The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 10 recap
How is it that a Season Finale that involves, among other things, a suicide and a man with life-threatening internal bleeding was so slow and boring? I was never worried about Will, because they told me he was going to be fine in the first 10 minutes, so I got to watch him pontificate from bed over how he was leaving the show – which I also wasn’t worried about. He was never not going back, and everyone knew it. No drama.
But the reason we were given for Will’s sudden malaise was the article. Which we didn’t see. We didn’t see Will see it for the first time, and feel the sting of some true words, and react to that. We didn’t see the call when Mackenzie found out he might be in trouble. In fact, the much-discussed weed incident aside, we’ve never seen Will out of control, not really. The incident at Northwestern was not, as we all know, a hallucination, so he was perfectly in control of himself. A dick, but in control. And it’s worth mentioning that even during the weed incident, he was marvelous.
We never saw Jim and Lisa on any dates – the ones that would explain why he keeps going out with her repeatedly, even though he doesn’t like her – or like her enough. You know, because otherwise I’m forced to accept that this theoretically smart guy goes out with a woman he doesn’t enjoy for months on end – since New Year, I believe – and why do I like that guy? How can I root for him? Because he took a Sex And The City tour? That’s not endearing. That’s pathetic. Either he’s going out with this woman for 8 months on pity dates, or he’s found something to like in Lisa, which is complicated, which would be interesting!
We never saw Don and Maggie together, enjoying themselves. Not once. Our last vision of them before this episode is her, pouting miserably, as Don explains why Jim came over to woo her but won’t get the chance, due to his being there. They’ve been dating for well over a year – not that the show lets us see that – and there isn’t one good-time memory we could see, and understand? I could get into how moving in with a guy is not every girl’s automatic dream, let alone when she’s just kissed another guy, but the show wants you to believe that it is, so let’s just go with that.
We didn’t see the guy – Charlie’s informant - jump off the bridge? Or stand there and leave his hat behind in a symbolic gesture, because it would be too expensive to shoot on the actual bridge? Seriously…nothing?
This is where the article’s title comes in – aside from the fact that it was the most fervently-delivered line in the show and I thought it deserved a second outing. For a show that is all about showing the viewership what they need to see and know, they are constantly telling and not showing. This is one of those first rules they drill into you in TV – and of course, rules are meant to be broken. But are you KIDDING ME with the sudden Sloan confession of love? With absolutely no leadup to this revelation and no interactions between them beyond his yelling at her or berating her in equal measure? Wait – is that what ladies are supposed to like now?
I just don’t understand what they’re afraid of. That if we show the characters having real emotional reactions to moments, we won’t trust them to produce the news? That’s…kind of true where Mackenzie is concerned, actually, but I don’t think it goes for everyone. That if Will gets to feel the weight of having screwed up something – anything – that we won’t respect him in the morning?
How about Neal? You’re telling me he didn’t have an emotional reaction when he realized his messing around online had gotten Will more death threats? Pants-sh*tting would count in this instance. But why don’t we get to see that to make Neal a little more human and a little less like a guy who is inexplicably obsessed with minutae and has an awesome girlfriend that he apparently never has any problem with?
Part of the reason we don’t care about these people is because they’re histrionic. Part of it is because it seems it will always turn out right for them – the smiles and fist-pumps of achievement at the end of each broadcast, and the neat and seamless packaging of Reese as a slimeball in the meeting with Leona.
But mostly we don’t like them because they don’t act like real people who love and hate and get frustrated and screw up and make it up like real people. They only do things when we’re “watching”, like it’s a stage play for their benefit, not ours. And there’s a violent fear of screwing up or appearing slightly out of hastily-drawn character because it might...I don’t know what. And I suspect the show doesn’t either. It’s all very well to be The Greater Fool – note that the poor Northwestern girl is now going to be the totem of Having Seen The Light because she’s been Touched By Will (and also, sorry but if that actress is 20, I look a lot younger than I thought I did) – but it doesn’t mean that walking around with wide doe-eyes and a wish in your heart is going to make for compelling television. In fact, even making compelling television can make you cynical beyond measure – let’s see that from Peabody-winning Mackenzie. Is she not a little world-weary? Nothing pushes her bullsh*t button? She does in fact have one, right? They tend to hand them out in J-school.
As always, in this episode, the news broadcast was pretty good (if a little too focused on Will). But as we’ve discussed, the news is the easy part. It’s easy to say things that you know most of your viewership will agree with, and feel good and smart doing it. Human beings interacting pose a bit more of a challenge, evidently.
Next season awaits. In it, look for a blogger – or series of them – who have got it ALL WRONG about the show, and how Will has to teach them that they’re watching it wrong, but Mackenzie almost screws it all up. Until a brilliant broadcast in the end of the episode – every single week.