21 Aug 2013

[Review] - The Newsroom, Season 2 Episode 6, "One Step Too Many"

Courtesy of HBO. If it had been Will instead of that Dantana guy back there,
this could be a DVD cover. The gang is almost entirely all here.

Being the episode to follow the best episode of the season is never an easy or envied task. And last week's real time examination of these character's lives certainly has been the best episode of season two thus far. And while last week was content to sit on it's laurels a bit in terms of advancing the season arc, this one had to be all business. We've only got three episodes left, and the two part finale is dedicated to the election, which leaves little room to conclude the ongoing Genoa story.

Too little room, as may have been the case. Call it poor planning, calling it suffering the loss of the tenth episode, or maybe Sorkin is concerned about not getting a third season, and wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Whatever the reason, this was another fast forward episode, which while featuring excellent moments for the plot and the characters, pushed the timeline forward at break neck speed.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are pleased that Gary didn't die like they thought he would.


I've said it a couple times now, but I've been concerned with how exactly the Genoa thing was going to go wrong for News Night. Because they were using Charlie and Mac in most of the investigation segments, and it has taken them seven months to get to the point of reporting the attack, they've left very little room for incompetence in journalism. And despite Charlie's claims at the end of the episode, that the thing simply never happened seemed less likely the more corroboration they received. So, perhaps the most significant thing to happen in this episode was the reveal that Jerry Dantana is on something of a crusade to vilify the Obama administration, one that results in sputtering outbursts and a lack of professional integrity. Whether or not Genoa happened, or whether or not it happened just as they think it did, altering the tape of Stephen Root's interview is grounds enough for firing.

This was a strangely structured episode, playing with time and reality. There were several segments of Will's broadcast, complete with speechless shots of Mac in the control room, that would then pan out from a screen, only to have Will be watching the show at some latter point. As a device to keep the plot moving, it was new, and I liked it. It was at the end where I once again had to question both the whole "one year in the past" format of the show, and this season's framing device. The episode buzzed through the entire primary race and most of the proper presidential election season, naming checking the nominations of Romney and Ryan, meaning most of 2012 was ignored completely. Then we got a single scene from the depositions, which Sorkin has been inconsistent in using this entire year. The first episode made it seem like everything would been viewed through this lens, but in execution, it pops up when convenient, other times completely ignored. Seems more like half of the time, Sorkin forgot that he was using that particular device.

Happily, if you ignore all that stuff, this was a pretty strong episode. I still don't care about Jim and Maggie, Maggie even less considering how shitty she's acting now that she's a professional drunk. Jim might be an arrogant jerk, but at least he's giving her the opening to ask for help. Rock bottom is still a ways off for her, but I honestly couldn't be interested less in seeing her hit it. We got more Constance Zimmer, who has been fun as the Romney spokesperson, and provided nice opportunities for Sorkin to write his trademark banter, and trademark "here is a person who is wrong, so my main character can yell righteously at them." The double date story didn't go anywhere, and didn't really further anyone's story, other then to say that Jim is capable of holding a relationship together for an extended period of time, so long as they rarely physically see each other, and their dates end unceremoniously. Oh, and Neil got to yell at someone again. Which would be great, if he didn't do it all the time, and is starting to sound as arrogant as Jim.

Mac and Don got a strange subplot, and I say strange because these are two characters that rarely interact alone. Perhaps that was the point, and Sorkin wanted to establish that these people are all each other has. So, he swapped out Mac and Sloan for their usual partners, and I'd say the results were a success. These were the scenes I enjoyed most this week, the down time bits between the A-Plot. Mac and Don having a very personal conversation, without resorting to any sort of romantic undertones, because they both have enough of those already, and it's always nice to see a platonic relationship on TV. Same goes with Will and Sloan, who have had great scenes together in the past, but again, rarely by themselves. Sloan claims they have a brother-sister relationship, and that must have happened during the time jumps while this season has leapfrogged over 2012. But it was in full view here, and at the risk of being repetitive, Olivia Munn continues to impress. From the reindeer gag at the start (and really, does no one know how the song goes, because they all named the deer in the most asswards order) to the John Carter summery, to the page 8 gag when she and Will finally had their heart to heart, she was once again an episode highlight.

They also touched on the ongoing story of Will's crisis, which I hoped might be compounded by the death of his father, but I guess he got over that. Since the premiere, Will has been feeling some extreme doubts about his ability (and considering that his therapist was introduced last year, it's been odd that we haven't seen him). This episode zeroed in on his obsession with this, and how he poisons his own mind by surrounding himself with "invisible friends" and ego-centric harpies that feed both his own inflated self image, and his damage. He has emotional anorexia, constantly craving attention, and feeling like he's not getting enough. I assume that this is leading to the Genoa broadcast, after which his journalistic integrity will be called into question, and all his doubts and anxieties will come to a head. He'll be angry and ashamed, and Jeff Daniels will get to yell at people, which is always fun to see. Then the election night coverage will either be his triumphant return, or his last hurrah, at least until next season.

Can I request, if the show does get a third season, and if it picks up near enough to the election night, can there be an episode where everyone mocks the Mayan apocalypse believers as much as they mocked OWS earlier this season? Because they deserve it.

Also, still no Patton Oswalt. Looks like that reoccuring role has been whittled down to a one episode (next week, presumably) guest spot. And that is the greatest shame of this season.

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