[Review] - The Newsroom, Season 2 Episode 7, "Red Team III"

Courtesy of HBO
There is a phrase that Aaron Sorkin has used in each of his series: doing a big thing badly. I can see the appeal of the phrase; it has a poetic lyricism, a balance that makes it seem more profound then it is. And it is a perfect way to examine this episode of The Newsroom, both within the context of the plot and the execution of the episode, and the series as a whole. Because over the course of these two seasons, any steps forward in terms of plotting, pacing, and character, are almost always balanced out by a step back. I guess we can't fault it for being inconsistent, but I'd prefer the consistency to live at a higher level.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are fun when they're high.

Let's be clear, this wasn't a bad episode. It very much had the feel of a season finale, rather then the start of the final third of the season. It concluded the Genoa plot that has been the focus of the season, it brought the timeline up to concurrent with the flash forwards we've intermittently seen so far, and set up potential problems for next season, if it happens. Except, there are still two episodes to go. Granted, they will very much be bottle episodes, taking place over the course of a single election night, but after everything that happened here, the fact that we still have a couple weeks to go seems odd and epilogueish.

As I've continued to say, I've wondered how they were going to poke holes in the investigation of Genoa considering that we've been following it pretty closely, and with Mac and Charlie front and centre no less. Turns out the answer is two fold: there were parts that we didn't see (no surprise considering how many time jumps there have been), and some characters were having off days during that time. And, people generally suck. Some are liars, others are obsessive bastards, and some people just aren't very good at their jobs. The lawyers raised the issue of "institutional failure," that no one person was to blame, because everyone dropped the ball spectacularly. This is a little unfair, considering that Dantana is responsible for the biggest and most gratuitous error in the entire situation, though I can understand where the reasonable doubt would come from. Everyone else reported what they were told to be true, and what evidence suggested to be true. Dantana invented evidence to support what he wanted to be true, because once again he revealed himself to be a little fanatical when it comes to harpooning the Obama administration. His head is going to explode when he finds out about the NSA surveillance scandal.

Where the episode wilted for me was the endless repeating of all the facts of Genoa. I understand that, thematically, this was to mirror the repetition that the characters were made to endure, but we as the audience didn't need that. Besides being an opportunity for Sorkin to drop in a baffling political statement that had no connection to the argument that was occurring, all it did was eat up time that should have been devoted to new exposition. Like Mac's interview with the officer they had previously thought dead. Mac's revelation that she had asked leading questions would have had more emotional effect on us if we had seen the entire interaction cold and without bias. As presented, we had no option but to follow Mac's logic, because the entire sequence was leading us towards their conclusions.

Genoa was a good storyline, a strong storyline from time to time, that suffered from execution issues and pacing problems. But my biggest issue with it is, because it is entirely fictional, there can be no repercussions in the real world. ACN reporting a story this big would be huge. Every news network would be effected in some way. It would be trotted out time and time again for years. The Daily Show would have a field day. In the real world, Dan Rather lost his job at CBS for something very similar, which was something of a death keel to twentieth century reporting. Any effects that this has have to be isolated to ACN, and that frankly isn't good enough. And Sorkin, I feel, knew this, because he hide it behind Benghazi. If you control the circumstances of when they reported the story, why position it to be obstructed by one of the biggest news stories of last year, if not to say that everyone forgot a news network accused the US military of war crimes?

That's just... if you are going to insist that the series exists in the "real world," then work within the confines of that reality. Make the show a commentary piece, a reactionary fiction. This was largely what season one was, and the failures of that first year were mostly character based, not plot. Alternatively, if you want to invent your own sequence of events, do so, and make certain that those events have repercussions. Otherwise, what is the point? How can your characters really grow, how can anything they do have real purpose if the only people effected by it are going to be an isolated bubble?

That final scene was something sceptical though, and Jane Fonda really was impressive. Except, it only brought into contrast how ineffective Jeff Daniels' laid back and slightly depressed portrayal of Will has been lately. I had no problem with him being an uncompromising jerk, and I'd gladly have that back if it meant we got to exorcise this passive version. And, it was a reminder of how much fun Charlie was back when he was meant to be a functioning alcoholic. Charlie is the kick ass of the cast, make no doubt, but he was just that much more when plastered.

This also closes the potential of Patton Oswalt appearing at all this season. His scene that was cut from the first episode, when Sorkin threw the episode out and refilmed it, was apparently his only scene (which seems like it would have been a bit of a waste of talent). I feel that, given the right role, Oswalt would fit in quiet well with the rest of the these character, and I hope that they might invite him back for something completely different in season three, if it happens.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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