It’s no secret that TV critics don’t love The Newsroom. It almost came as a surprise that the dramedy was granted a second season after teetering toward soapy near the end of Season One. But it got better. Slowly, sure, but the second half of the HBO show’s Season Two became good television.
A shift away from the constant will-they-won’t-they relationships of MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) and Will (Jeff Daniels), and Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and Maggie (Alison Pill). A shift away from the unrealistic idealization of broadcast journalism. The exciting Genoa plot and the introduction of Marcia Gay Harden’s sassy lawyer. It just kept getting better.
The Season 2 finale, “Election Night, Part II,” while bittersweet, didn’t live up to the new standards set by the preceding episodes.
The setup was intriguing. ACN newsroom, election night 2012. “Election Night, Part I” left us wondering if MacKenzie, Will and Charlie (Sam Waterson) would have their resignations accepted. If Will really intended on firing Mac should they not be accepted. Would Maggie and Jim’s royal Michigan/Mississippi screw-up get noticed? Would Will continue to be the ill-recruited cheerleader? Oh, and would Sloan (Olivia Munn) ever find out who bought her book with the faux-inscription? The drama was oh so riveting.
While “Part II” did tie up all these loose ends, instead of the backstage election coverage we could have hoped for, Sorkin gave us romcom gooeyness.
With HBO’s order for a third season, it could be assumed that the main cast of characters were not going to be ceremoniously dismissed. While Jane Fonda portraying a stoned Leona is albeit hilarious, her decision to place the fate of Charlie, Will and Mac into Reed’s (Chris Messina) hands isn’t at all surprising. Reese elects to deny any resignations and chooses to not settle with Jerry. There couldn’t be a newsroom without a newsroom staff, now could there?
Everybody Hates (Loves) Jim
The re-introduction of Lisa, Maggie’s disgruntled roommate, and Jim’s ex, was surprising and really unnecessary. She’s working as a cocktail waitress at Reed’s election party, and naturally, as soon as Jim gets wind of this he heads upstairs. Jim trails her around the party, groveling for her forgiveness. Poor Lisa insists she’s “smart enough to know I’m not smart enough” for Jim. Jim does manage, however, to urge Lisa to communicate with the damaged, and in desperate need of a hair intervention, Maggie.
And then there’s Hallie. Lisa leaves Jim licking his wounds, and he reaches out to his long distance girlfriend, asking if he ever makes her feel stupid. ”First of all, you’re not smart enough to make me feel like I’m dumb,” Hallie replies, “and I really like you, too. You’re not blowing it.”
Finally, Jim approaches Maggie – who had very recently declared her hatred for him. Letting her guard down, she shares the background of her hair hack job, and discusses how they first met at ACN. Nerdy, awkward Jim, has somehow managed to wrangle the affections of three, strong females.
Book Bidders Anonymous
Neal’s completed his wild goose chase for Sloan’s book buyer, and no, it’s not a jailbird. ”Was it bought by an inmate?” she asks. ”I have a small, slightly disturbed following among white-collar criminals.” Turns out, Don (Thomas Sadoski) bought the book so Sloan wouldn’t be embarrassed at the lack of bids. It didn’t come as a surprise that Sloan marches up to Don, signs a copy of the book and gives him a big kiss in front of the whole staff. She’s just got that can-do attitude.
Goin’ to the Chapel
In what can only be described as a complete 360, Mac and Will go from professional turmoil to personal bliss. Mac and Will are engaged! Naturally, Will preceded his proposal with searing remarks about the couple’s romantic history and the return of an engagement ring. Later, in an “aha!” moment, Will digs out the engagement ring he supposedly was rid of and after a soliloquy that only Will could deliver, drops down on one knee.
“Let me just say, I think you should. I think you should say yes. But no matter what you say, there’s no chance I am ever gonna hurt you again. And no matter what you say, I am gonna be in love with you for the rest of my life. There’s no way out of that. That’s just a physical law of the universe. You own me. No matter what you say, I will never stop.” Oh Will, you killed it.
And while it was sweet, it seemed like an after thought. The entire season pulled sharply away from a Mac-Will reconnection. While a happy conclusion, The Newsroom reverts into the sappy side plots of Season One, something we were all so proud of Sorkin for slowly dispelling.
Here’s to Season Three and all that it holds.