy into the ideology he and Mac established from day one. And they have. Their choice to adhere to even this silly superstition shows how much they respect his integrity as well as the show’s.
Now, that inspired integrity may very well ruin Neal’s life. Will is feeling the weight of it, knowing even when he was arguing with Mac that his kids in “Camelot” would never betray the moral compass he helped build within each of them. Neal challenged Will because he knew Will was too attached to do the right thing. It’s a moving moment between the two of them when Neal is given orders to flee, but it’s even more inspiring that it was his choice to do so.