'The Newsroom' Season 1 Finale: 'The Greater Fool' Rushes In, Can't Help Falling in Love

Television
by Beth Hanna
August 27, 2012 2:58 AM
7 Comments
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Jeff Daniels in "The Newsroom" HBO
Though not a strong episode, the season finale of "The Newsroom" was weirdly likeable by virtue of its commitment to sheer rom-com craziness. Because that is, for better or worse, what the show boils down to: A large serving of romance, with a side of news.

What happened:

This episode used one of the favorite gimmicks of "The Newsroom": Shifting back and forth between a "present" time (in this case, August 8, 2011) and the days or months leading up to that time.
Will announces on air that the top story of the evening will revolve around one Dorothy Cooper, a woman ineligible to vote because she doesn't possess a driver's license.

Eight days earlier: Mackenzie and bodyguard Lonny find Will bloody and unconscious in his bathroom. After having him rushed to the hospital, they're informed that Will has a bleeding ulcer because he's been taking too many anti-depressants. A possible cause of his gloom? Brian Brenner's New York Magazine piece, a "hatchet job" describing Will as "the greater fool."

Meanwhile, a number of storylines turn. Nina Howard tells Mackenzie that she's one source away from running another exposé on Will, this time revealing he was high while reporting the news of Osama bin Laden's death. Charlie meets with Solomon Hancock and requests proof of tabloid TMI's hacking practices, but Solomon won't relinquish it without guarantee that his NSA story will see light. Sloan plans on accepting a lucrative job offer at a rival network, and Don attempts to dissuade her. He also mentions that he'll be asking Maggie to move in with him, at which point Sloan reveals that she's remained single because Don never asked her out.

This reveal was completely out of left field, but nonetheless in keeping with the unabashed, even giddily preposterous romantic threads throughout the episode. Don needs someone to be paired with once Maggie finally (perhaps in Season 8) realizes that she must be with Jim, by order of Screenwriting 101. Here's hoping Sloan retains her calm intelligence next season, despite having outed her long-burgeoning crush.

Charlie learns that Solomon has jumped off the Queensborough Bridge, killing himself.

Will's nurse is the niece of Dorothy Cooper, and orders Will to report on her aunt's story. A few minutes later, Will, Mackenzie and Charlie figure out that Nina's one source for the marijuana article is actually Mack's cell phone, from which TMI stole a voicemail. The voicemail was from Will, presumably betraying his highness. This lights a fire under Will's ass to get out of the hospital bed and back to work, to bring justice to Dorothy Cooper and continue his attack on the Tea Party. Cue upbeat montage set to "Baba O'Riley."

A pleasant dinner between Maggie and Lisa comes to a halt when Maggie suggests that Jim hoped to begin a relationship with her, and not rekindle his relationship with Lisa. As Maggie leaves the restaurant alone and forlorn, a "Sex and the City" tour bus soaks her as it drives past through a puddle. Maggie then delivers a screaming monologue about the trials of being a single working woman whose best friend is dating her one true love. Jim's on the bus, hears her cries, exits bus and they kiss on the sidewalk. But: Maggie's with Don, and Jim's with Lisa, apparently an irreversible set of facts that cannot be altered by the wonders of either party breaking up.

I marveled at this entire sequence's batshit wackiness. First, that Maggie would go to Lisa with a hunch, via Don, about what Jim would have said had he not been interrupted, pushed the bounds of plausible scenarios past implausibility into a new, special realm. But then again, moments later, Maggie gives a speech to a bus, so perhaps plausibility is not the order of the day. Sending up "Sex and the City" is en vogue at HBO right now (see: "Girls"), and Maggie's pointed jabs at the glamorous lifestyles of SATC's single gals seemed to be Sorkin's attempt to endear Maggie to viewers who have grown tired of her wide-eyed, cutesy antics throughout the season. If anything, I appreciated her complete loss of sanity in this scene because it finally clarified for me that "The Newsroom" is, above all, a rom-com.

Will, Charlie and Mackenzie have lunch with Leona Lansing and her rat son, Reese. Charlie accuses Reese of ordering hacking for TMI, and produces a folder sent to him by Solomon before his death. Leona and Reese exchange a few incriminating words, and Charlie reveals the recorder hidden in his pocket. Leona now lacks the ammunition to fire Will, and instead advises him on the upcoming evening's broadcast: "Don't shoot and miss."

I liked Charlie's moment in this scene of imploring Leona Lansing to turn away from the dark side. Given the lovey-dovey overtones of the entire episode, I half-expected Charlie to betray some past feelings for her. But we do get a sense that Leona, like Will at one point, has been steadily lured away from her first love, the news, toward the gleaming, lucrative promise of good ratings and friends in high places.

Once the Dorothy Cooper/Tea Party "News Night" episode has wrapped, one question remains: What was the rest of Will's high message to Mackenzie? Will admits that, now so long ago, he thought he saw Mack holding up signs from the crowd immediately before his viral blowup (the opening scene from episode 1, "We Just Decided To"). Mackenzie reveals, via a folder conveniently in her hands, that she did hold up those signs.

There's one other thing Will mentioned in that high voicemail. During the episode's closing montage, Nina listens to the message file on her computer for a moment before choosing to delete it and not run the hit piece. The fragment of the message we hear before it's forever emptied from the trash bin? Will to Mack: "I've never stopped -- "


Bits and pieces:

  • This episode was directed by Greg Mottola, who also directed the season premiere. This makes a weird sort of sense, given all the bizarre callbacks to the season's first episode (Mackenzie's sign-holding, the sorority girl applying to be an intern on "News Night").
  • Best quote goes to Charlie: "Pussy-ass, coward-ass, pussified pussies!"
  • Jim must like Lisa more than he lets on if he's willing to ride a "Sex and the City" tour bus so that he can later chat with her about the show. I think he knows something Sorkin doesn't.
  • Don asks Maggie to move in with him by filling his apartment with lit candles. He must be getting "Will you move in with me" confused with "Will you go to prom with me."
  • The Solomon Hancock folder that Charlie produces during the lunch with Leona and Reese actually contains a recipe for beef stew.
  • Neal's trolling adventures didn't amount to much, plot-wise. Just more death threats for Will, which means that Terry Crews will be back for Season 2.
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7 Comments

  • Pat Chamberlain | September 3, 2012 6:11 PMReply

    I really enjoyed the series & will keep HBO, if Newsroom remains on HBO. I found it to be very realistic & idealistic. It brought out the differances between Republician & Democratic Parties.,gave the inner workings of the production of the news.
    When will the second season begin

  • Marlowe28 | August 31, 2012 8:38 PMReply

    Aaron Sorkin can't write for women for shit. Every female character on this show is an embarassment to the gender.

    And using "pussy" as an insult is insulting to women. The only reason that self-described liberal men use the the insult is because they really don't respect women any more than rightwingers do.

  • Roy Munson | August 28, 2012 12:43 AMReply

    You think people light candles before asking a girl to the prom??

    On what planet

  • Marlene Yates | August 27, 2012 4:18 PMReply

    Television is entertainment n'est pa? So what if there is a rom-com undercurrent. Why over think every nuance in the show - you either like it or you don't.

  • Jerren | August 27, 2012 4:03 PMReply

    Ha! This review is HILARIOUS. In a good way, of course. I didn't watch the episode (no need to, at this point), but the realization that this whole series is a bat-shit insane rom-com is spot on. I seriously gasped--softly, as I'm in public--whilst reading that description of Maggie and Jim's kissing scene. She was yelling at the bus? He was ON IT?!?! Sounds like that scene could be a great capsulation of what this show is. Why does Sorkin equate over-the-top insanity with adorablity? Not every character can be Jane from Boradcast News. In fact, very few are. This show plays like an SNL parody of that film, done in 1987. Anyway, back on subject: Thanks for the great write-ups of every episode this season. You tackled this show with great humor and insight, and never once pandered or condescended, which the show often does. Great work!

  • Zeek Knows | August 27, 2012 3:30 AMReply

    The Who song is called "Baba O'Riely" not "Teenage Wasteland."

  • Beth Hanna | August 27, 2012 11:26 AM

    @Zeek Knows -- Good catch, thanks. Changed it.

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