The Newsroom: 2.08 - Election Night, Part One

I'd been quite enjoying the season-long Genoa arc in The Newsroom this year, and it kept surprising me right up to the bitter end when it, um, finished early. Two weeks before the end of the season, the heroic journos of News Night aired the story, it fell apart and the big moments all came. It was a good episode, a strong pay-off to everything, but does leave us with one niggling question: um, what now?

Well, we're getting a two-parter called Election Night, in which the staff of News Night get to work reporting the biggest broadcast news event of all and deal (kinda) with the fallout of Genoa. Good follow-up or slight trail-off? (Spoilers follow.)

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One of the fun games you can play as a Sorkin fan watching The Newsroom is spotting his recurring phrases and storylines. For example, an arc he has used heavily in the past:
"[CHARACTER NAME] avoids dealing with [IMPORTANT THING] by obsessing over [TRIVIAL THING], providing comedy followed by a sad breakdown."

If you like this storyline then it's Christmas for you, because this is basically a whole episode of it. Well, the first half anyway - the News Night staff are determined to get through the election coverage without letting Genoa depress the hell out of them, so most of them focus on various banalities to achieve it. Will appoints himself director of morale, Sloan obsesses over Gary forging her signature, Mac tries to edit her own Wikipedia page, Maggie tries to one-up Jim by chasing a lead.

Most of these storylines provide a couple of fun exchanges, but they're still just the lead characters avoiding talking about the interesting thing for most of the episode. It would probably have worked as a fun gimmick for the opening half of an episode, but as the whole first chunk of a two-parter, all the nothingness-with-slight-undercurrents-of-meaning gets a bit much.

It's Good To Talk, Guys

It's probably no coincidence that most of the memorable and good scenes are the ones where the chracters cut the crap and actually talk about the plot - Charlie challenging Reese, Don being told Jerry is suing him, Will's two confrontations with Mac - rather than letting themselves get willfully bogged down. Again, not that it's all bad silliness, but after a few weeks when The Newsroom achieved genuine drama, this seems a deflation. Like last week was the real finale, and this is some weird between-seasons Christmas special.

Oh, I did like Jim and Maggie's election night process storyline though. Yes, it's another side-story, but it felt like one that mattered - another retraction genuinely would look awful post-Genoa. The ending with the Petraeus thing breaking... I can see why it sticks our heroes somewhat, but not sure it felt big enough to end the episode on. To be honest, that's another issue with this whole thing - it felt like a double-length episode cut in half, rather than the clear first part of a story.

Maybe next week's episode will be amazing - we can cut past the distractions and get to the real drama, and I still think that could be good. There's some worthwhile groundwork here among the weird Wikipedia stuff, but as a single unit, Election Night - Part One kinda clearly advertises its own biggest flaw. Yes, it's clearly shown that most of the stuff they're dealing with here is a bit silly, but it takes up so much of the running time that it's still hard not to remember most of the episode as... well, being a bit silly.

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