Dare I say it? I’m afraid to type these words on the internet for fear that it might jinx the trend, but I’ve got to tell you guys: I’ve actually liked the past two episodes of The Newsroom.
I know, right? I’ve written three reviews of the show so far, and my last one was the harshest. If you follow a lot of TV critics on Twitter, you knew that the fourth episode was widely disliked before it even aired, and perhaps like me you saw your own opinion coming thanks to those early reviews. But many others of you have disagreed with me – in the comments section, on Twitter and Facebook, in person… – and that’s great. I’m glad you guys like the show and love hearing the reasons why. (Although the comment “It’s just a TV show, you should lighten up” from my last review suggested that the commenter lacked an understanding of what goes on here. Maybe I’ll institute a Will McAvoy style screening policy for comments.)
I liked the episode from two weeks ago, “Amen”, though not so much that I was inspired to write about it. (It was also a really busy week.) But I thought the depiction of the uprising in Egypt was really well done and interesting. This week’s episode, however, I thought was the best yet. And I’m not surprised, since it heavily featured Olivia Munn, my favorite female character on the show by a landslide.
Much of the episode centered around the 2011 earthquake and resulting nuclear accidents in Japan. As someone fluent in Japanese, Munn’s character of Sloan played a role in reporting the event and also happened to be filling in for the ten o’clock news for the first time one evening following the earthquake.
I won’t recap what happened because I assume those of you reading the review saw the episode. I really liked how everything played out – Sloan’s involvement in reporting on the event, the advice/pep talk that Will gave her and how that influenced the way she acted on the air. It all resulted in a major ethics breach when Sloan reported something on the air that she had only been told off the record.
Journalism ethics are a tricky thing, and it was fascinating to watch that play out on this show. There’s not always a “right” answer, and I liked that in this situation Sorkin allowed things to be really, really hazy and uncomfortable. Whether to suspend Sloan, whether to lie on the air to save a guy’s job, whether to admit they’d reported something inaccurately when that wasn’t *quite* the case – those are all difficult decisions that don’t end happily. The situation sucks, no matter how you slice it or how you deal with it. As someone who majored in Journalism and took an ethics course (one of my favorite classes, actually – I bet David Swick at King’s College would have a field day with this show) I found it all really interesting.
I also loved how all the other aspects of the show fit into this situation, like tiny puzzle pieces, each playing a role in Will not being able to sleep. (And, thus, not being able to speak coherently on air.) One of my complaints in my last review is that Will is too often right, even when being an ass. This week we got to see him be wrong. He went way too far in interviewing a black, gay representative of Rick Santorum. Even though many of us probably agreed with the points he was making, I bet we all knew he’d crossed a line. He knew he crossed a line.
Up until now, it often felt like Sorkin was making the argument that being a good journalist was as easy as just decided to do it. That there are no grey areas or difficult choices, that it’s not a high-wire act to get the truth out of people without going beyond the boundaries of ethical interviewing or gaining yourself a reputation for being someone that no one would want to be interviewed by. This episode changed that, and I respect the show more for it.
One of my other complaints about the show has been how the women are depicted. I liked that in this episode, Sloan screwed up not because she was being emotional or ditzy, but because she was trying to be a better journalist. The same way, really, that Will screwed up interviewing the Santorum lacky because he’s been trying to be a better journalist. She kept her cool when she was being berated after the insult, and no one will ever refer to her as “girl” again.
Of course, I had a couple issues with the episode but they were pretty minor. I audibly groaned when, in the middle of a serious discussion with Sloan, Don blurted out “Am I losing Maggie to Jim?” and then immediately brushed off Sloan’s response because she’s not the kind of person who knows those things. Then why did you ask, Don??? Why did you ask in the middle of a really important conversation? That was so weird!
I also kind of hated how MacKenzie freaked out at Will for possibly-maybe-almost taking a job in L.A. back in 2006 when they were still together, and then discovered that had she not cheated he would have proposed…except that he wouldn’t have, because the ring he presented as evidence was some kind of twisted prank. Really, guys? Moveon.org already.
That said, I liked Will at the shrink’s office – I hope he and the bodyguard stick around, because I like watching Will have sharp rapport with people who aren’t women he employs and speaks down to, and I like the actors playing both characters.
OK, enough about me. What did you guys think?