Television Revision: The Newsroom – Season 2

The Newsroom S2

By Andrew Williams
November 27, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation). 

Now, this is a story all about how… the ‘News Night with Will McAvoy’ team, having attempted to right the good ship Journalism through most of Season One, find themselves at the centre of a legal storm after a big story goes horribly awry.

The Newsroom S2

Happy days? Midway through the second season of The Newsroom, the interesting show that had always threatened to emerge finally clambers past the various romantic subplots to make its presence felt. It’s a fascinating show, too: a series about a group of people – led by Jeff Daniels‘ anchor Will and his producer/ex Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) – on the precipice of the finest moment of their careers only to see that crowning achievement slowly crumble around them in the most public of ways. It’s the show that The Newsroom should have been from the start. It’s sadly not the show The Newsroom is when it ends.

The most disappointing thing about The Newsroom’s momentary dalliance with my undivided attention is how quickly it evaporates. Sorkin writes himself into a fascinating corner at the end of the seventh episode, leading to a moment that had me salivating for the two remaining installments. In the days of The West Wing, that kind of moment would have led to real, lasting consequences and inspiringly unexpected denouements. Instead, Sorkin backs away from the tremendous challenge he himself set and reverts back to wrapping up the various tired romantic entanglements that were holding the show back in the first place.

Sorkin is a divisive writer, and he inserts subplots and moments here that are as ham-fisted and tone deaf about modern life and technology as The Newsroom has ever been (surprising, from the writer of modern masterpiece The Social Network), but credit where credit is due: Some of the events in The Newsroom are remarkably prescient, predicting several scandals that would eventuate shortly after the series aired. How a man can simultaneously be so out of touch and yet have his finger so firmly on the pulse is remarkable.

The final frontier: The second season of The Newsroom finally finds its swagger… and then second-guesses itself.

The Newsroom S2

Top two episodes: 5) News Night with Will McAvoy. The best episode of the entire series has two things going for it: it features the characters being good at their job without being showy about it, and it slows down enough to let the natural drama of a newsroom breathe. 7) Red Team III. Sorkin is a master of burying seemly innocuous information early in his episodes that becomes incredibly important come the episode’s conclusion. It works like gangbusters if you fall for it. I fall for it every time.

Worst episode: The season finale isn’t just problematic for the way it pulls back from a much more interesting status quo; it’s also concerning because it feels like Sorkin is wrapping up the series as a whole, and in a hurry. When a season finale this unsatisfying also feels like a series finale, that’s not a great sign for the show’s future.

Season MVP: I never would have predicted this after the first season, but Emily Mortimer really gains a handle on both her character and the dialogue in this season. Both Sorkin and Mortimer manage to find the spunk and charm Mackenzie McHale was clearly meant to have from the beginning. Now if only she wasn’t in love with that annoying anchor character.

3.5/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: The Newsroom – Season 1

The Newsroom is available on Quickflix.

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