The Newsroom, Ep 2.08: “Election Night Part 1” sets things up for the finale while managing to not feel like a filler episode

Constance Zimmer, Olivia Munn
Constance Zimmer, Olivia Munn

The Newsroom, Season 2, Episode 8: “Election Night Part 1″
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Jason Ensler
Airs Sundays at 10:00 PM ET on HBO

With the exposure of News Night’s major story of chemical weapons use by the American army turning out to be a complete fabrication last week, the team as a whole, and Will and Mackenzie in particular, face a long road ahead in rebuilding what they had before the Genoa report, despite the surprising vote of confidence from Leona Lansing. This week’s episode focuses on the aftermath of Leona’s unexpected decision on the news team, examining the toll the story takes on the emotional state and decision-making capabilities of various members of the team, in a well-done setup to the end of the season.

The skittishness of ACN following the Genoa debacle, both in reporting news and in retracting it, was well-illustrated this episode. The team walking on eggshells is perfectly understandable in light of how wrong they were on Genoa, in large part due to the scale of the story. However, in theory, a fearless news team should not be afraid of always moving forward regardless of whether they stumble or not, and the ACN team’s reluctance to do so adds a humanising touch to them, and drives home the point that these people are not infallible automatons, but real people with less idea of what to do next than they let on. It will be interesting to see whether Leona’s confidence in the team helps the members regain their own self-confidence, and how individual members of the team heal from their own guilt. It will also be fascinating to watch how the shaky ground ACN is on with the public affects their reporting going forward; as was seen with the Michigan gaffe this week, digging one’s heels in or quietly ignoring seem to be the only two viable options when News Night makes even a minor mistake at this point, which is bound to weigh on the team even if they don’t get caught.

Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel
Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel

Watching Charlie, Will, and Mackenzie wrestle with their own involvement in the Genoa incident also proves compelling this week. Despite the issues the show had with the portrayal of Mackenzie in its first season, she has never been presented in a professional capacity as anything other than a powerhouse, with her capabilities acknowledged by several individuals. Thus, seeing how she reacts to a professional failure is an interesting new direction for the character, and while she manages to get her wish with Will firing her this week, her desire to produce news that matters is bound to outweigh her guilt over Genoa sooner or later, and what specifically pushes her over the brink with regards to that is worth looking out for. Will and Charlie are also bound to arrive at the same conclusion themselves, and the path each of the three take to arrive at that destination will reveal a lot about what makes these particular characters tick, and how they recover from severe adversity.

Overall, this was an interesting leadup to next week’s season finale, one that manages to move the story forward without making it seem like only setup. It was good to see Taylor on the ACN team, and her character has been one of the highlights of the season, as she has clearly represented the opposition, yet not been painted as a clear villain, and hopefully the end of the season doesn’t mark the end of her time on the show as well. Marcia Gay Harden was also a delight to watch this week, as she continues to prove herself a good fit for the universe of The Newsroom. It was unfortunate, however, to see Neal once again get saddled with inconsequential storylines, particularly after the beginning of the season promised a more substantial role for the character, a promise that never truly materialised. Whether or not the Michigan gaffe costs ACN any more credibility, whether or not Jerry’s case causes any more damage than anticipated, and how the News Night crew deals with the story of David Petraeus, are all worth tuning in to see in next week’s season finale.

– Deepayan Sengupta

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