The Newsroom, Season 2, Episode 1: “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers″
Written by Ian Reichbach and Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Alan Poul
Airs Sundays at 10:00 PM ET on HBO
With shows such as Sports Night and The West Wing under his belt, many people were excited to see Aaron Sorkin return to television, particularly after finding big screen success with The Social Network and Moneyball. Tackling journalism, Sorkin’s The Newsroom premiered in 2012 on HBO, with a cast that included Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, and Dev Patel, and ended up receiving uneven reviews throughout the season, with most of the audience qualms coming down on his portrayal of Mackenzie and Maggie, the two key female characters on the show, who often acted out of character when engaged in romantic entanglements, which dominated much of their storylines in the first ten episodes. While the second season premiere did not directly address these issues, it emphasized the show’s strengths in a solid episode that sets up some interesting storylines and character arcs for the season, with a great new addition to the cast.
One of the strengths of the first season was the show’s exploration of the pitfalls associated with the no-holds-barred style of journalism practiced by Will McAvoy and ACN, and it was good to see this episode dive into the nature of such pitfalls to a greater degree, and the indications, with the lawyer hearings, that this issue would be explored at length this season, make for a promising start. While doors being shut in ACN’s face is nothing new—in fact, Reese’s dismissal from the SOPA hearings is a natural progression from the candidate debates being taken away from Will last season, as well as the friction the network faced from the Koch brothers—the hints of what happened to Maggie and the presence of the well-paid lawyer team hint at consequences beyond anything the show has explored to date, and watching how the situation escalates to such a level promises to be intriguing.
Overall, this was a solid return for the show. Neal’s storyline seems particularly intriguing, as the ethos of Occupy Wall Street skews very close to the ideas ACN preached last season, and it will be worth watching to see how The Newsroom treats a target that is not quite as easy to hit as some of the marks in the show’s first season. It was also good to see the show give Mackenzie a level of competence in her personal life as well as her professional one; one of the key issues of the first season was the poor handling of Mackenzie’s personal life, particularly her relationship with Will, and while the second season premiere doesn’t correct the problems, it does mitigate them to a degree, and whether or not that continues is something to keep an eye on. Marcia Gay Harden is a fantastic addition to the show, and it was good to see Chris Chalk, who has performed excellently on Homeland and Justified, get a few lines this episode, hopefully leading to the show utilising him better than it did last season. Likewise for Riley Voelkel’s Jenna Johnson, who hopefully will be given a chance to expand her character beyond the one note of “sorority student” that she has played on the show to date, including in this episode. Olivia Munn was a pleasant surprise last season, holding her own as Sloan Sabbath in her first major acting role, and her strong performance carries over into the second season premiere as well. The idea of showing the possible end of the season before rewinding back to the beginning is a nice trick, allowing the audience to put the pieces together as information comes to light, and what direction the show goes in in the next few episodes is worth tuning in for next week.
– Deepayan Sengupta