The Newsroom, Season 2, Episode 9: “Election Night Part 2″
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Alan Poul
Airs Sundays at 10:00 PM ET on HBO
While the first season of The Newsroom focused on the idea of a news organisation that eschewed ratings for journalism, a lot of the show’s forward momentum seemed to come at the expense of character development, as the main cast often seemed two-dimensional and unnaturally idealistic. With the show’s second season addressing this concern largely through the story of ACN’s colossal failure in reporting the story of chemical weapons use by American soldiers, making a finale that manages not to undo the goodwill the previous eight episodes built up would be a tricky endeavour for Sorkin and co. Fortunately, they manage to pull it off, delivering a season finale that manages to reiterate the positive aspects of some characters while pushing others in the right direction.
While not entirely unpredictable, due to the massive show shakeup it would entail if most of the show’s main cast were to depart, watching Charlie, Will, and Mackenzie have a change of heart was nonetheless fascinating. Charlie’s awakening coming from a decision to not follow the Petraeus story despite its reliable sources fits right in with the attitude he displayed prior to the Genoa story, a desire to pursue a story that, while hindered by the blunder of believing Dantana, has clearly not died. With the core team now wiser and more cautious, but still possessing their zest for reporting, how they approach stories is sure to change, and whether or not that affects their ability to get to breaking news before other organisations is something to keep an eye on. In addition, how much their damaged credibility weighs on them, and whether it causes a delayed reaction in any member of the team, is also a potential storyline that has all the elements to be a compelling narrative.
It was also good to see Mackenzie finally gain equal footing with Will in their relationship. Much of the problems in the first season stemmed from a perception that Will was the faultltess martyr, with Mackenzie being constantly apologetic and deferential in theur personal relationship, which made the dressing room scene this week a refreshing change of pace in allowing Mackenzie to be angry and focus on her emotions for a change, rather than Will’s. The engagement at the end of the episode promises an interesting dynamic next season if done right; with a reporter and his EP spending significant amounts of time together outside work, News Night has the possibility of getting better due to the increased fluidity between the married couple, or getting worse as a result of marital tensions. What route the show chooses to take, and how it affects the rest of the staff’s ability, is worth looking out for next season.
Overall, this was a satisfying season finale, arguably eclipsing the first season finale both in quality and in wrapping up the season’s threads. It was good to see Lisa make a return appearance, as she has remained an interesting character with a lot of potential who has unfortunately always been filtered through either Maggie or Jim, a situation that is hopefully set to change, as the story of a struggling young entrepreneur with insecurity concerns about herself sounds fascinating on its own, rather than as a subplot in another arc. The continuing growth of Maggie the journalist also takes some promising steps in this finale, as the character’s focus on issues outside of her love life is one of the major positive aspects of the second season over the first. Alison Pill is a fine actress who has proven herself capable of carrying strong material in her other endeavours, and if Sorkin continues to explore the journalistic side of Maggie in Season Three, it will be fun to watch both the character, and the work of Pill. With Taylor Warren and Rebecca Halliday, and the improved presence of Mackenzie and Maggie as well as the continued welcome presence of Sloan, the show has managed to vastly improve on its problems with portraying female characters this season, a trend that hopefully continues despite the exits of Taylor and Rebecca. The best episodes this season were penned by Sorkin himself, which is an encouraging sign, and where the show chooses to go in Season Three will certainly be exciting to watch.
– Deepayan Sengupta