Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Newsroom 2.02: "The Genoa Tip"

“A U.S. citizen was targeted. Another is on death row for the crime of not being able to afford a good lawyer. And a bunch more have been arrested for wearing Halloween masks. So obviously, what I’m doing is dealing with the easiest one."

This particular episode of “The Newsroom” was lacking a news event that really stuck in my brain. Is it bad that the one story they mentioned that made me go “I remember when that happened!” was Netflix’s short-lived decision to split its DVD rental and Instant Watch businesses? Yes, this episode covered some big-ish news events, like the execution of Troy Davis, the first drone targeting of a U.S. citizen, and the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street. I’m a bad policy wonk because I don’t remember the first two, and I only really started paying attention to the third once it was already pretty well up and running, especially once Occupy D.C. moved in down the street from where I worked at the time. So yeah, this episode didn’t have that one moment that made me flash back to something really emotional. Because of that, I kind of lost my patience with all the love polyhedron of doom stuff. Okay, Maggie and Jim and Don and Sloan and Lisa and some guy who doesn’t consider her second best all need to get it together and end this drama. Oh, and Will McAvoy? Get over yourself.

The episode overall had that sort of marking time, slow start feel common to many HBO series. Jim is still up in New Hampshire on the Romney bus because he’s being a child about the Don and Maggie situation. I call him a child because he really shouldn’t have been after Maggie at all. Neither should Don, really, but that damage was already done long ago. Anyway, the Romney campaign kid is still being mean to Jim and not letting him on the bus. Eventually a female reporter gets the campaign kid to relent because she’s sick of Jim holding up the bus. Jim and this reporter develop a bit of chemistry throughout their campaign adventures in this episode. She overhears pretty much every phone call Jim has about the love polygon of doom, which has to be just plain awkward for Jim. By the end of this episode, Jim has just plain stopped taking Maggie’s phone calls, and soon enough you’ll find out why.

Back in New York, the rest of the crew are doing their usual angsting over the news and their own romantic lives. Apparently Don’s been really into the Troy Davis case for years, and he is wholeheartedly convinced that Davis is innocent and does not deserve the death penalty. He wants to enlist Will’s help by having Will use his prosecutorial experience to make a case for Davis’ innocence on the air. Will is feeling especially fragile right now thanks to being taken off the 9/11 show (and spending way too much time Googling crap like “Will McAvoy hate”, so he doesn’t want to do anything that could possibly be perceived as controversial. We learn that Will’s big break in journalism was being forced to anchor ACN’s 9/11 coverage for countless hours because more senior people were out of town. Apparently his performance on that day was comforting and something people remember. The scene where we film of Will exhausted after 16 hours at the desk on that day is kind of sickeningly sweet in that trademark Aaron Sorkin way, but it didn’t work for me the way it usually does when he goes to that place. It felt forced.

Meanwhile, Maggie is desperately trying to keep the stupid YouTube vid of her yelling at the Sex and the City tour bus from spreading too widely. She particularly doesn’t want Lisa to see it, because she’s trying to move back in with Lisa. Maggie and Sloan use FourSquare to somehow track down the poster of the video, who of course is a Sex and the City fanfic writer named Erica. They confront her while the poor girl is at the Laundromat. Sloan offers to tweet Erica’s fanfic blog to her 450,000 followers, and in exchange Erica agrees to take down the YouTube vid. Erica doesn’t keep her word, though. Instead she posts about the experience on her blog. Lisa finally finds out the truth, and while she lets Maggie live in her apartment, she’s done with being friends. She also e-mails the vid to Jim as a non-phone call way to break up. It’s after receiving that e-mail that Jim just flat out stops taking Maggie’s phone calls. The whole thing is really just such a mess.

Because her personal life is in shambles, Maggie is tackling her professional life with new zeal. She and another News Night staffer want to do a story “on Africa.” Mackenzie rightly tells Maggie that she needs to be much more specific with her pitch. No kidding. Eventually new guy Jerry gives her the idea to focus in on national security. He thinks that now Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, Africa is where are troops are going to go next to die. And he’s probably not wrong about that. Specifically, Maggie wants to go to Kampala, Uganda. She tries to convince Mackenzie that it’s relatively safe, but a report of uprisings that her partner in crime unearths right after they get permission to travel suggests otherwise. We know from the framing device scenes in last week’s episode that something horrible is going to happen to Maggie in Uganda, and I guess this is the set-up.

Speaking of Jerry and national security stuff, Jerry finally tells Mackenzie about Operation Genoa. According to Jerry, some special forces soldiers used serein gas on an extraction mission near Pakistan. At first, Mackenzie doesn’t believe this could possibly be true. Jerry changes her mind, though, when he puts her in touch with one of the soldiers who claims he was actually part of the mission. While all this is going on, the News Night crew gets the news that Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was killed by a U.S. Drone strike. To top things off, Neal gets arrested while covering an Occupy Wall Street protest. He managed to upload video of his rather brutal arrest to U Stream, and what he sees makes Will absolutely livid. He goes to the police station and uses all his former prosecutor knowledge, along with the video itself, to get Neal released with no charges against him. At the end of the episode, Will and Mackenzie have drinks, and Mackenzie is floored when Will shows her copy speaking out against the Administration’s counterterrorism policies that he intends to deliver on the next show.

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