The Newsroom – Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2

The Newsroom

The Newsroom is back, and with it my undeniable compliance to watch it. I would not say that I like this show; I think that it carries a “holier-than-thou” attitude that is fairly unattractive. How easy is it to always look like the good guys reporting the news when the news you are reporting happened three years ago and your reports are written by Aaron Sorkin?

But I am a sucker for Sorkin dialogue. How can you not be? Everyone wishes they could quip as quickly as his characters can, and following conversations and jokes that move that fast makes you feel smarter for keeping up with it, even if the jokes aren’t that good.

Further, we all get to feel like educated adults watching this show because we all watch the news, so we know what happened. Right? Well, no, not really. I always have a Google search waiting to go come 10 pm on Sundays because most of the time, I don’t know what’s news and what’s fiction. But we’ll get to that later.

Hi, my name is Tyler, and I will be recapping this show for Tuesdays With Horry. Sorry I’m late to the party, I promise it won’t happen again. Here it goes.

Episode 1 – First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

Wills Face

We get another frame story! Last season, Sorkin proved he did not fear jumping around in the timeline, most notably in the finale “The Greater Fool.” This year, it appears that we will be following a season-long arc centered around ACN’s misreporting on a military operation entitled “Genoa” (based on a sail, not the city or salami). A series of metaphorical dominoes were set up and fell perfectly in place resulting in this miscalculation: if Jim hadn’t left the office to follow the Romney campaign, if Mack hadn’t let Jerry Dantana use his guy on a panel, if blah blah blah blah blah, then none of this would have happened. And once that bit exposition is neatly taken care of by Will McAvoy and his trademark wit (and the frightful foreshadowing of Maggie’s awful haircut), we are transported fourteen months into the past, to August 23rd, 2011, where the first domino is being set.

Jumping back to just days after Season 1 left off, ACN is dealing with the repercussions of Will McAvoy calling the Tea Party the “American Taliban.” Apparently, that pissed some people off, and now the hotshot kid CEO of the network (who I thought had been caught tapping Will’s phone?) is getting muscled by a doorman who won’t let him into some Congressional meeting for which he is apparently supposed to be “on the list.”

Mack pulls off a great case of “Saving the Cat” our first scene back in the studio while Will carelessly sings “Friday” to give us a realistic sense of time. Don’t we all remember exactly where we were the first time we heard that song?

Maggie wants things to be normal with Jim, and I am reminded how much I hate the relationship dynamics of this show. Specifically Maggie. She is awful. She sets herself up for failure time and time again. But I digress. The conversation drives Jim to start covering the Romney campaign after some drunk guy broke his ankle. This is apparently a big step down in terms of Newsroom Power, especially because Mitt is trailing Rick Perry in the polls (remember that?!), but this tees up the season for some awesome things to come. I think Jim might have been the guy to leak the video of Romney stating that he doesn’t care about half of the country. And that would be great.

After Jim can’t get on the Romney bus (does Sorkin just love giving doormen power?), we come back to ACN to meet Jerry Dantana from DC. He’s a fast talker, but everyone in the Sorkin world is, and seems to fit in fairly okay with the team, until he pushes for his asshole friend to be on a panel on drones.

Also, drones are a thing.

Meanwhile, Neil wants to cover this little thing called “Occupy Wall Street” – some street protests that the adults think are just kids being crazy, but which Neil recognizes as a real movement that could take hold. He meets with the OWS people and is introduced to Shelly Wexler, who is the leader of the movement, despite their insistence that the movement has no leader. At this point, I immediately went to the Google to see if she was a real person. She was not. I hope they fall in love. Neil explains to her that they need to keep a clear message if they want to get anything done. This, I’m sure, will cause some fun conflict as the season progresses.

Don finds out about Maggie’s ridiculous YouTube video and decides to leave. I hope this is the end of this forever.

Will ends our time in August 2011 with another diatribe about music, explaining the meaning of “You Better You Bet,” which makes me smile. Sometimes I think that this is how Sorkin feels about his audience- “You love this show? You better. I’m Aaron Sorkin, and I am a genius.”

And to be honest, he’s probably earned that by this point.

I’m very happy this show is back on TV. Things were dark after Mad Men ended. Wilfred was the only show that got me through the week.

I have high hopes for this season, specifically because of the overarching plot line of Genoa (which I also had to Google to make sure it wasn’t a real thing. It wasn’t). The best part of this whole situation is that really, it all comes back to Maggie making things weird with Jim. Had she just been a good friend to her roommate and platonic flirter to Jim, then there is no Jim leaving, no Jerry Dantana from DC and no Will getting interrogated by the PR rep from Entourage. But alas, this is the world that we lived in three years ago, and Sorkin is on a mission to tell us what happened.

Episode 2 – The Genoa Tip

Jim Gets on the Bus

Jim gets on the bus! Thanks to a pretty girl! That isn’t Maggie! Maybe I do care about relationships on this show…

Back in NYC, Maggie is sleeping at the office, but thankfully Sloan is there to pick up her pieces and get her showered. Meanwhile, Jerry Dantana is ready to break Genoa to the world. This is almost painful to watch because we as the audience already know how this will end, an aspect of the show that often works both for and against it simultaneously. It gives us extra context for what is happening but also creates cringe-inducing situations where we watch characters make mistakes that seem obvious to us. Mack gives Jerry the go-ahead to pursue the story.

Will has to explain to Sloan and that other anchor guy that they will be helming the broadcast of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a detail I forgot to mention above. They are frustrated but begrudgingly accept their commands.

On the Romney campaign, Jim is awful at framing himself in a shot. SHOULD HAVE STUDIED COMMUNICATIONS LIKE ME, JIM. Thankfully, cute-girl-from-the-bus is there to help him, but she doesn’t because they are competitors. Jim needs to stop being so optimistic about the news.

In the office again, Don reveals one of his good-guy passion projects: saving Troy Davis from execution. This again forced another Google search on my part, but I remembered most of the details after half a read of a Wikipedia page on the topic. Shit was messed up. Still, this whole subplot felt to me like an attempt to make us think that Don is a good guy, and personally, I don’t want that. We need to have one guy to love to hate in the Newsroom. That’s why Don was so perfect when explaining how to cover the Casey Anthony trial in Season 1- lovable assholes know how to get viewers better than the ridiculously idealistic team that runs News Night. There is a great legal back and forth between the two supported by great Sorkinisms.

Next we get a real treat; two of the nameless (to me) production workers on the show wading through old footage decide to watch Will McAvoy’s first broadcast – September 11th, 2001. It happened because there was no one else, Will was a lowly legal correspondent who just happened to be in the office when everything went down. Will gives a heartfelt and terrified broadcast that relays the emotions of the day pretty well. It makes sense that this is how Will became one of the most trusted names in news, if not a bit emotionally manipulative on Sorkin’s part.

Sloan and Maggie begin a subplot that I almost refused to cover in this recap. Thanks to social media (Twitter! FourSquare!), Maggie is able to track down the girl that posted her infamous YouTube video at a laundromat in Brooklyn or something and decides that her life is ridiculous enough, and that girl’s spin cycle is long enough, to justify attempting to track her down. Whatever.

Neil gets crapped on at the rundown meeting for thinking Occupy Wall Street was anything more than a bunch of hippies smoking pot in a drum circle wearing Guy Fawkes masks. BUT HE WILL BE VINDICATED. Just as soon as Don is denied more coverage on the Troy Davis case and Maggie is deservedly shat on by her roommate for being an awful friend.

Thankfully, Maggie will be leaving for Africa soon, and we will finally know why her hair looks so awful in the future.

Later, we find out that drones have killed a US citizen without due process, and shit gets real as Will defends his republican beliefs and starts smoking in the office. Meanwhile, Neil is busy getting unjustly arrested at OWS. When Will hears of this, he goes himself to bail him out and give an unsuspecting officer a stern legal talking to about what justice means in the America that he loves. When Will is denied, he shows the officer the video Neil took (thanks UStream!) and essentially drops the mic on the whole situation.

And then, in classic Sorkin fashion, we end with a montage:

  • Troy Davis is executed, and Don starts to cry but holds in his tears. He has to report the news.
  • Will realizes that Republicans are wrong and Democrats are right and decides that he will, in fact, demand to see the memorandum that allows the president to kill US citizens with drones because he feels like it.
  • Jerry Dantana finds someone that knows about Genoa firsthand, and confirms that they used Sarin gas on unsuspecting civilians, thus being a war crime.

Sorkin knows how to intertwine stories. I will give him that, among many other things. Like Emmys.

Also, I love that Will cannot stop reading his Internet hate. Someday, I hope that my writing will generate enough interest for me to start losing sleep over strangers hating on me on WordPress.

Until then, I am glad this show is back on the air. I look forward to recapping it in real time as we move forward towards Decision 2012.

Good night, and good luck.

  1. Ray said:

    I hate this show for the reasons you lay out in the first paragraph. I’m always tempted to hate-watch this show for the reasons you lay out in paragraphs 2-3. So, I think I’ll just read this every week instead, because it’s much funnier to read jokes about Sorkin’s bad jokes than it is to actually experience the bad jokes firsthand.

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