The Newsroom Season 2 Episode 4 recap

Okay, well, this is the episode where things began to happen. And it’s the episode where the distance between what The Newsroom is trying to do and what it does do comes the closest to being closed.

This is what it could be, at its most noble and terrible. A life in the news, that is. If you’re doing it right, it is necessarily close to the hardest and ugliest parts of all kinds of stories, and the blessing and curse of journalists’ lives is that they are, as often as not, inside the story; they are bound to take themselves out of it, because that’s not what the news is, but they’re in it.

So I believe that this story happened to Maggie, or someone like her, in some way. I believe that there are things so horrifying that you can’t shake them even though you’d like to, and that your existence becomes segmented into a really firm “before” and “after”.

All of this feels truthful and real. It’s the kind of thing Sorkin has so successfully pointed out about life in politics – that there are war wounds. It’s what he’s wanted us to understand about the news all this time – that it takes victims. In fact, it’s what we’re supposed to believe Mac’s path has been, and to a lesser extent, Jim’s. It is many people’s reality.

It would be churlish, then,  to point out that the relationship between Maggie and the little boy who becomes the crux of this story is begun and ended in one episode, or that the line about the blonde hair causing trouble is very obviously shoehorned in so that we can get the hairchopping sequence that has been threatening to show itself all season.  

So the show gets some things right, and then really whiffs it on others. Is it enough just to say it’s trying to show different experiences? Is Maggie having a poignant, if clichéd, moment in her career preferable to watching her scream about Sex And The City? On the one hand, yes, but on the other, the latter is probably a lot easier for most viewers to relate to. I’m not sure spreading this storyline over the season was the best idea, but since it’s been noted that Sorkin went back and began again after writing/shooting the first three episodes, I have to have faith that this is going somewhere.

Besides, this episode gave me something I’ve been longing for from day 1 – Mackenzie acting like a boss! True, she simpered around Will and Charlie, but I watched the part where she told off her pet Jim at least three times. She’s a real person when she bosses her team around, repeatedly lectures Neil and Dantana (I can never not think of steak where that name is concerned) and, in a move I particularly liked, she was never the one who apologized. Sloan did, and I didn’t mind her smugness a bit, and Don is a way better character now that they’ve changed him into kind of a smirking up-for-whatever guy instead of a tool, and then finally Will slouched on a bench, but Mackenzie never did. We’re making progress.
It felt like progress too that, in the end, they didn’t “need” her help to find the contact at OWS. These are our small victories.

Which means in the “less a victory” category we have Jim, and Hallie, and the grand tradition of nobility where none was required, or asked for. First Jim has to be romantically interested in Hallie, because being generous only counts when you want to bone someone. Then, she has to be established as having no self-respect, because otherwise why would she stay with a boss like that? I will remind us all again that, unlike Jim, most of these people have no choice but to stay in jobs that aren’t ideal. Dick bosses, while unquestionably dicks, are kind of a fact of life for many who get into high-pressure jobs where positions are in demand.

So Jim banters with the press secretary, who hates the press, which you know makes her a bad person and hateable, because nobody who has ever liked their job overall ever expressed frustration with parts of it on occasion, and she finally grants him what he wants, and he gives it up, because of nobility, and Mac yells at him, but in the end he gets rewarded for it, and we are reminded that girls who go to Vassar really like talking about how they went to Vassar. Say, who’s Aaron Sorkin dating these days, and has anyone checked into where she did her undergrad?

But. Mac yelled at him, and in turn was yelled at for being precious about language in front of Kendra. And then Don was yelled at for not being precious at all about the same language. A little bit of office interest adds, you know, interest. Will was obnoxious, but only inasmuch as was outlined in being Will, professionally, and frankly his apology at the end was more than I thought she deserved, because going on TV inherently has risks of looking like an idiot. As most people who have ever watched television know.

So. If it was a show about making a TV show in New York, mostly good. The stuff about whether or not Maggie is “fine”, which clearly we are supposed to understand she hasn’t been for some time, told in a mawkish and manipulative flashback, mostly bad – except that you’re a dick when you refer to the death of a sweet innocent child as “bad”.  See where we are here?