What Aaron Sorkin giveth, Aaron Sorkin taketh away. The progress he had made with his show "The Newsroom" came to a screeching halt with its finale Sunday, titled "Election Night Part II." It was tedious, contrived, predictable, but also shocking in the narrative plausibility it tested so it would wrap everything up so neatly. One has to wonder if Sorkin was trying to convince the HBO execs not to pick it up for a third season.
Picking up on where last week's left off, it's election night. Charlie and Will want to quit, and the latter has already fired Mac – motivated more by the fact she broke his heart than the fact she had fed him a completely false story. While the happy ending is foreseeable, and certainly not a sin in and of itself, it's how we get there that is so painful. The major twist is in fact quite minor: Reese, not Leona, will be making the decision about Charlie and Will's resignation.
"I'm relieved," Charlie says when Leona tells him she's passed the buck to her son, though he looks anything but. Nor does Will when Charlie informs him they may be getting axed after all. After spending hours trying to convince Leona – and us – that they are willing to fall on their swords over Genoa, it looks like they're not willing to quit after all.
Either way, the ACN senior staff has also pledged to quit if Charlie and Will go. Meanwhile, those evil producers in D.C. are already circling the wagons, ready to swoop in for the New York desk.
The circumstances produce one poignant moment: Will and MacKenzie hand off a segment to Elliot and Don. "I want the audience to get used to seeing you break big news," Will tells his presumed successor, and he and Mac head to the greenroom to watch the bit, like parents watching their children go off to school the first time. However, the scene devolves into another rehashing of their break-up, six years ago, with Will giving a particularly confusing explanation for that engagement ring hiding in his desk.
This, of course, leads to the most baffling development of the episode – and maybe the whole series. Charlie declares that he and Will shouldn't quit with a sermon that inadvertently and inexplicably convinces Will to forgive Mac. And the next step after you get over the six-year grudge you've held against your ex, who happens to be your boss, is to marry her.
"What the f-ck is happening now?" Mac asks Will, mid-proposal. Yes, what is happening right now? But Mac says yes anyway. Cue the awkward bear hug-kiss.
The proposal is just one of many crimes in this episode. For laughs, we guess, Sloan is repeatedly cut off when she tries to report one of the trends of the election. Leave the analysis to the men, missy. Will mansplains what it means to be a Republican to the former press secretary of the Republican presidential nominee. And there are the continued barbs traded between "old media," the good ole boys at TV, and "new media," bloggers and wikipedia, apparently – like we're trapped in a 2004 New York Times Magazine feature. Apparently, it's whatever it takes to distract from the fact that Jim called the wrong congressional election.
When he is not miscalling elections without consequence, Jim also fosters a makeup between ex-BFFLs Lisa and Maggie. If Lisa needs a third job, it could be fixing up Maggie's awful hair.
All this tying up of loose ends leads to this question: What's next for "The Newsroom"? Cast members have been tweeting like there's a third season coming, but HBO has yet to announce it (and remember, we live in an age when networks announce a show's a renewal even before its first season airs). Sorkin has been playing coy about the matter.
One hopes that Sorkin takes note of what worked about the Genoa plotline: seeing reporters actually do reporting rather than magical "sources" just offering up big stories, letting its characters fail and face consequences for their failures, and dialogue that explored ethically challenging issues that didn't portend to tea party-bashing or "Sex and the City" tour buses. An upside to the vomit-inducing Mac and Will engagement is that, if it's a happy one, it could mean the next season would be without their drama. But who knows if Sorkin wants another season anyway?