After last's week exercise in cautious ambivalence, the season finale of HBO's The Newsroom came roaring through in a swinging fashion sure to please its devoted fans, with the News Night team reinvigorated and ready to continue its "News Night 2.0" mission.
By the end of the episode, it's clear that Aaron Sorkin created this show to tell us what he really thinks about the Tea Party, and all plot lines—save for a few romantic twists and turns—lead back to Will McAvoy's crusade against the "American Taliban," as he calls them, who have hijacked his beloved Republican Party. Whether one can believe Sorkin's mouthpiece is actually a Republican is neither here nor there.
The episode, titled "The Greater Fool," neatly rounds out the season. Will's job is no longer in jeopardy, he and Mac have at least acknowledged they're relationship will always be more than just professional, and his merry band of producers will follow their pied piper down the path of calling out the lies and the lying liars who tell them.
Such is at least hinted at from the beginning of the episode, opening with a News Night broadcast that surely represents the high water mark for Will and the gang's quixotic mission to "report the news" (all season long we have learned why this simple mission is more complicated than it seems).
But writer/creator Aaron Sorkin employs one of his favorite devices—the flashback—to show that Will's return was not always a sure thing, allowing excitement to build for his final victory lap, at least for Season 1. Only 8 days prior, Mackenzie McHale and his bodyguard find Will on the floor of his bathroom, after a dangerous mix of antidepressants and whiskey has him vomiting blood. He is rushed to the hospital, where his physical health is stabilized, but the emotional trauma lingers, as a New York magazine piece has ripped Will apart as "The Greater Fool" for his efforts to transform the television news industry, and Will wants to quit his mission.
He might not have a choice as to whether he returns to ACN headquarters, as gossip columnist Nina Howard has uncovered proof that Will was high the night Osama bin Laden was killed, which is just the scandal Leona Lansing—the boss of his parent company—needs to fire Will, as his harsh coverage of the Tea Party put her at odds with some of her shareholders.
Will's fate is not the only one uncertain. Sloan Sabbith may be also exiting the show, frustrated that her coverage on the debt ceiling showdown hasn't made much of an impact, to take a better-paying job in venture capitalism. Don Keefer begs for her to stay. When he also asks her for advice about his relationship with Maggie (because if a co-worker is thinking about leaving her job because she is not being taken seriously enough, the way to make her stick around is more girl talk), Sloan admits she has had a thing for Don this whole time, which expands our Don-Maggie-Jim-Lisa love parallelogram to a full-on love pentagon.
Charlie breaks it to Solomon Hancock, who has come to ACN's news president with a story about government hacking, that they cannot trust him enough to report the story on his word alone. But Charlie could still use the carrot Solomon has dangled in front of them in the form evidence of a phone-hacking scandal at TMI. Disheartened, Solomon refuses, but the team doesn't need his evidence anyway, as they realize TMI had hacked into Mac's phone to get the scoop on Will being drugged up on air. The discovery is just want they need as leverage for Will's job security, and Will rushes back to the newsroom, inspired by a nurse's tale of her elderly great aunt being disenfranchised by voter ID laws.
As it now appears "News Night 2.0" is here to stay, so too will the messy workplace romances. Maggie suggests to Lisa that Jim did not mean to get back together with her—which goes as well as one would expect trying to steal your best friend's boyfriend would go. Maggie vents her frustrations to those on a Sex and the City tour bus, whining that the show promoted unrealistic expectations about life and love. Jim, of course, is on the tour bus; Newsroom is promoting unrealistic expectation about life and love. They realize their affinities are mutual, and resolve to break up with respective partners.
But not so fast, fans of romantic plot lines that make sense. Don wins Maggie over by asking her to moving in with him, and Jim is stuck with his second choice, Lisa.
The night of Will's triumphant return to the newsroom, Leona and her corporate weasel of a son, Reese, finally fire Will—Leona's terse "You're fired" has been oft-teased by previews throughout the season. But, with the phone-hacking revelation, Will, Charlie, and Mac turn the tables on the devious Oedipal duo. More is a stake is than just the integrity of an entire media company: This comes down Will's Tea Party-Crusade, which Charlie implores Leona not just to permit, but to join: "Let's do the news, you and me."
The show concludes by coming full circle, with Mac confirming that she had held the sign that inspired Will to go on the pilot episode rant about America's greatness, or lack thereof, that started his whole News Night 2.0 mission in the first place. He even hires the "sorority girl" who asked the "moronic question" as an intern. Sloan has also decided to stick with the show, "The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self delusion and ego to think he can succeed where others have failed, this whole country was made my greater fools," she says, explaining her decision.
Her description of 'The Greater Fool' obviously applies to Will, who, consistently displayed the ego, and Mac, the self-delusion throughout the highs and lows of The Newsroom's first season. But it is apt characterization for the show itself. The Newsroom had its problems along the way: chauvinistic writing the demeans its female characters, trite romantic subplots that distract from the show's more compelling themes, a naïve interpretation of how news comes together, plenty of ego, plenty of self-delusion.
But its intentions, like those of its characters, have been noble. They have captured the attention of viewers, particularly those who inhabit the world outside the media bubble and who can willingly subscribe to such a romantic—if not fantastic—interpretation of the news industry. The season's finale delivered just what those viewers wanted: a thrilling victory for Will and his team, after their many disappointments. The Newsroom ended on a strong note, namely the booming chords of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," which powered the mid-episode turning point, and one unlikely to be forgotten when Season 2 rolls around.
- Read last week's The Newsroom recap.
- Read: The Politics of Dirty Dancing, 25 Years Later
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