“It’s not the beginning of the third act. It’s the end of the first.”
As we head into the final, six-episode third season of The Newsroom, there seems to be a change in mood at ACN. No longer do we see the network that’s right up there in the competition for ratings, that’s telling the largest audience possible what should be told and doing so with aplomb. Yes, the “doing the news right” attitude has, for the most part, taken prevalence at ACN beforehand, but this is the first time everybody seems to be accepting of the fact that they’re losing.
And well, maybe this is when the network can truly bring it, when the show can tell its most compelling storylines. You have a group of individuals who can certainly bring the ratings up if they were so inclined, but the thing is, these are the same individuals who are committed to one cause above all others: doing it right. The fact that they’ve plummeted to fourth in the ratings can be seen as a bad thing–after all, power comes from ratings–but at the same time, it indicates that ACN is doing the right thing. Will McAvoy and co. are going to go down swinging, and they can rest easy knowing that they’ll never have to retract a statement like CNN does here.
Sorkin plays with both a sense of foreboding and a sense of optimism here. For the former, we have notice of a possible hostile takeover of Atlantis World Media, Neal has 27,000 classified documents on his computer, and, as mentioned, ACN is in fourth place; ACN is a sinking ship, and structuring the episode around the Boston Marathon bombing also adds to this sense of foreboding. For the latter, however, we also have Maggie getting her act together and delivering a great report, Will and Charlie high-fiving after teaming up (sort of) on a speech, and Will delivering a rousing monologue on the balcony at the end of the episode. These are all competent individuals who have something to accomplish, even if it’s becoming more difficult to do so.
Of course, much of this rests upon the shoulders of Will McAvoy, someone who, before that speech at the end, messes up on his earlier one. This is someone who’s slowly fading, someone who wants to marry Mac and settle down, someone who won’t submit but also won’t reach as high or as far as he used to. And so, the show poses the questions: What do you do when good work goes relatively unnoticed? What happens when you begin to fade? What do you do when the world rewards those who get to the top by not sticking by their morals?
These are the questions that will be swirling around the news team as the series comes to a close. Sorkin wants us to remember, however, that a key word here is “team”. In this cutthroat world we live in, one in which people step on heads as they climb the social ladder, one in which a warped version of teamwork results in Reddit going after Sunil Tripathi, ACN consists of a group of people who work together and understand what they’re doing. Is it idealistic? Yep. However, will it be interesting to see unfold? You bet.
-Olivia Munn’s performance is the one I like the most. Some of these actors simply don’t know how to sell the Sorkin humor well, so much of it comes across as forced, but Munn is an exception. I really like her telling Don that he’s dumb, and her “What’s going on down there?” being heard over the phone–after what she thought was an innuendo/entendre filled conversation–is hilarious.
-This show in general isn’t all out horrible, but it has never really been great. There are flashes of greatness and flashes of awfulness (some choices made in the first season, anyone?), but in general, it occupies a middle ground; I’ll finish out the series, but my view of it is best described as “ambivalent”. At least “Boston” is on the better end of things, and I genuinely hope the show goes out as the best it has ever been.
-Josh Lyman also once had a swollen tongue due to an allergic reaction.
-I know Sorkin said he’s done with TV after this series concludes, but this is the perfect time to bring back Sports Night, isn’t it?
-I’ll be back on November 30th to cover episode 4, and I’ll definitely cover the series finale.
Photo credit: The Newsroom, HBO