TV

The Newsroom 2.7: Sorkin Drops A Bomb

Also: stoned Jane Fonda is the best Jane Fonda.

Warning: this is a recap. Recaps contain spoilers.

With the season hanging in the balance like a drunk Hollywood executive holding a pen wondering ‘is it really a good idea to cast Ben Affleck as Batman?’, The Newsroom just pulled — as Jane Fonda so delightfully alludes — “its head out of its own ass”.

‘Red Team III’ is good Aaron Sorkin. Not bad Aaron Sorkin, where we spend interminable  hours forcing characters with no chemistry to either partner up or not in elaborate, boring ways, while someone pontificates at length about some sort of social or political problem.

Maggie + Don, never4get

Maggie + Don, never4get

No, this is bare-bones Newsroom, and bare-bones Sorkin. Taking various plot strings and dropping a few hints, and then suddenly jerking his puppets in unexpected directions. Throw in your usual dosage of Sorkinese and some Jane Fonda, and the result can be a pulsing, mind-spinning hour, which throws up scenes like the one between Shep and Charlie in a Washington garage that ranks among the best that the show has delivered.

But it can also be frustratingly mundane — like when Smarmy Don leads the charge of exposition to Marcia Gay Harden (and her team of handsome faceless lawyers, who’ve been grilling errrrrrbody on Operation Genoa), and Shifty Jerry Dantana is outed for the cut’n’paste mash-up Yacht Club DJ wannabe he is.

"Hi, I'm Smarmy Don."

“Hi, I’m Smarmy Don.”

It’s a nice payoff — ‘yeah, I didn’t like that unlikable character they brought in to supplant Jim and Don and point out political foibles of people who like Obama, so I’m glad he got fired’ — but Sorkin’s logic asks a lot of us here.

An entire season is based around Jerry having a hissy fit, and suing ACN himself? When he was clearly the guy who fucked up, was responsible for pushing a USA war crimes story as hard as possible across three teams of investigative journalists… ALL THE WHILE KNOWING HE’D DOCTORED FOOTAGE FROM A KEY WITNESS?

Confused Jim is confused.

Confused Jim is confused.

It did feel like there was something on the line here — as if, oh, let’s say they’re establishing their defense for a case brought against them by the Attorney General’s office for, like, espionage or something (rolling in a Ed Snowden similitude). Instead though, it turns out it’s an internal grilling to ascertain the level of accountability in a wrongful dismissal case. Yeeesh.

Ah, Sorkin, you sonofabitch. Only Marcia Gay can handle the truth.

Ah, Sorkin, you sonofabitch. Only Marcia Gay can handle the truth.

MY GOD THAT WAS A FLIMSY EXCUSE TO EXPOSITION THE FUCK OUT OF JIM AND MAGGIE’S RELATIONSHIP.

Ergh. Anyway.

The Newsroom is all about various Sorkin soapbox episodes looking at the degenerative state of an America that’s happily distracted by sport, petty entertainment and vacuous politics (‘Ron Paul 2012! Whoooo!’ – thanks Aubrey) — thus the entire Jim/Romney bus arc. But a sweeping ideal across the show is how the USA’s  morals (happily personified by Shifty Jerry Dantana) have taken a turn for the worse.

It’s Sorkin looking to the past, back when journalistic, political and societal morals weren’t corrupted by a desperate, incessant want for ca$h money (and TV numbers) or blind personal gain; looking back to a time when news — and the American ideal — was ‘pure’, and not driven by shitty personal and political agendas.

Here, it’s embodied by the terrific journalistic inquiry of Operation Genoa, one that is incredibly thorough and accountable — yet still fails. Because of the ego, fallibility and selfishness of an individual. Everything can be tripped up by — as Will eloquently puts it later on — a small thing; in this case, Shifty Jerry Dantana and his ambition and political ideals.

Shifty Jerry Dantana swallowing like a duck.

Shifty Jerry Dantana swallowing like a duck.

It’s annoying, then, that even in the best episode of the season there are still Sorkin misfires. Neal’s very strange “The women here couldn’t deal with my ultra man mode” thing, followed soon after by the usual Sorkinese move of giving incredibly facile, ill-thought-out lines to young women, with Inexplicable Intern saying how the royal pregnancy is “the news I want to hear”.

"I also like princesses and horsies and dolls and fairies!"

“I also like princesses and horsies and dolls and fairies!”

(Also, Neal likes Shakira? What is this, 2004? Good to see Sorkin has a handle on his early-’00s pop cultural references. And Maggie drops a Matlock reference!? Huh?)

So ACN decide they’ve now lost the public, and lost their mojo. They go back to the pack by ignoring their better judgement about the 2011 Benghazi attacks. “We just stopped being good,” bemoans Will.

But we’re saved (even from Short Hair Maggie — she has a ‘condition’ still? I guess?) by the Excellently Haired Jane Fonda. Leona Lansing blows into the room after everyone’s been grilled by Marcia Gay and thus decided to resign (because they worked with Shifty Jerry Dantana to broadcast shit he made up and he’s suing them? Yeah. Don’t think about it too much.)

Short Hair Maggie. Also don't think about it too much.

Short Hair Maggie. Also don’t think about it too much.

Either way. A stoned Leona Lansing who’s pissed that she had Daniel Craig in her sights and was thwarted by a hurricane is a formidable presence. When she barks at Will — “You look like Daniel Craig, get up. No, now you look less like him, sit back down” — the universe may’ve actually collapsed under an influx of awesome.

When she disgustedly throws Charlie’s resignation in his teeth with a contemptuous “You will resign when I fire you out of petty malice and not before”, and gets all Eddie Murphy’s dad with her ‘thissss is ma house. MA HOUSE!’ soliloquy before geeing everyone up to get back out there AND GET YOUR HEADS IN THE GAME, there’s no question who’s house The Newsroom is.

It’s Jane Fonda’s house. We’re just living in it.

Screen Shot 11 - Jane Fonda

This is MA house!

Now it’s up to Sorkin to redeem not only Will, Mac and Charlie, but to show how to sooth the moral ills of an America focused on — what he believes to be — the wrong things.

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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