Nina: “Tough ass speech. But you’re not going to win.”
Will: “Nah, I don’t care. I’m just a middle-aged man who never lived up to his potential. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of me if I ever do.”
It’s February 2011 and with Egypt revolting against Mubarak, the team hire an Egyptian named Amen (Armin El Gamal) to give them stories from the front line. Meanwhile the mudslinging from gossip rag TMI intensified, with Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) being dragged into Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda)’s scheme to turn the public against Will (Jeff Daniels).
After last week’s incredible episode maybe it was asking too much for The Newsroom to carry on in the same vein each week. That’s not to say this wasn’t a good episode, but compared to last week, it was a slight disappointment. Yet saying that, this episode did have a scene that managed to upstage the episode 1 opener for best of the series.
The scene I’m referring to is Will’s smack down with TMI “journalist” Nina Howard (Hope Davis). I use the term journalist very carefully, fearful that Jeff Daniels will turn up and educate me on the difference between a true journalist and tabloid shit-stirrer. It’s not the first time Will has had to take someone down, but what makes this different is how he does it. He’s not shouting and hollering, instead he’s calm and quiet. This isn’t Will’s usual bravado flexing; instead it’s a warning that he’s not someone to be messed with. It’s chilling, absorbing and electrifying; with the look on Nina Howard’s face worth the $50,000 Will was going to pay to keep Mackenzie out of TMI.
This act of kindness from Will to protect Mackenzie personified this week’s big theme: doing things for others. This, combined with it being Valentines Day, meant that each storyline involved a lot more goodwill than has been the norm. This was anchored by the staff finding a connection with the movie, Rudy (1993) – and in particular a scene that Mackenzie reveals Will cried at. This scene – described in some cunning exposition – shares the theme of this episode but is also mirrored in the finale, as everyone in the newsroom lines up to give Will a cheque, after he paid $250,000 to free Amen from his kidnappers. The Newsroom often toes the line, occasionally coming very close to falling into sentimental corniness, but this time the balancing act was executed in such a way that you embraced the sugar rush from the syrupy climax.
Talking of sugary sweet, although I have been critical of it, for me the Maggie/Jim storyline is now providing the most laughs and enjoyment each week. It’s also worth pointing out that Maggie (Alison Pill) is developing quite nicely, as she gains more and more confidence each and every episode. Although their storyline didn’t progress much, I do love the comedy double act Maggie and Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) have going on. It’s pleasing to see that elements such as this that fell flat in early episodes are now working well.
In other news… Neal (Dev Patel) finally got his time to shine. It’s been coming but this week he was right in the middle of the action. There was also a Sloan (Olivia Munn) sighting, which is always welcome. I really like her but I don’t know why. She’s a slight character that seems to bring little to the narrative, but she lights up every scene she’s in. Like Neal, Sloan is someone I’d like to see more of. And as a side note, this was possibly the most violent Aaron Sorkin has ever been with injuries including: Jim’s head; Elliot (David Harbour)’s entire body; Don (Thomas Sadoski)’s shoulder; and Neal’s hand. The best of these of course being Don’s attempt to be tough, resulting in him straining his shoulder and totally embarrassing himself. Don has become less pantomime jackass in the last couple of episodes, but him failing in such spectacular fashion brought a smile to my face.
So, all in all a good, solid episode. We’re now halfway through the series and everything is pointing towards a thrilling second half. A second half that I don’t imagine will have much room for the warm, tingly happiness that this episode ended with.