The Newsroom Season 2 Episode 3 recap

In the first two minutes, Mackenzie points out that Will has to – and did – ask her permission to say “witless bullies and hapless punks” but seconds later, she’s begging him to remember what he said to her in the phone message. One step forward, and at least three back. Maybe more, because it’s not like he brought the message up.

Welcome to The Newsroom Episode 3. In which a notable early response to “I’m going to appeal to her humanity” was “God didn’t give her humanity, that’s why she’s a gossip columnist”. So that’s where we are. Good to get our bearings back.

This episode Jim takes the cake for most obnoxious, since he assumes that nobody else has ever fought the fight that he’s fighting for real answers on the bus. Which, by the way, he’s only able to do because he doesn’t care about having this job – that he can go back to the studio as soon as his whim decides he can. It’s really nice to say to workers “hey, why don’t you guys stand up for yourselves” when the fact is that they need their first-break jobs. I had to branch off and have an argument about this at my house, because while yes, it’s ridiculous that the media ride around with the candidate and spew whatever he says, the press on the bus are also 26 years old and don’t want to lose their jobs. It’s very macro to be like “Look, we have a big problem” but when it comes down to it,  people are only able to act when they don’t fear repercussions, Mr. Senior Producer who doesn’t actually need this gig.

Look, the degree of self-absorption that befalls just about everyone in the media would make normal people’s heads spin. And yes, part of it is this – constantly remembering whom you owe a favour to, and how soon you can get out of it or pay it back because you feel guilty. I do know people who live like this. They think they’re good people, or bad people, and feel bad about it, and want to be better through rationalizing or scheming or appealing to people’s vulnerability or pointing out that Sloan Sabbith has 50 IQ points more than Don or her dick producer – which I appreciated, even if it felt hollow.

But it’s not adding up to anything on The Newsroom. What made the show exciting last year was that, whatever ridiculous abuses of “wisdom” went on in the newsroom, in the studio, it was Mackenzie and Will in a dance, and she had to trust him, as he did her. There was a sense that there was some news happening, even if it was being covered in a glorified way by people with the benefit of two years’ worth of hindsight.

In this second season, though, perhaps because the show feels chastised, it’s a whole bunch of chair gags and hints toward things – Genoa, Maggie’s trip (please can we shut up about this?), a romance between Don and Sloan – that don’t come to fruition. If these people are seriously worried about doing good or not, why not examine the news they’ve covered recently?  

Why are we still dealing with straw-people? Is a gossip columnist really the biggest threat? A Romney press officer? The truth is that the other networks are the biggest threat. We can’t say that, because it would be a production problem and an irritation – so it’s one-woman representations of big entities who take the heat for parroting that which Jim or Will think is dumb this week. It’s hard to even get enraged about it anymore. It just makes me tired.

Am I looking too hard for this show to use its actual platform to say stuff? I kind of feel like I am, but then again, that’s not fair. We want Aaron Sorkin to make a better show but also get mad when he pulls his punches. We’re the critics that make him do that or not, and on the one hand I definitely want the show to be better, but on the other hand, if it’s going to be bad, I really don’t want it to be boring.

At this point, though, I’d really settle for movement. I get that the point of the OWS thing is that nobody cared until they had to care, but Maggie’s endless simpering about her malaria drugs was bloody annoying, and if she’s the least senior person in that lineup meeting, they would all be rolling their eyes and telling her it was old hat anyway. Mackenzie embarrasses herself week after week with her obsession with Will – I could fully understand it when she was coming back after not having been around for awhile, but now that she’s with him day to day how can she not think he’s just the biggest douche on earth? Also, two women in their 40s are lying to each other about the affections of said douche? There are probably women on UrbanBaby who would try to tell me this is a truth of Manhattan, but damn.

In fact, the best thing this show does is show off the producer/on-air relationship when it’s at its best. Each needs the other and each is able to get out of the others’ way. It’s beautiful when it works, and it’s kind of sad that this is the only relationship on the show that works that way. Would be nice to see Don have it with someone else. 

But when we’re grasping at straws to like the least-celebrated part of the show, why do I bother?

Also, there is a truly bizarre series of camera moves halfway through a conversation between Mackenzie and Will that makes me think we’re supposed to believe they’re being watched on reality TV or something? It was disconcerting to say the least. It’s repeated later with Don and Sloan, but at least there it was trying to emphasize the banter. I cannot imagine what happened in the editing room on this one but if you noticed it, let me see if it shows up again?

As for the Gummer girl, she can stay for now. I was expecting to be far more annoyed, but how can I be? Anyone in Jim’s orbit automatically looks better.