The Newsroom: Amen Review

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This week’s episode of The Newsroom was another unforgettable one. The episode focuses mainly on two news stories: teacher strikes in Wisconsin, which lead to Will going after the Koch brothers again despite numerous threats from the network, and the protests in Cairo.

Maggie seems to be coming into her own as she pitches and coordinates their airtime for the Wisconsin strikes, and her dynamic with Jim is still heartwarming to watch even as she slams a glass door into his head numerous times in the episode. Their relationship takes another turn this week as Maggie forces Jim to take Lisa on a date for Valentine’s Day so that Maggie and Don can enjoy their own uninterrupted romantic evening. She takes the liberty of planning every detail of the date for a very resistant Jim.

During the rundown meeting Mackenzie reveals that Will cries during the movie Rudy. An extensive conversation over the scene that apparently makes everyone cry ensues. The meeting takes a serious turn when the staff learns that Elliot, their reporter in Cairo, attempted to go into the heart of the protests. Immediately upon leaving his hotel room he was beaten up, and Don makes the call to bring him home to the US. The News Night team still wants someone on the ground in Cairo. This week marks Neal’s most memorable contributions to an episode to date, and leaves no doubt that Dev Patel is a standout in this phenomenal ensemble cast. He finds an Egyptian who refers to himself only as “Amen” to cover the story from the ground. He gives a moving speech describing the parallels between himself and Amen. After a video chat with Neal and Mackenzie, Amen, whose real name is Kahlud, agrees to sacrifice his anonymity for the integrity of the story and report for News Night.

Despite the seriousness of the international news cycle, the News Night staff still can’t escape their new presence in petty gossip reporting. A story about Mackenzie trying to get her boyfriend, Wade Campbell, elected to Congress by having him appear on the show breaks on ACN, their own news network. In another classic moment from the boss, Charlie calls the morning news host in the middle of his broadcast and demands he stop the story. In this same story line, gossip columnist Nina Howard tries to run a story about Mackenzie endangering the lives of a crew in Pakistan when she was working there. In a sit down with Will, Nina refers to herself as a journalist. Will is enraged, and after comparing her to his own staff and their dedication to news and journalism, he threatens both her and Leona with career ruin.

Back in the newsroom, the team has lost contact with Kahlud after his first broadcast. In one of the most striking scenes this week, Neal punches a computer screen that’s playing a video of Rush Limbaugh mocking journalists being kidnapped abroad. Neal, and the rest of the staff, is staunchly determined to find Kahlud and bring him to safety, but the network doesn’t want to expend any money or resources on a freelancer for fear of legal ramifications. They come to find out that the Egyptian Army has custody of him, and are demanding a quarter of a million dollars for his release.

What follows is Mackenzie breaking up with Wade, and then a nonsensical scene featuring a furious Lisa when Jim stands her up on Valentine’s Day. It’s the only scene that just feels like a distraction, and takes away from the episode as a whole. Without a real resolution, everyone seems forgiven. And then we get to the true heart of the episode.

Will himself anonymously wired the money to Cairo to free Kahlud because corporate refused to touch the situation. Mirroring the famous scene in Rudy that had been discussed earlier where the team brings their jerseys to the coach, every young staffer, beginning with Neal, comes into Will’s office offering him a small check to contribute. The entire newsroom errupts in applause when he emerges from his office. It’s a scene that in the hands of any other writer and any other cast would absolutely feel cheesy and overworked. Instead, the episode leaves me feeling exactly as Aaron Sorkin intends the viewer to feel. Hopeful. And completely on Will McAvoy’s side. Amen. (8/10)

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