Monday, September 16, 2013

The Newsroom Season Finale Review: "Election Night, pt. II" - Back to the Start of It

Will McAvoy looking very old and very tired on "The Newsroom"

I feel like I’ve been fairly positive about The Newsroom this year.  Sure there have been issues, but compared to its first year, this season has been much improved.  I think most of that improvement has come from having a tighter focus, specifically the Genoa storyline, and from eschewing many of the romantic entanglements that so consumed the first season.  So what does Sorkin do in this second season finale?  He goes all in on the relationship drama, sending The Newsroom into hiatus with a thud.

It’s not entirely surprising that the personal plotlines come back to the forefront because there really isn’t any actual news drama.  We know how this election ends and, indeed, the House, Senate, and Presidential races have all been called by halfway through the episode.  The reporting is largely perfunctory and even Jim’s panic over the Michigan 1st call provides little drama because, as I’m sure many viewers did after last week’s episode, I Googled Congressman Banishek and found out how the race ended in real life It kind of sucked out what little drama there was in watching a couple characters keep hitting F5 on a computer to update the results.  That said I’m not sure that was even the point of the Banishek story as its purpose seemed mostly to get Jim and Maggie talking to each other for more than a few minutes.  

I actually like the way the Jim and Maggie issues were resolved, but bringing Lisa back was a complete mistake.  Her appearance served no purpose other than to remind us that Maggie has a roommate with whom she apparently hasn’t spoken in a year and to give Jim a chance to apologize for…something, I guess.  Of course, Jim “apologizing” quickly turns in to Jim “haranguing” and “harassing,” to the point that I wrote in my notes, “Jesus Christ, Jim.  Leave Lisa the f*** alone!”  I think one of the problems Sorkin has with The Newsroom is that his storytelling style doesn’t match the extended timeline of the show.  It was more than a year ago in the show’s time that the whole Sex and the City bus incident went down and Jim is talking about it like it happened last week.  This episode was clearly Sorkin’s attempt to walk back the idea of Jim as the villain of this love triangle (or at least the spineless weasel that he’s been portrayed as) but none of it works because a) I don’t care about these characters' relationships, b) we haven’t seen anything involving the relationship in several episodes representing a good eight or nine months, and c) Jim is clearly not the good guy in this scenario.  He’s an ass.  He’s condescending.  He seems to have a good thing going with Hallie now and I’m happy for him (at least as happy as I can be about a storyline I care little about), but revisiting the end of season one in order to retcon how that all played out is just ridiculous. 

Not quite as ridiculous, however, as Will proposing to Mac.  Leaving aside the “Mackenzie McHale-McAvoy” jokes, I just don’t see where this comes from at all.  I mean, I saw them getting back together after their early argument but a proposal (and an accepted proposal no less) seems about twenty steps too far.  Sorkin seems to have this idea that tension is sexy and that banter is sexy, so two characters who constantly have tense banter with each other are destined to be together.  But he’s got to show his work.  I can buy that Will never stopped loving Mac and was just too proud to admit it and I can believe that Mac always saw Will as the one who got away, but pushing them together this way just doesn’t work especially since, last we saw three episodes ago, Will and Nina were canoodling in his apartment.

In non-romance news, none of the previous episode’s cliffhangers really pay off.  Will told Taylor, essentially, “come at me, bro,” but she doesn’t really take advantage of the opportunity.  Instead, it all plays out as setup for the softball she tosses him late in the broadcast about whether or not he’s actually a Republican.  Sorkin’s responding soliloquy is well-written and certainly hit the right notes for a person like myself who tends to lean in Will’s direction politically.  But Will has still never been challenged about his views.  Any time someone attempts to “challenge” him, it’s just creating the opportunity for another patented Sorkin monologue. 

The Petraeus story also lands with a thud as everybody agrees to run the Brody statement that could potentially give voters more information over the potential bombshell that will still the be the same story in a day or two.  It’s another classic example of Sorking fabricating a straw man morality play for his heroes to act out.  There is no purpose to the Petraeus story other than to give us yet another example of how awesomely awesome the “News Night” crew is.  We’re not given any enlightening information about the story nor are the characters presented with the same choices that their real world counterparts faced.  Instead, Sorkin gins up a fake story in order to let his characters take the fake high ground.  And the less said about the women and their desperate needs for Neal to fix their problems, the better.

Surprisingly, The Newsroom’s renewal status is still up in the air.  HBO is generally quick on the trigger for renewing its shows but, for whatever reason, they’ve left this one hanging.  Jeff Daniels tweeted several weeks ago that the show had been renewed, but as of now discussions are apparently still ongoing.  Nobody knows if the hesitation is on HBO’s part or Sorkin’s but if this is the end, it certainly feels like a fitting end.  Not a good one, mind you, but a fitting one.  The Newsroom was good enough this season to make me want to come back for more, but I certainly can’t say I’m optimistic for season three.

A couple of spare thoughts –
I wrote enough about the resignation issue last week to not want to rehash it all again, but I did very much enjoy Reese and Charlie’s  back-and-forth as Reese tried to magnanimously accept their resignations and Charlie retracted said resignations.

“I want Dantana to iron his clothes while wearing them.”

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV

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