The Newsroom: 3.05 Oh Shenandoah
The way season three of The Newsroom has been going, it was never going to have a happy ending, but I was still blindsided by Aaron Sorkin as he went and killed off poor Charlie with a heart attack. It was The West Wing season seven all over again. Thankfully this time it wasn't as the result if the death of the actor [Sam Waterston] like John Spencer's Leo McGarry.
As usual in this final season, Oh Shenandoah packed a lot into this episode but at its core was the tragic end to Charlie Skinner. Bowing to the ridiculous demands of new ACN owner Lucas Pruitt, we witnessed a Charlie that was very much out of character. He supported the sensationalist news items, from the celebrity tracker to the tabloid-style headlines against the objections of Mac, Sloan and Don. Worse still was attempts to force Don to get a rape victim and her attacker on the show for a dramatic interview all in the name of ratings.
Stressed to breaking point, loosing his own self respect and forcing down his colleagues, his collapse was shocking and inevitable too. At the last moment he rallied against Pruit as the owner screamed for the firing of Sloan and Mac but his redemption came too late. If The Newsroom season three has been about the fall of the ACN we know it, then Charlie was its heart and without him I can't see Will, Mac and the rest of the crew continuing on.
Elsewhere, there was something quite uncomfortable about Don interviewing the rape victim in her dorm room, trying to convince her that her site naming and shaming rapists who had avoided prosecution would lead someone innocent being disgraced. It was great to see Don get a moment in the limelight outside his relationship with Sloan - as fun as that has been - and I loved that he lied to Charlie at the end by stating that he had not been able to interview her. It was the right thing to do and it showed just how essential the ethics and integrity of these broadcast journalists are, even if Pruit threatened to destroy it all.
Sloan had her moment too, destroying the smug Bree Dorrit on live television after Neal's replacement championed his latest celebrity stalking app. She publicly destroyed the Dorrit and Pruit's latest creation, highlighting the dangers of the app and its ability to destroy lives. We knew this was coming the moment Sloan asked to interview him but it was still electric to watch.
Over in Moscow, Jim and Maggie finally got some alone time as they tried to track down a big story; Snowden escaping to Cuba. It mirrored the own wiki-leaks story this season nicely, playing homage to where it came from. It also served to bring to a head the will-they won't-they relationship as they finally shared their true feelings on their flight to Cuba. It was a long time coming but it was well earned. My wife gave a squeal of delight when they finally kissed; as I've said before they are finally on the right level emotionally and professionally where they can actually work. One side note though - is Maggie's relationship with the ethics professor over now or will she have some explaining to do?
A lot was resolved in this episode, setting up the finale to be more a reflection on what had happened then tying up lots of plot threads. This week we saw the government's crusade against Will and ACN come to an end as the source killed herself and Will's imprisonment finished. The episode began with a big surprise; after Will started his sentence, the story jumped 52 days later. It was a great way to progress the on-going story lines and show just how much of an impact Will's actions (and Pruit's buy out of ACN) had on the show.
Personally I think the series has suffered a little from the six-episode run; while there has been very little wasted in terms of story, it felt a little too easy to jump to the end of the sentence. Having two episodes with Will in prison may have helped show just how much of a loss he would have had on ACN. I also wanted to see the public reaction to a major journalist going to prison for hiding his source. Instead the whole thing seemed to go virtually unnoticed by the wider world.
I enjoyed the conflict Will shared with his cell mate. It allowed the episode to continue the morale debate Will gets to express through ACN and Kevin Rankin put in a good performance against Jeff Daniels. The twist that it wasn't real and that his debate had been with his father was an interesting idea, adding depth to Will's character even at this late stage in the show. Did it put into question his mental state? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I think the episode moved on quickly to Charlie's death before we had the time to ponder this.
It was certainly a roller-coaster of emotions this week. The use of Oh Shenandoah as Charlie met his tragic end and Will gained his freedom was a beautiful moment in very much the same as Ava Maria last week. The finale is less than a week away and I'm both excited and gutted to see it. Season three of The Newsroom has been at another level. Let's hope the show can go out on a high.