The Newsroom: 3.04 Contempt
This week's The Newsroom was a bit of a frustrating affair. There were some moments that were at the level of brilliance of the last three episodes - the ending for example, which I'll come to in more detail shortly - while a large portion of the first half of the episode just didn't seem to be going anywhere. It was still good TV, but with only six episodes in this final season not a moment can be wasted and there were scenes where I felt Contempt was treading water.
Perhaps it is because a chunk of the episode was dealing with the inevitable collapse of Jim and Hallie's relationship. I don't feel like Hallie - as good as an actress Grace Gummer is - has made enough of an impact to warrant so much of the final season's limited run time and has served more to give Jim something to do. The frustrating thing is Jim is a good character but he's never lived up to the potential suggested in early season one. He was brought on board as Mac's protege; last season he spent most of the episodes on the road and this year most of his screen time has been with Hallie and not his colleagues.
Odd too was the sudden argument between Maggie and her ethics boyfriend professor when they had been together for just one episode previously. I've really enjoyed their relationship; it's been another step in the more confident Maggie we have seen this year. But I guess it has become a casualty of this six-episode final season. Had we had nine or ten episodes then we might have seen more of them as a couple.
Of course, what it is all really about is going full circle and getting Jim and Maggie together as a couple. It will be much more believable now - I said in the last couple of reviews that she is much closer to his level now, both in career and strength of personality and this time they might just work.
Much of this episode was about the couples - so much so that we didn't get to see any news being broadcast, but I guess Contempt was all about setting up these characters is some part for the final two episodes, where the big dramas would easily overshadow the relationship highs and lows.
The HR witch hunt of Don and Sloan came to an end this week. I loved the way Wyatt tricked Don into 'friending' him on Instagram and Sloan's clever attempt at removing any evidence of their relationship. Better still was the realisation that she has already written to HR about them weeks ago and was just hoping Wyatt wouldn't find the letter. My only gripe with the whole story line was that it was for nothing. Wyatt was bored in HR and wanted to play a game; as fun as the last two episodes had been, this plot became utterly pointless and went from an amusing to frustrating distraction with the rest of the drama underway.
However, there was so much in this episode that was great, that easily made up for these small irritations. Let's start with the double bluff of potential buyer Toni Dodd seemingly saving ACN at the last minute from Lucas Pruit. We were led to believe that Sloan and Charlie had found someone with the money and the integrity to save ACN; instead she used their desperation to play a rival new company into getting the best price for that company. In the end, we were left with a desperate Charlie raging against Pruit even as he signed the papers and bought ACN from the Lancings.
As to what happens next, I have no idea. Charlie has a new arch nemesis and this time Pruit's ideas might destroy him. Social media taken to the extreme, audiences as two-bit journalists; this is as far removed from the ideals of Charlie, Mac and Will as humanly possible. B.J. Novak's smug, almost-unbalanced performance as made Pruit Reese Lancing mark 2, only far worse and I'm interested to see where this story goes next.
In fact I can't see this going well at all. It seems ACN's days are numbered, certainly as we see it now. Which is a shame. I'd be quite happy to see Charlie rage war against Pruit in a fourth season, see how he fights against a news network that enters the twenty first century. As it stands, I think this might be the end for Charlie...
...And Mac and Will. It was a moment that we all thought would never come. Last week Will was so confident that the Government would never put a high profile journalist in prison for not revealing his source and yet that is exactly what happened. As an audience we were given false hope that Barry Lasenthal's prosecution come to nothing when the judge seemed impervious to his demands. But despite a courageous speech about integrity Will still found himself landed with an indefinite prison sentence.
At least there was a wedding, as short lived as it was. After all the hype over the big celebrity wedding we had been hearing about for weeks, Mac and Will married in a simple registry office before Will was taken away in handcuffs just moments after he became Mac's husband - all to the beautiful Ave Maria.
I just want to mention Emily Mortimer's performance as Mac during this episode. She might be an important character but she often gets sidelines to others. In Contempt, Mortimer delivered her best performance yet. From her desperation to get the source to reveal herself, to the elation at going ahead with the story and the utter frustration when Reese Lancing - at Pruit's request - told her to kill the story. The final scenes were filled with so much passion; her final kiss to Will absolutely sold her love for him and her grief at loosing him.
It was a tragic end to the episode that saw everything these characters had built fall apart. Neal is still absent in South America. Will is in prison on his wedding night. Maggie and Jim's relationships are over or falling apart and Charlie is loosing everything in the buy out of ACN. The story of Kundu was a casualty too; some might be angry that we never saw this broadcast - I was too at first - but that was kind of the point. Ethics, integrity, the truth; that led to the devastating Genoa broadcast and now it has been silenced before ACN can reveal it. A great twist in Mac and Don shipping off the evidence to Don's old professor though; perhaps the truth will find a way to be revealed.
If this is really where The Newsroom is going; the fall of broadcast journalism, then it will be a momentous and tragic end to the show. I am still holding out some hope that things may turn around at the eleventh hour, but with just two episodes left, I'm not so sure. How everyone reacts to Will's imprisonment remains to be seen. I'm gutted this show is ending but I'm on tender hooks to see how it ends.