By Sam Adams | Criticwire July 21, 2013 at 11:35PM
Most of the best scenes have to do with Will McAvoy, specifically with the dent that being taken off the network's coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has put in his confidence. As Sloan and Elliot protest his announcement, Will cuts them off: "The point is I'm not who I used to be right now." During one poignant interlude, footage of Will on the air on the day of the World Trade Center attacks plays on the control room. He's a legal correspondent with no previous experience in the anchor seat, put there purely by circumstance -- the more qualified candidates are stranded in other cities or other boroughs -- so ephemeral that producer Charlie Skinner barely knows his name. (That point is underlined nicely when Charlie brings an exhausted Will a cup of coffee and admits, "I don't know how you like it.") The cut from archival footage to Will on the air in 2011 is mostly used as a transition into an unrelated scene, but it's a poignant contrast.
Is "everything else" not specific enough? Maggie and Sloan's jaunt to an Astoria laundromat, where they track down the Sex and the City blogger who posted the incriminating YouTube video that threatens to blow up both Maggie and Jim's relationships, is the kind of thing that Aaron Sorkin should stay a million miles away from. In fact, let's just make anything involving women and technology off-limits. Bad enough Sloan is a grown woman -- a journalist, even -- who doesn't know that if a cell phone only rings twice it's because she's been sent to voicemail, or that Maggie's use of Foursquare to track down the blogger would feel more at home on the Disney Channel, but do we really need Maggie calculating their window of opportunity by running down how long it takes for underwear to go through the delicate cycle. ("45 minutes minus three plus 50 in the dryer...." Nice work, Nancy Drew.) The portrait of a bug-eyed, socially anxious fangirl is everything Aaron Sorkin doesn't know about internet culture wrapped up in a tidy, nervous bow. Not to mention: Her favorite Sex and the City character is Charlotte? I know Aaron Sorkin used to date Kristin Davis, but no one's favorite SATC character is Charlotte
Searching for the quotation Will mistakenly attributes to John Dillinger -- "The problem with living outside the law is that you no longer have the protection of it"? It's from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.
Will at the police-station counter yelling "Obviously what I'm doing is dealing with the easiest one!" is akin to him yelling "THIS IS THE SUBTEXT OF THIS SCENE!" Between that and the superfluous callback to the two-rings-they're-ignoring you conversation at the end of the episode -- just let it ring twice and leave it at that -- illustrate one of The Newsroom's greatest flaws: It's a show that wants to be smart but doesn't trust its audience to be.
Choice bit from the dry-erase board behind Mac in the staff meeting: "Michelle Bachman Anti-HPV Nonsense."
If you want to keep your job at a major news network, loudly asking the room "Does anyone know who Anwar Al-Alaki is?" may not be the best strategy.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:
It's also somewhat impressive that Sorkin is willing to let some characters point out how terrible others are. Sometimes, it's in the form of a joke, when Mac wonders, "Do you ever think Will might just be a douchebag?" But other times it's in a scene like the one where Lisa rips Maggie into itty-bitty little pieces. On the one hand, the attack is a pretty fair representation of the behavior of the show's single most problematic character; on the other, laying the case out like that (with Lisa sounding even more like an ex-prosecutor than Will does when he gets Neal out of jail) makes Maggie seem even more irredeemable as a character.
Josee Rose, Wall Street Journal:
Maggie's life is slowly falling apart -- she lost both her boyfriend and best friend in a very short time period, mostly because she didn't have the guts to stand up for herself, assert herself and go after what she wants. I'm not sure why Sorkin painted her in this light -- is he trying to say: DON'T BE A WUSS! STAND UP FO YOURSELF OR THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS! Or is he trying to say: I wanted to write a weak-willed woman in my show, and I named her Maggie Jordan.
David Sims, A.V. Club:
If Maggie, Don, Jim, Sloan and whoever else is tangled in the show's horrible romantic spider web all stood up and declared themselves celibate in perpetuity, we might have a halfway watchable show on our hands here.
Katie Van Syckle, Rolling Stone:
Unfortunately, between last week's spoiler-heavy deposition and Sorkin's admission on The Daily Show that this plot is actually the re-imagining 1998's Tailwind scandal in which a CNN producer reported the use of Sarin nerve gas during the Vietnam war based a tip from a psychologically distressed Admiral – we now should be able to predict everything that is going to happen this season. (Matt Weiner must be slapping his forehead somewhere.) I don't mean to sound like broken Willie Nelson record – by the end of this episode we've already heard enough of "Always on My Mind" to hammer in the melodrama – but to be honest, I could really go for a cheap Hollywood cliffhanger right about now.