To the surprise of everyone who loves to rag on Maggie – which, of course, is just about everyone – Sunday's episode of "The Newsroom" presented a complete character reversal, fleshing her out to be strong, capable, intelligent and funny.
We're not talking about her Africa storyline. It was sad as it was predictable; little Daniel was a goner from the moment the camera introduced him to Maggie in slow motion. No, it was her face-off with Rebecca the power attorney – which framed the episode – that gave Maggie her strongest showing to date. Ironically, the interrogation was supposed to prove how "messed up" Maggie was after Africa, that she was losing it when she interviewed the source that confirmed the Genoa story and sent "News Night" to its downfall.
But Maggie had some witty comebacks. "I looked at the same place but I need a bigger ballroom," she quipped in response to Rebecca's real estate humble-bragging. She had a well-honed pitch behind her Africa trip – Kony, remember that? – which was completely absent when she was actually pitching her trip earlier this season. And, most importantly, the girl with a habit of melting down over "Sex and the City" tour buses and malaria vaccines kept her cool, for the most part, when recalling one of the most difficult moments of her life. Maybe it was an "unintended consequence" – to borrow from the episode's title. But "messed up Maggie" was as together as we've ever seen her.
That's not to say the episode didn't have its weak points. With the Genoa trail gone cold, Jerry begs, "Something's got to fall into our lap. Something's got to fall out of the sky and into our laps. A preposterous stroke of luck has to occur." Out of the sky, basically, falls Shelly, who has an Occupy Wall Street buddy who did a report for an NGO on Genoa. That gag barely works on smaller plot points, so as a turning point for a story arc as monumental as Genoa, it was particularly frustrating and as painful as they come, even by "Newsroom" standards.
Nevertheless, it led to Don and Sloan amusingly out-smugging one another when trying to convince Shelly – scorned by Will's rough on-air treatment – to reveal her source. It also led Will to humbly admit something that the show was hinting at all season: that he is having "a crisis of confidence" and Shelly was collateral damage.
Jim's turn on the campaign trail wrapped up neatly. Jim scores an interview with Mitt Romney as penance for a technically on-the-record "go f-ck yourself" from Taylor, Romney's spokesperson. After begging for weeks, Jim instead gives the interview to Hallie, feeling bad about her misogynistic jerk of a boss (a funny motivator, considering all the sexist problems the show has been accused of having). Mac takes him off the campaign for giving up the opportunity, but on the bright side he gets a kiss from Hallie, his self-admitted Maggie rebound. Taylor, explaining why she told Mac about the interview, vocalizes what so many of the fictional embed reporters (and their real life counterparts) found frustrating about Jim's holier-than-though campaign crusade: "It's what anyone would do in my job. And the reason you don't know that is because you've never done this before."
But back to Will's interview with Shelly, where he articulates something that may speak to Aaron Sorkin's larger approach. "I am trying to find the virtue of a leaderless movement," he challenges her, echoing the qualms many of the other characters have expressed about the Occupy Wall Street movement, which one would think would have been better received given Sorkin's liberal proclivities. Many of Sorkin's other works have a hero (Will McAvoy, Jed Bartlett, Danny Tripp) leading the idealistic movement with the rest of the cast playing sheep for their shepherd. But to see this show's megalomaniac, alpha-male hero with his tail between his legs, as Will is with his "crisis of confidence" admission, makes the "The Newsroom" stronger. As does knowing the sheep soon will falter on Genoa.
"The Newsroom" needs to give us more of that, more badass Maggie, and while we're at it, more moments of Charlie Skinner looking like this: