The Newsroom: THE BLACKOUT Part II Mock Debate Review

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Part II of The Blackout was thankfully a significant improvement on part I.

This week’s episode picks back up with the blackout in the studio. The staff, led by Mackenzie, is brainstorming how they’ll complete the show if power doesn’t come back on. Mackenzie believes the blackout has happened for a reason, to bring them back together to do the show they set out to do. But before their grand plans can be put into action, the power goes back on, as does their Casey Anthony coverage.

Back in the rundown meeting, News Night needs a Casey Anthony guest that no one else can get. Coincidentally, Maggie’s roommate and Jim’s on again off again girlfriend Lisa went to high school with her. Maggie and Jim obnoxiously storm into the boutique where she works while she has a client and convince her to do the show, despite her wanting absolutely nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile, Neal convinces Sloan to let him use her for his “trolling” experiment on the internet. When he pitches the full story for her, she begrudgingly agrees that it’s a worthwhile cause, and lets him slander her online. Sloan’s got bigger fish to fry anyway, as she is begging for more time to cover the debt ceiling. But coverage of Anthony Weiner and Casey Anthony are taking up air time. The main goal is to keep ratings up so that they can get the RNC to let them host the debate.

In a rare moment between Will and Don, Don reveals to Will that he’s seen other women on his breaks from Maggie. Because of a bouquet of flowers sent to him at the office, Jim also knows this information.

Back in Will’s therapist’s office, Will asks if he is to blame for Mackenzie’s cheating, and the question has clearly been plaguing him. His therapist explains that his inability to forgive Mackenzie has nothing to do with rejection, because in truth she didn’t reject him, but about her betrayal. It’s hard to tell whether a light bulb went off for Will with this statement, but as a viewer, the explanation struck a chord.

Lisa goes on air for an interview with Will. Rather than focusing on Casey Anthony, she spouts off facts that Maggie gave her about other missing child cases. The interview takes an uncomfortable turn, and Lisa ends up revealing her pro-choice stance. As a result of this, the shop she works at gets vandalized.

I for one was incredibly pleased by a cameo from the always affable Adam Arkin as an RNC representative and old friend of Will’s. He and a Greg Brady look alike (perhaps my favorite and most well placed joke to come from Will) are there to see the mock debate and determine if ACN and Will should host. The debate format Will and the staff are proposing is one in which there are no rules. Will questions the candidates until he is done. As the mock debate commences, it’s clear that Will is going to badger the candidates, and though it’s a format that would provide for more truthful rhetoric, it would obviously make some of the candidates look foolish, and Greg Brady is furious. He offers the debate to everyone else at ACN other than Will, and they all promptly turn him down in a show of solidarity.

After the debate debacle, Brian, who’s still around observing for his story, tells Mackenzie that she romanticizes Will. It’s obviously true, but Mackenzie’s character seems to have much bigger faults than that. She’s become a caricature of herself who seems incapable of reacting rationally to the situations that surround her. However, she redeems herself for me a little bit this week. She does this with some advice to Jim, in the form of a sonnet, but that’s ok. It’s the first genuine interaction she’s had with another character in a few weeks, and it was refreshing. Telling Jim to go after Maggie while he can, to “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” was the first subtle display of emotion we’ve seen from her. I’d like to see more.

Jim shows up to Maggie and Lisa’s apartment, but to his chagrin Don is there. Maggie had convinced Lisa to go out with Jim again, and both girls are under the mistaken impression that he’s there to see Lisa. Don knows otherwise, and knows that he needs to come clean to Maggie.

The episode ends with Neal’s trolling experiment, where he talks about Will on a message board. He gets another death threat to Will, and immediately calls his bodyguard.

This week’s episode set things up for a very promising finale. Last week felt stale and stagnant, but this episode definitely moved things along. Nine episodes in, we’ve seen a lot of great things from Aaron Sorkin, but we haven’t seen growth from every character. I have a feeling that the finale will rectify that, because this week was a huge step in the right direction. (7.5/10)

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