The Newsroom: 2.07 - Red Team III
At the start of this seventh episode, there was still a third left in the second season of The Newsroom, so I wasn't expecting quite the degree of finality we got here. The entire Genoa storyline, definitely the prime arc of season two, detonates here, the main narrative finally catches up to the flashforwards and Maggie's new red haircut might really be in the present now.
So, I've been fairly complimentary about the Genoa storyline so far in these reviews, saying it gave the show a direction and drama that the first year lacked - did the ending live up to that? Let's find out, and yes, spoilers.
A specific flavour of failureI enjoy it when TV shows seem to literally read the critical viewer's mind, giving us direct, intelligent answers to our worries about whether something will work. So, after I voiced some concern about the direction of Genoa last week, it was fun to see Don Keefer take almost the same viewpoint at the start of this episode and get told by the enjoyable lawyer guest star, in no uncertain terms, why it's wrong. No, he/we are told, Jerry's doctoring of footage doesn't make Genoa an open-and-shut case, because it wasn't the only contributor to the resultant disaster. "Institutional failure" is the buzzword of the week, from that first scene with Don right up to Will's deposition at the end, when he admits that is exactly what happened.
And between those two, we see the whole mess build up, and painfully unravel. Our knowledge of what's coming only makes some of these scenes even harder to watch: Will's delight at the viewing figures is both painful foreshadowing and perfectly in line with his unhealthy relationship with the audience, Mac's horror at her own mistakes, even the scene where the lawyer needles Jim for contributing to the situation by putting his Maggie problem ahead of his work - all excellently pitched. The character beats in the show work much better when they inform the news storylines, rather than just sitting there alone, wailing.
Oh, and Charlie's discovery about his source being out to get him was painful, if only because Charlie's such a lovable character. Most impressive perhaps, was the way our heroes deconstructed the entire Genoa case, bit by agonising bit, until they realised it was all garbage. I'd wondered how they were going to pull that off, considering how much evidence there seemed to be - I really thought we'd end up with a situation in which Genoa did happen as they suspected, they were just prevented from proving it by Jerry's duplicity. But no, all the seren stuff was untrue, and the heartbreak of the poor, well-intentioned News Night staff as it all came out was excruciating yet excellent. Particularly enjoyed their conference room scene where they discussed the implications of the brain damage reveal, clearly all doubting but unwilling to turn on their story.
Jane Fonda Saves The Day!At the end of it all, we see Will, Charlie and Mac about to resign after they've completed their election coverage, Maggie finally modelling her much-threatened new red short hair and then, at the last minute, um, good old Leona marches in and kinda saves the day, or at least stubbornly refuses to accept their resignations. The AV Club review wasn't a huge fan of this twist - I didn't find it quite as much of a black spot, although I'd have been tempted to hold it off a week or two, just to avoid defusing the big plot so quickly.
Ultimately, once you raise the stakes to the three most major characters being fired, you've kinda accepted that it'll be undone somehow. The series has to continue, so we're not going to lose Will, Mac and Charlie, although I suppose it's still possible we might shed one of them. So I can see the logic in quickly saying "Yes, we know they won't really all quit, so let's move on to other, more dramatic fallout possibilities". There are still two episodes left, with the dramatic backdrop of the 2012 election to give some juice, so I'm really hoping we see the rest of the Genoa fallout. If this one scene with Leona Lansing resolves the entire thread, yes, that is disappointing. But for now, since this season has been pretty good and there's more to come, I'm going to assume we haven't yet seen the worst.
Not to mention, Jane Fonda was brilliant in that final scene. I was hugely entertained, even though it was a strange way to trail off your main plot. So overall, an excellent episode of The Newsroom, I thought. Two excellent episodes out of the last three, and the one sandwiched between them was pretty good too. That's a decent record for a show many wrote off after season one. Next week, HBO is apparently on holiday, so join us in two weeks for the first part of Election Night.