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Review: ‘The Newsroom’ Season 3 Episode 3, ‘Main Justice,’ Questions Authority

Review: 'The Newsroom' Season 3 Episode 3, 'Main Justice,' Questions Authority

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Well? Is Will not as big of a TV star as he thought? The answer to the question preceding tonight’s hard-out certainly seems to be “yes,” even after an episode built around the premise that he was too big to jail and his network was too relevant to piss off. “Main Justice” started right where we left off last week, with the ACN offices being raided and the reporters hesitant to assist with the investigation. Well, the reporters who weren’t Jim, who offered to provide his password to the desktop, and Will, who was just trying to make peace. Why? Because it seems he really thought that’s all it would take.

In “Run,” an episode some have called the best of the series (though these people forgot or didn’t see “We Just Decided To,” “Red Team III” or “Election Night: Part II”), Will told Neal, before he fled, to give up his source because the government would have a hard time coming after someone of his stature. Whether Will believed that statement was in question, as he could have merely been telling that to Neal to shield him from the FBI, but as we saw this week, Mr. McAvoy very much believed his star power would save him. 

I wasn’t in love with this storyline, if only because it bleeds both ways. As a viewer, we all knew Will was going to get called out for knowing the source, if only because they said he wouldn’t be so many times. Sorkin’s repetitious writing technique tipped his hand, and the closing kicker came as no surprise to anyone who’s seen more than an episode of TV in their lives. From this writer’s perspective, it read as a willfully (pun intended) arrogant action on the part of our hero, a man who literally screams affability yet chose to ride his high horse to hell here anyway. It’s simply not in line with his character. Mackenzie says to her fiance after learning he really did learn the source’s name that it sounded like something she would do. Too bad the plan didn’t line up with any of the characters.

Best Ping-Pong Dialogue

From the scene pictured above:

Charlie: “We’re going to love his ideas…”
Will: “Sure.”
“…Saturday night at the Correspondents’ Dinner.”
“We’re not going to the Correspondents’ Dinner.”
“We are now.”
“I can’t.”
“The Justice Department is Friday night, and the Correspondents’ Dinner is Saturday.”
Mac: “We can’t go because last year he railed against the Correspondents’ Dinner, and said we’d no longer be going.”
Charlie: “Where?” 
Will: “To the Correspondents’ Dinner.”
“Where did you rail against them?”
“On TV!”
“What network?”
“This one. My show.”
“I think I remember now.”

Ping-Pong Ball Word or Phrase: You guessed it, “Correspondents’ Dinner.”

Meta Sorkin-ism of the Week

This week’s instance of Sorkin inserting himself into the show actually comes through one of “The Newsroom’s” young couples, Jim and Hallie. When Hallie comes home to Jim with a job offer, he balks at the idea she’ll be getting paid incentives if her stories reach a certain number of page views. It’s becoming an increasingly popular practice at news sites looking to cut expenses without losing profit (aka, paying reporters less or nothing unless what they report gains significant traction), and Sorkin certainly makes his feelings clear via his youth proxy, Jim.

Sure, Hallie puts up a fight and Jim is thrown in the dog house by the end of it—this couple, in case you haven’t known all along, is doomed—but it’s not because Jim was wrong. It’s because Jim was insensitive to his girlfriend while sharing his very valid beliefs. He crossed a line when he thought she was going to rat out Neal and other ACN employees, but he also shouldn’t have disrespected her integrity as a reporter by assuming she’d give into clickbait. He only got in trouble for the former transgression, and was later warned by Maggie to be blindly happy for his beau next time. 

What makes this C-plot about Sorkin, rather than just written by him, is his widely-known disdain for the internet. In the first episode of this season, he walked us through how online “investigative reporting” fucked up the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Here, he’s drawing another line in the sand between television reporters and internet flunkies. Without outside knowledge of Sorkin, it may not have been meta (though anyone watching Season 3 would certainly notice a pattern). But thanks to the worrisome gender logic, it’s still a mishandled message. 

Breaking News:

Okay, let’s talk about the world ending. First, I’m fairly certain Aaron Sorkin and executive producer Paul Lieberstein (who played Deputy Assistant Admin. Richard Westbrook) wouldn’t air something like that if it wasn’t mostly true. They’ve never consciously lied to us before, and I don’t think they’d start now. That being said, I am by no means a climate change expert, and I’m not going to pretend to be one by researching a bunch of various websites for validation as to Westbrook’s claims. What I can promise you is that this scene will spark as much conversation in the real world as it did in the fictional one inhabited by Will, Mac and the rest of the ACN crew. As soon as those conversations start to happen, I will update this posting with links to relevant websites and experts. As for now, please consult the EPA’s official, real website for more information about how we can save the planet—or at least prepare for post-apocalyptic society.

So far this week, I’ve only spotted one breakdown of the above “report,” but it sure is thorough. Mother Jones, a nonprofit news service, has a story from James West, a senior producer for the Climate Desk, breaking down each aspect of Westbrook’s statements and explaining them in more detail. It’s a fun read for something so terrifying, even if it does calm you down a bit from the show. 

MVP (Most Valuable Performer): Thomas Sadoski

It’s not easy to act like you’re lying, let alone pretend that you’re not. Sadoski, as the ever-improving Don Keefer, pulled off both this week with as much aplomb as the week prior when he was given much juicier material to work with (and more time). The Don/Sloan relationship is just one more thing that threatens to break up the ACN crew—in addition to the pending sale and ongoing federal investigation—and I believe Keith Powell’s HR rep Wyatt when he says he’s going to “nail” them. He will, but the consequences are still to be seen (I imagine the two will decide they’d rather be together than work together just as they’re told one has to go work in D.C.). So far, Sadoski and Olivia Munn have made this tertiary storyline more fun than it needs to be. It holds us captive even while waiting for much more pressing matters to develop.

Most Inspirational Quote:

“I fucking hated losing to Nebraska.”
“I would’ve thought you’d gotten used to it.”

Though I doubt this pushed Assistant Attorney General Lazenthal over the edge, resulting in Will’s grand jury subpoena, it certainly was a wise-ass remark from a man full of them. Though not quite inspirational, Will’s rebuttal is certainly worth chewing on, if only because it exposes my issues with “Main Justice.” First and foremost, it stems back to Will’s misplaced attitude in this episode (which we’ve already covered), but it also shows an uncharacteristic lack of research on the part of the writers. 

Nebraska and Texas A&M are not rivals. Sure, the two schools sport prominent college football programs and exist in what’s hideously labeled “the fly-over states” by snobby East and West Coasters. But they don’t have a rivalry, and more importantly, the two teams haven’t faced each other four times in four years—as the Assistant Attorney General states—and only once played four times in one decade. That decade was from 2000-2009, an era during which I doubt either of these men could have thrown a football, let alone played in full pads. 

The point is, it never happened, and it was a lazy association to make by the writers to assume it did. We know Will is a “Nebraska boy” from previous episodes, but Lazenthal could have attended any one of the current Big Ten school’s rival institutions, just as Will didn’t have to to so pompously assume he’d be safe from prosecution and Jim didn’t need to so arrogantly misread a simple situation with his girlfriend.

Many critics of “The Newsroom” claim it’s Sorkin taking pot shots from on high, with the benefit of hindsight making him seem all too smug and condescending. While this is clearly untrue to anyone with an appreciation of classic storytelling—Sorkin has created a “Camelot” of yesteryear where all his characters set the example for others rather than undress themselves to falter every other episode—it’s disappointing when these heroes of the small screen can’t keep their own compasses aligned.

Grade: B-

EPISODE 2 REVIEW: ‘The Newsroom’ Season 3 Episode 2 Review

EPISODE 1 REVIEW: ‘The Newsroom’ Season 3 Episode 1 Review

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