“What Kind Of Day Has It Been” isn’t a particularly interesting finale, but it’s effective at accomplishing what it intends to accomplish: showing us how this news team came about, why it came about, why it’s still going strong, and who its members are. The episode is far from perfect, but it’s a fairly satisfying ending to a show that has spawned controversy and derision from all sides, to a show that has had peaks and nadirs higher and lower, respectively, than most other shows on television.
The through line of this episode is the metaphor of Don Quixote as journalism, and it’s a pretty great metaphor for any job in the world. While it may be impossible for you to ever achieve perfection, to ever achieve the level of greatness to which everyone aspires, it’s always possible to keep trying; you do not let others control you or stop you or take away your dignity. Sure, it may be a cheesy idea, but it’s an idea that Sorkin has clung to over the course of the last four years. It’s an idea that got lost quite a bit under piles of mediocrely written character interactions and soapbox preaching, but it’s an idea that the show always circled back to.
And in the final episode of the series, we see those ideals front and center through the character of Charlie Skinner. In the end, the show becomes just as much about him as it is about Will, and we see through flashbacks that he pretty much orchestrated this whole thing; he got everyone together, laid out his mission, and watched as the network grew amid pressure from higher ups or from competing networks. Although he ended up dying last week in what was one of the sillier scenes in the series, there is still hope. Will and Mac and Jim and Sloan and all the rest are still here, and it’s fitting that they all gather at Charlie’s funeral; after all, Mr. Skinner is the person they owe all this to.
So, while the finale does drag quite a bit with its numerous flashbacks, Sorkin is able to nicely put a bow on the series at the end. I could recap exactly where everyone is at the end of it all, but what matters is that they are all moving forward. What matters is that there is new life on the way, that Charlie’s memory will always be cherished, that the news can be done the way it should be done. And so, in those lovely final few minutes of the series, we watch for one last time as the News Night team puts on a show. The lights go on, the teleprompter starts scrolling, Will McAvoy clears his throat, and we fade to black.
SEASON GRADE: B
SERIES GRADE: B-
-I was surprised when Sorkin didn’t use “What Kind Of Day Has It Been” as the season one finale, but sure enough, he ends up using it here.
-Keeping in line with the optimism of the episode, we find out that Jennifer–aka Sorority Girl–didn’t just blindly ask that question without knowledge of everything Will ranted about later on. She was just looking for something positive to hold onto.
-Neal comes back to -500 fanfare. I don’t know whether that’s a statement about the little guys, a writing oversight, or just another attempt to tell us that Aaron Sorkin Hates The Internet. Of course, I will give Sorkin some kudos for acknowledging that, you know, the Internet is good for some things.
-So…how ’bout that impromptu garage jam session of “That’s How I Got To Memphis”? I don’t know whether to hate it or to love it. Good to know that everyone at ACN knows how to play instruments, I guess.
– “Like it’s every little girl’s dream to make a man better at his job.” I guess this is Sorkin’s way of saying “I listened to all you critics!”
-Movies I caught on the overrated list: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, The Matrix, Gravity, The Descendants, The Sixth Sense…anything else, guys? I know there are more.
-Thomas Sadoski is great in the scene in which he’s handed Charlie’s bowtie.
– “You’re not as helpful as your movie counterparts.”
-With all the 24 series finale references in this episode, I kind of wanted Jack Bauer to run into the newsroom and start beating people up.
-Chris Messina seemed to just disappear over the last few episodes. I was kind of disappointed by that.
-I will miss Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith.
-Sorkin is oftentimes of the most insufferable writers out there right now, but at the same time, he is also capable of being one of the best writers out there. I hope he isn’t done with TV, as he says he is; I would be interested to see what he does next, because who knows? We might just get another West Wing out of it.
-Favorite episodes? By season: “Bullies”, “Red Team III”, and “Run”. Also, I didn’t review “Contempt”, but I thought the “Ave Maria” montage was really beautifully handled.
-I wasn’t as down on the show as many people seemed to be, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like it was missing something that would propel it toward greatness. When the show was bad, it was awful, and when the show was good, it showed flashes of brilliance. In the end, I can only wonder what could’ve been, but I’ll judge it for what it was.
Photo credit: HBO, The Newsroom