TV

The Newsroom 2.3: Impeachment, Mimosas, And Attack Of The Romney-bots

Amidst a slow-moving gas cloud of couples coupling-up, some important questions are raised.

Here you’ll find a recap of this week’s episode of The Newsroom – and all the spoilers that implies.

“Snark is the idiot’s version of wit” – Will McAvoy

The Newsroom — and obviously, by extension, writer Aaron Sorkin — tends to perform a precarious balancing act between genuinely insightful social commentary and eye-bleedingly obvious examinations of personal relationships. Y’know. Kinda like the exact opposite of a Hoobastank song.

At its best it’s moving and thought-provoking; at its worst it’s mind-numbing and cringeworthy. Whichever direction it falls, though, it generally aims to give the ol’ grey matter a healthy work out, and proponents of both Sorkin and the show appreciate its unflinching approach to tackling, well, subjects that piss Sorkin off.

A small selection of things that piss Aaron Sorkin off.

A small selection of things that piss Aaron Sorkin off.

Getting past last week’s happy-go-lucky themes of drone strikes, race, due process, the death penalty, extra-judicial killings and the Occupy movement, this episode, ‘Willie Pete’, settles for the comparatively benign idea of impeachable war crimes. And the one percenters. And why political reportage sucks. And the “witless bullies and hapless punks” Republican GOP candidates who didn’t stand up to audience members booing a gay soldier at a Republican debate. And rising up from the primordial ooze to avoid the ‘snark’ polluting the media. And being a general decent human being. So, the easy stuff.

Right. But first, let’s get serious. Having happily moved beyond the overwrought and never-believable “relationship” between Maggie (Alison Pill) and Don (Thomas Sadoski), we’re now in a gas cloud of tedious ‘babysteps’ couplage.

The interaction between Emily Mortimer’s MacKenzie McHale (as if someone wouldn’t have nicknamed her Emcee Squared or similar) and Will McAvoy (yay! Jeff Daniels!) remains a weirdly beige joy. It’s tough to care when Mac is constantly pulling her Mac face, haranguing all of us about some stoned voicemail Will left her a million years ago and slamming Will into walls…. and Will doesn’t seem to give two shits because, what, he’s a stoner? Needs more Terry Crews and therapy? Ergh. Anyway — the dance they’re doing is getting ever more complicated and you can feel it warming up, but the fact its taken this long and nada has happened? C’mon, it’s more tedious one of Emily Mortimer’s mid-’00s British flicks.

Mac Face.

Mac Face.

And it’s diametrically opposed to the burgeoning Don and Sloan (Olivia Munn) — oh, wait, fuck it. That’s moving super slowly as well. Whatever. None of these people seem remotely happy, and I don’t know if they ever sleep. Or, for that matter, bang. Maybe it’s because they work too much; what hours are they working? Sloan gets in at 6am, and News Night is on late evening — what the hell? Dev Patel’s Neal seems like he’s the only normal guy, and he’s a conspiracy theorist internet savant occupying Wall Street.

But look! It’s Don putting wheels on his chair! And now it’s small! And Sloan still likes him because he stood up for her!

Don putting on wheels. As shot from under his desk. For some reason.

Don putting on wheels. As shot from under his desk. For some reason.

Anyway. When the harrowing breakdown of Operation Genoa is delivered to Mac and New Jim (being the guy who replaced Old Jim when Old Jim ran away to cover the Romney campaign) Jerry Dantana in the most unobtrusive of locales — a NYC corner diner — it’s powerful, blunt stuff. But strangely, with Sorkin’s knife-sharp writing, something is taken off the edge of the conversation, if not its implications.

Screenshot 4 - New Jim

New Jim. Acting like Old Jim.

(And doesn’t it seem weird that Jerry Dantana just tracked this guy down, called him at home and was all like, ‘Yo, bro, I read somewhere that maybe you guys used, like, banned sarin gas on some dudes that didn’t perhaps deserve it?’ And the guy was like, ‘Sure, I’ll talk about it to you… But only in a diner on the Upper East Side of NYC’. Ahem.)

Unobtrusive Diner.

Unobtrusive Diner.

Still, as the mystery of ‘Willie Pete’ unravels, the show’s ability to cover numerous  story lines in the background while creeping forward chronologically pays off; we get the Op Genoa reveal coupled with Will and Charlie taking on the boss, Maggie going to Africa or something, Don getting all weird about Sloan and then, well, the most refreshing part.

Old Jim.

Old Jim. Sad.

Old Jim. Sad.

Old Jim’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail storyline is a terrific look at the business of on-the-ground embedded political reporting. After his many, many, many failed attempts at getting the Romney-bots to answer any meaningful questions (and for the love of all things beautiful, here’s hoping he gets his 30 minutes), and after getting all sad and emo because he’s disillusioned and the new blonde girl he just met is being mean to him, Jim snaps.

Romney Bots!

Romney-bots!

Delivering a barnstorming ‘are you with me’ soliloquy and being left in the middle of nowhere with a turkey sandwich-toting schlub and the afore-mentioned super-smart and coming-about-on-the-topic-of-Jim lady, Jim Harper finds himself smack bang in the middle of the show’s  best storyline. It’s biting political observance delivered with as much pathos and relatability as needed, because of course embedded political reporting sucks — as we’ve seen in Australia, the media’s infatuation with leadership soundbites and hotbed talking points like immigration means that actual policy gets left behind.

Fear And Loathing On The Haircut Trail

Fear And Loathing On The Haircut Trail

As pure spectacle, Old Jim’s tale is matched by the ‘civilising’ (ahem) of tabloid gossip attack dog Nina Howard by Will, which is handled beautifully — them, an empty restaurant and ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’ — before the entire exchange is made redundant at the end. Wait… Didn’t she have a problem with Will still loving Mac or something? Did Will giving her a mimosa change that much?

Either way, as a fly-in, fly-out character, Nina is great. She’s not as needlessly ‘conflicted’ as our ACN heroes, and she takes everything with a knowing grain of salt. When a bad-arse gossip reporter can ruin your empire — and she knows it — that’s one helluva gossip reporter you’re, ahem, tackling.

There's nothing a smile and a mimosa won't sort out.

There’s nothing a smile and a mimosa won’t sort out.

Whatever. LOOK! Maggie is freaking out because she’s taken malaria medication! And we get some Maggie face!

Oh, Maggie. When you’re not yelling at a Sex and the City tour bus, you’re being… something.

Maggie Face.

Maggie Face.

As usual, the episode’s best moments come from Sam Waterston’s avuncular Charlie. His back and forth with Will about being ‘made men’ is a delight, while the rumpled, whiskey-soaked pearls of wisdom he delivers (usually in relation to Don Quixote) coupled with a disdain for the higher ups (“son de la bitch”!), while seemingly making his office use fax machines (whuuut?) and voice recorders (erm, why not just use your phone? IT TURNS IT INTO AN MP3 BRO! NO SAFE NEEDED!) make Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, er, sorry, Charlie, just about the greatest.

Screenshot 11 - Charlie the greatest

Charlie. The Greatest.

While the ‘we’re all being interviewed by lawyers because something happened’ framing device of this season is yet to pay off, what is clear is that, 13 episodes in, Sorkin is delivering his characters in ways that make them more relatable, and more believable. And less annoying (Maggie).

Meanwhile, he’s displaying his usual adeptness for writing about the political topics he wants to yell about — so we’re getting there. Yep. War crimes are full on. Political reporting isn’t the greatest. And there are only so many turkey sandwiches we can all eat.

Look! A fax machine!

A fax machine!

Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements  

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