Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Newsroom 1.10: "The Greater Fool"

“Do you have any life philosophy that isn’t based on a musical?”

“The Greater Fool,” the season one finale of The Newsroom, could be better described as “women behaving embarrassingly badly.” It was seriously embarrassing. Maggie has a breakdown in front of a Sex and the City bus tour. Sloan decides to stay on itty bity News Night instead of making bank (that one wasn’t so embarrassing, really). Mackenzie almost embarrasses herself over Will on the air. The whole mess was enough to make me, usually an ardent Aaron Sorkin defender, scream. I have continued to support Aaron Sorkin, even when he shows questionable ability to write women, because I love his dialogue and the rhythm he imparts to his words. This episode, though, was just beyond the pale. An embarrassment to professional women everywhere. As a professional woman myself, if I had a breakdown like any of these ladies did over a coworker, I believe I would be kindly shown the door, or at least highly encouraged to look for work elsewhere.

As is fitting for a season finale, this episode is where all the professional crises that the News Night team is facing come to a head. The magazine article written by Mackenzie’s ex has finally been published, and it’s not pretty. The title of the article (which appears on the cover of the magazine), referring to Will, is called “The Greater Fool.” It contains quotes from numerous supposedly respected journalists basically making fun of Will. Because he is the center of his own universe, this doesn’t sit well with Will at all. He ups his dosage of antidepressants and ends up in the hospital with a bleeding stomach ulcer. While in hospital, he is uber mopey and starts talking about not going back to News Night at all. Of course what he’s most upset about is all the people who seemingly made fun of him in the article. Which is just so, so ridiculous to me.

Meanwhile, Charlie is at least continuing some work that could legitimately save News Night from the continued meddling of the AWM higher-ups, namely Leona and her slimy son Reese (who is played by the awesome Chris Messina, more well-known now as Danny Castellano on “The Mindy Project). Charlie’s doing his job by talking to NSA leaker Solomon. As much as I hated just about every other aspect of this episode, the NSA subplot here is remarkably prescient, given that this was broadcast about a year ago, when we weren’t yet talking about Eric Snowden or NSA scandals. Anyway, Solomon has a bit of a past, so Charlie tells him that they can’t use him as a source on the NSA scandal he’s trying to leak. The scandal involves the knowledge that News Night phones are being tapped, though, so the information may still be of use.

Anyway, once he realizes that he’s not going to be able to do what he hoped as a whistleblower, Solomon decides to commit suicide. He jumps off a bridge and into the East River, but luckily for the News Night crew, before he decided to end it, he sent a very important envelope to Charlie. Receiving that envelope is one of Sam Waterston’s shining moments on the series thus far. Since part of the scandal is that TMI has been doing phone hacking, Nina Howard is feeling a big guilty. She tells Mackenzie that she has one source saying Will was high when he did the bin Laden death broadcast, and she needs a second source before she goes to print. She wants to give Mackenzie the heads up so that Mackenzie can hopefully silence anyone who could be a potential second source. Mackenzie and Will are then able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Nina and Reese were able to find out Will was high because they hacked Mackenzie’s phone and listened to the voice mail Will left for her that night. They’re able to use this as sort of blackmail to get out from under Leona and Reese’s thumb, which is just fine by me.

The scene where Will finally decides to get his ass out of the hospital is just as ridiculous as most of the rest of this show. Mackenzie drags Will’s poor, suffering nurse into his hospital room, and the nurse talks about her elderly grandmother who has voted in Tennessee for years but won’t be able to in the next election because of “Voter ID” laws. Hearing this, Will dramatically rips out his IVs and head back to News Night HQ, The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” playing triumphantly as he does so. They use the Voter ID law story to frame their next broadcast (which is actually kind of a framing device for the whole episode), and the Lewises can’t do a darn thing to stop them because of the phone tapping blackmail stuff.

Okay, to avoid going through a second full blown rant in one post, I’ll try to do the rundown of the romantic embarrassment as quickly as I can. So word gets round on the grapevine that when Jim was going to Maggie and Lisa’s apartment to declare himself, he was actually hoping to speak to Maggie, not Lisa. He’s just such an incredibly stand-up guy that when Lisa kissed him, he couldn’t let her down. Meanwhile, Don is planning to ask Maggie to move in. All of the drama surrounding her love life is too much for her, so Maggie has a complete break-down in front of a Sex and the City bus tour. Jim happens to be on said bus tour because he was trying to learn more about Lisa’s interests (sigh). He gets off the bus to talk to Maggie, and they end up having a kiss. After which they promptly decide that it wouldn’t be very nice for them to leave Don and Lisa. And Don later asks Maggie to move in and Maggie says yes. Which is just so freaking ridiculous. Why aren’t Maggie and Jim together? There is just no good reason. Oh, and add to that Sloan making a fool of herself telling Don she has feelings for him. Just sigh all around.

The “adults” on the News Night staff aren’t immune to this foolishness, either. Mackenzie reveals to Will that she was actually sitting in the audience in Northwestern, holding up the signs that would prompt Will to go on his career-changing rant. She expects Will to completely melt and rekindle their romantic relationship, but he doesn’t quite bite. Instead, he and Mackenzie have a new potential intern to interview. It’s the woman who asked the silly “what makes America the best country” question at Northwestern. She says she wants to be the Greater Fool, also known as the person who is guided by a hopeful, quixotic sensibility. Will decides to hire her (after yelling at her), because he thinks she can be like the kid at the end of Camelot, spreading the word after their downfall about what they tried to do. And I sigh. Again.

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