The Newsroom: 3.01 Boston
After a very long wait the third and final season of The Newsroom began this week. This series may not have had the adoration of The West Wing, but then Aaron Sorkin's White House drama might very well be one of the great television dramas of all time. The Newsroom is not that far behind though. It is a show that credits the audience with intelligence, requiring them to keep up with the pace - there's more dialogue in a one hour Aaron Sorkin TV episode than three hours of most shows - but it always delivers.
There was certainly a brisk pace to Boston, but then again with only six episodes before Sorkin is done with television for good, there was a lot to pack in. Despite Will's assertions at the end that this isn't the start of the third act but the end of the first act, we are coming to the end of a show of which we might not see its like again.
The Newsroom certainly hasn't been afraid to pull any punches and Boston was no different. The title of course refers to the tragic events of April 2013 where the finish line of the Boston Marathon was rigged with two bombs that killed three people and injured 264 more. After an amusing scene where Mac and Will discuss their nine groomsmen for nine bridesmaids, the audience was thrown into the chaos of this real life event. The portrayal of what happened was neither sensationalist or exaggerated but handled with respect for what really occurred.
While some shows might shy away from such tragic events, one of the most successful elements of this show is its ability to tackle them with intelligence in a way that The West Wing always would. In fact, while the Newsroom has never hit the heights of its predecessor, the end of season two and the opening of season three certainly proved it was not that far behind.
Boston covered a lot over a series of long days. The manner in which ACN delays breaking the news until they have the definitive facts, proof enough that the events of the Genoa incident last year are far from forgotten. This was something almost uplifting in the way they treated the story with sensitivity and that ultimately showed in the way they ended up fourth in the ratings.
Maggie and Elliott heading into Boston to cover the events firsthand was a significant step in rejuvenating Maggie after the events of Africa last year which physically and emotionally almost destroyed her. After the comments of everyone asking if she was up to the producer gig, that final scene where she conducted the correspondence with Will live on air was magnificent and finally started to show her potential.
Of course, like the West Wing, Sorkin has been able to blend comedy into the drama and Boston was no different. Will's first speech to the room was a complete disaster and better still was Charlie and Will's rant against the newsroom for applauding CNN's retraction, Charlie all righteous (and possibly a little inebriated, I can never tell) and Will's preacher-like support of his boss. You almost expected him to add an 'amen' at the end. It was a great comic moment that broke up the heavy subject matter and kept the episode entertaining.
As packed as the episode was, it still found time for two more sub plots - both I assume will come into greater focus next week. First up was a depressed Reese Lansing bemoaning his two step-siblings and their impending inheritance and asking Sloan to look into some big losses for ACN. The ultimate fall out of this story - ACN's hostile take over - certainly gives a feeling of the endgame in place for this final season of The Newsroom.
Sloan's investigation into the financial trail was a nice sub plot, even if I didn't understand all the detail. I'm not sure you're supposed to either. With her super computer giving her access to the world's financial data, Sloan is a genius and a nerd and that makes her very engaging as a character. I loved her banter with Don too - he also got a great comic scene in the courtroom - and I think together they have become the Josh and Donna of the Newsroom, not Maggie and Jim as originally envisioned.
Just as interesting was Neal's sub plot, being fed secret government documents and inadvertently causing espionage by asking for clarification. A nice shout out to fictional Africa country Kundu too, a place anyone who watched The West Wing will be familiar with. The Geona incident added a fascinating extra element to season two. The wiki-leaks style story line of this year promises to be just as exciting.
Will threatening to quit over falling ratings, Neal's espionage plot and the hostile takeover of ACN; the pieces are certainly in play for The Newsroom's final scene. Some might find the show pretentious. Personally I find 90% a joy to watch from start to finish. Boston certainly set the mark high with one of the show's best episodes to date and I for one am going to be gutted when it is all over. But at least we have five more weeks. Enjoy the magic while you can!