The Newsroom: 2.03 - Willie Pete

In the third episode of The Newsroom, all seems calm. It would be a lie to say everyone is relaxed - in fact, several characters spend the whole episode in a state of advanced blood pressure - but the drama has eased off. I suspect this is the calm before the storm, a last session of relaxed office kerfuffle before the Genoa story starts to blow everything to bits, but was it entertaining enough?

Did we come away loving our heroes more, or simply wanting to punch them? Results below, spoilers follow.



Certainly, Will's opening monologue set a clear mission statement for Willie Pete as an exercise in Classic Newsroom. Just like back in season one, he takes on an obvious bad guy and tears them a gaping new arsehole, while his crew bites back the applause. And meanwhile, we viewers try to let the fact his rant was quite well-written compensate for the preachy smugness. Cleverly, Sorkin has positioned this at the start rather than the end, meaning it doesn't dominate our recollections of the story.

Will's power-speechifying isn't the only season one standard to re-emerge here: we've got his "mission to civilise", a reference to Don Quixote, gossip columnist Nina Harris, the blackmail tape, exploring Will and Mac's past hisory - oh yes, it's a veritable orgy of 2012 nostalgia. If you wondered what happened to all that stuff, this is the one for you. If you were overjoyed they'd dropped it, you're probably ready to eat a shotgun. But once again, there's enough shades of grey to stop it all being too infuriating. Nina isn't completely evil! Mac and Will have a believable non-cutesy moment! The blackmail tape goes away! The "mission to civilise" and Quixote stuff is... okay, still a bit overdone, but there's not that much of it.

Elsewhere, Jim is on a bus. This is at least a genuinely new storyline, clearly intended as cutesy antics, as he makes a couple of Romney campaign staff's lives a living hell with questions they cannot answer. This is fun for a while, but gets rather old by episode's end - what is he expecting, exactly? Hell, by the time they left him by the side of the road with his two new sidekicks, I was mostly on Romney's side, and I'm pretty sure I normally swing Obama. Despite positioning new reporter Hallie to make the arguments against his stubborn repitition, The Newsroom couldn't resist having Jim teach her a very important lesson at the end, thus making it clear he was right all along. About everything, probably.

Down In The Cheap Seats

Don and Sloan, meanwhile, get a handful of scenes which are probably my favourite part of the episode. (I enjoy comedy based on people falling over.) One season 1 element I do kinda miss, though: Don being portrayed as a less ethically rigid journo than the News Night inner circle. He's a bit more of a general nice guy this year so far, I'm hoping to see him regain his edge. Nonetheless, still a lot of fun, Olivia Munn as Sloan continues her run of stealing whole episodes with relatively small parts.

Elsewhere, the Genoa, Occupy and Maggie Goes To Africa plots continue to creep fractionally forward, waiting for their big moments in future weeks. All servicable, Dev Patel's Neal character is getting laudable extra depth this year, but nothing hugely exciting to report.

In summation: an okay fun intermission episode of The Newsroom - good bits, but flawed. The Jim storyline wasn't quite as endearing and right-on as it seemed to think it was, and the whole thing did drag in the middle. Hopefully next week we'll see an even better, tighter episode.

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