The Newsroom, Ep 1.10: “The Greater Fool” stumbles in closing out the season

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The Newsroom, Season 1, Episode 10: “The Greater Fool″
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Greg Mottola
Airs Sundays at 10:00 PM ET on HBO

Season finales are difficult to pull off for any show. The final episode is meant to resolve season-long arcs while still progressing along, or starting, enough story threads to intrigue viewers into tuning in the following season, as well as give each character their due. This is no easy feat for well-established shows, but for shows in their rookie season, it can be doubly difficult to pull off, because the first season finale can often decide the fate of a show. The Newsroom, while not suffering from an uncertain fate, as a second season has been confirmed, still faced these issues going into its first season finale, and unfortunately stumbled a bit in its delivery as a result.

The primary storyline, which involved the fallout from Bryan’s report on News Night 2.0 and the effect it had on Will, was a strong one, and highlighted much of what was good about the show. One interesting avenue Sorkin has explored throughout the season has been the impact that honest reporting can have on individuals, which has added another dimension to what could easily have become a cliché crusade in search of the truth, and Will’s second-guessing of his capabilities is a perfect culmination of the show’s season-long exploration of News Night 2.0’s impact, as well as an interesting way to revisit his shaky self-image. The issues that had previously arisen with the characterization of Mackenzie were also completely absent this episode, as Will’s hospital stay would likely have turned early-season Mackenzie into a sobbing mess, instead of the slightly angry and worried yet assured character that was present this episode. It will be interesting to see how long Will’s negative view of himself will linger, and how Sorkin chooses to look at it in coming seasons. If nothing else, it promises further visits by Will to David Krumholtz’s Dr. Habib, which has yet to be a bad thing.

Another strong aspect of the show was Neal and Lonny’s pursuit of the individual who made the death threat against Will. This storyline has been an interesting change of direction from Neal’s attempt to integrate himself in the online troll community, and establishes him as someone who’s willing to put his own career aspirations aside to do what’s morally right, something that hopefully plays into his decisions in future seasons. At the same time, the story of Neal pursuing the online troll community is one that the writers hopefully pick up again next season, as there continues to be potential, both in the idea of Neal exploring some darker aspects of his character, and attempting to establish himself as a journalist. As well, the increase in death threats seems to indicate the continued presence of Terry Crews’s Lonny Church, which is also good news.

The conclusion of the wiretap storyline, however, wasn’t quite as clean. While the way Skinner was forced to leave Hancock out to dry due to his unreliability was a very effective way of illustrating how news can be impacted by much more than just the importance or quality of the content, the way the information was used and the resolution it led to felt like a cop-out. Leona’s implicit approval of what News Night 2.0 was trying to accomplish was always present, and the simple reveal of Reese’s wiretap activities really doesn’t remove the numerous other burdens that forced Leona to take action against Will, making her about-face seem somewhat cheap and convenient. Likewise, the lack of ramifications for Reese or ACN as a whole as a result of the wiretap activities heavily reduces the impact of the news itself. There was potential for the writers to explore how to find out, develop, and break a story that took place entirely in the show’s universe, but in the end, that opportunity was missed, and the friction between Leona and Charlie was seemingly evaporated without anything concrete to bring it down. Jim seemed to indicate that the NSA’s activities would be explored further, but that’s small consolation for the rest of the storyline being steered to the wayside. That being said, however, the confrontation was well shot, and all the involved parties made it an excellent scene.

Another frustrating aspect of the finale was the romantic storyline, which has expanded from a triangle in the season premiere to a pentagon this episode, as Sloan threw her hat into the proceedings this episode. Sloan is the one well-developed female character on the show who wasn’t involved in a relationship issue of any kind, and her character felt like a refreshing change of pace in that manner, something the writers chose to throw away in the finale. A deeper look into why Sloan considered leaving News Night 2.0, and why she finally decided to stay, could have possibly been compelling in light of everything the audience has learnt about the character throughout the season, and forgoing that in favour of developing yet another unrequited love connection was quite unnecessary, and threatens to add more manufactured tension next season, something the show does not need to do to remain interesting.

Overall, while this episode wasn’t as strong as the second half of The Newsroom has been, it was nonetheless a mostly effective way to close out the season. The hiring of the University student who prompted the now-famous speech that kicked off the show feels like overcrowding, especially when there are numerous members of News Night 2.0 who remain undeveloped beyond having a name, as well as perhaps being indulgent in its apparent display of the transformative power of true journalism, but it might prove worthwhile despite those factors. The acting throughout the season, from Jeff Daniels to Adam Arkin, has been fantastic, and the show has managed to fulfill some of its potential of its premise in the first season, enough to make the idea of a second season something to anticipate, rather than dread.

Deepayan Sengupta

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