The Newsroom: “News Night with Will McAvoy” Season 2 Episode 5 Review

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The Newsroom’s fifth episode was its first truly strong episode of the season. It’s not hard to see why, as the episode took place during a single broadcast and put the focus on Will.

There was one major hiccup in an otherwise superbly well done episode. As a huge fan of Sloan, it pained me to see what the writers gave her this week. Since they refuse to let a female lead be too strong or too competent, they threw a nude photo scandal at the most attractive woman on the show to knock her down a few pegs. She recovered by the end of the episode, but it was a pathetic excuse for a storyline. The only redeeming aspect of it was the taste of Sloan and Don’s great chemistry we got; the season has been largely void of it thus far, and it was nice to see.

On the other hand, Mackenzie gave her strongest performance of perhaps the entire season. News Night was supposed to cover the suicide of the gay Rutgers student whose roommate videotaped him having sex and put it online. They were set to interview the head of the Rutgers Gay Straight Alliance, but after learning that he was planning to come out on air, Mackenzie scrapped the interview and gave him a scolding for trying to gain fame from the tragedy. She explained the complex relationship between television personalities and their viewers, and it was far and away my favorite moment of Mackenzie’s to date in this series. While putting out all kinds of fires behind the scenes this week, Mack also spent the episode counseling Will with a genuine compassion that hasn’t been seen until this episode of season 2.

Will got a call while he was on air that his father was in the hospital. Last season we learned that Will’s dad was an abusive alcoholic, and their relationship has been nothing short of tumultuous. While Will struggled the entire broadcast, Mackenzie encouraged him to call his dad and leave him a message. By the time he got around to it, his father had died.

The Genoa story actually got a decent twist tonight, when Charlie gets a visit from a spy who tries to dissuade him from pursuing it. But when he leaves behind an expense report all but confirming their suspicions of use of sarin, Charlie is more determined than ever to prove the story to be true and run it.

Maggie is obviously still having extreme difficulty coping after Africa. Jim calls her out on her drinking and showing up to work in last night’s clothes. Luckily this didn’t take away from the episode all that much. I really just want to be done with Maggie.

The major news stories covered this week contributed to the solid episode with the Trayvon Martin case and George Zimmerman’s 911 call being released, and coverage of bombs exploding in Damascus.

This hour felt much more like what we came to expect in season one, and it was a welcome surprise after the mediocrity we saw in the first four episodes of the season. I think the absence of the depositions for the wrongful termination lawsuit really contributed to the smooth flow of the episode. Will McAvoy is the center of the show. If Jeff Daniels is allowed to, he can easily carry the rest of the cast and any shaky story line. This week was the first time he was given that opportunity in season two, and it was refreshing. Will’s personal struggles and on air strength are what make this show worth watching, and I was so glad to see both of those come center stage once again. Grade: B+

 

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