The Newsroom: The Greater Fool Review

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The first season of The Newsroom comes to a close in a roller coaster of a finale. While the low points of the episode bordered on absurd, the high points were a reminder of what makes this show worth watching. And luckily, the episode and the season ended on a very high note.

One of my biggest issues with the episode is that the chronology was slightly confusing. Towards the end it didn’t really matter all that much, but during the bulk of the episode the sequence of events was just a little hard to follow. The continuity issues definitely took away from the episode as a whole.

The episode opens with a concerned Lonny and Mackenzie going to Will’s apartment and finding him unresponsive and covered in blood. At the hospital, they learn that Will had OD’d on anti-depressants and had been throwing up blood. What had thrown him into such a deep depression was the publication of a mocking New York Magazine article by Brian, Mackenzie’s ex entitled “The Greater Fool.” When Will awakens in the hospital, Mackenzie is at his side. She barely waits a moment before ranting and raving like a lunatic, which is apparently just Mackenzie’s signature now, and smacking him with a pillow. Will claims he’s not planning on going back to work, and recites insulting passages from the article to her, the most memorable being, “Will wants to change the world and hates that the world has changed.” A lot of the criticisms of Will and News Night from the article seem to mirror much of the criticism that Aaron Sorkin and The Newsroom have suffered in the media. Basically: too idealistic, too self-righteous, too delusional. I don’t disagree. Especially with the scenes that follow.

 Charlie meets with Solomon Hancock, and tells him that he’s not a solid enough source to run the NSA story because of all the red flags raised in the vet. Charlie begs Solomon for the proof of TMI hacking, Solomon begs Charlie to run the NSA story despite his hesitations, and neither man caves.

Meanwhile, Nina Howard, the TMI gossip reporter, approaches Mackenzie and tells her that she has a source confirming that Will was high the night of the Bin Laden broadcast, and that if she gets a second source she’s going to press. It comes more as a warning for Mackenzie than a threat, as Nina genuinely seems like she doesn’t want to have to publish the story.

Back at the office, Don confronts Sloan about a job offer she’s received. She wants to take it because she feels like she’s not making a difference with her coverage of the debt ceiling. Don tries to convince her to stay. He then tells her that he’s asking Maggie to move in with him. Sloan, in an awkward but heartfelt moment, tells him that he’s not a bad guy, but that he isn’t in love with Maggie. She then reveals her feelings for Don. While I didn’t exactly see this revelation coming, it also didn’t completely surprise me, and it felt like one of the more genuine moments of the show.

In another genuine moment, Jim goes to see Will in the hospital, and he and Mackenzie have a heart to heart about his situation with Maggie. Jim seems to be the only character that Mackenzie has a believable chemistry with, and her scenes with him are the only times she doesn’t seem crazed.

Jim has to deliver the news to Charlie that Solomon Hancock has committed suicide. Charlie then receives an envelope from Solomon Hancock, presumably containing the proof that TMI had been hacking the phones of News Night staffers.

Back at the hospital, Charlie brings in Will’s “mean nurse” to give him a scolding. But instead of scolding him about his poor attitude towards his own recovery as she had been, she tells him about her aunt, a 96 year old woman named Dorothy Cooper who had been voting her whole life, but because of new voter ID laws in TN was suddenly prohibited from voting because she doesn’t have a passport or driver’s license. She asks Will to report on it. Charlie knew that it would fire Will up. Especially when coupled with proof of TMI’s phone hacking. They figure out that TMI had hacked into Mackenzie’s phone and intercepted a message that Will left her when he was high on the night of the Bin Laden broadcast.

Will tears out his IVs and storms out of the hospital, to receive a hero’s welcome back at the office. Everything feels forced as a Teenage Wasteland plays during a montage of the staff gathering information for Will. It’s supposed to be the turning point of the episode, but is instead a scene from a bad eighties movie. I wish I could say it was the most cringe-worthy scene of the episode, but unfortunately I cannot.

That came after a dinner between Maggie and Lisa. Maggie tells Lisa that Jim wasn’t there to patch things up with her the night he showed up at their apartment, but was there to see Maggie. What follows when Maggie chases Lisa out of the restaurant and coincidentally runs into Jim while he’s on a Sex and the City tour is a scene mocking Sex and the City that, in all honesty, I can’t even stomach recounting here. But it results in Jim chasing Maggie through the streets and kissing her, in what feels like it actually could be a Carrie and Big moment. It was totally out of place in The Newsroom, and if it had gone on even one second longer I think I would have had to change the channel. Maggie then goes to Don’s apartment, with full intentions of reading a speech she had written out breaking up with him, but arrives to a romantic setup and Don asking her to move in. The grand gesture does it for her, and she once again chooses him over Jim. Maggie just can’t quite seem to get it, and it’s hard to tell how much of that has to do with the writing, and how much of it has to do with Allison Pill’s portrayal of her.

Will, Charlie, and Mackenzie have a meeting with Leona and Reese Lansing. Leona fires Will after he openly admits to being high on the air. Charlie counters by confronting Leona with evidence that Reese ordered phone hacking on not only members of the News Night staff, but numerous other high profile people as well. Leona obviously knew nothing about it, and is appalled at her son’s behavior. For the first time in the season, Leona doesn’t look like the bad guy at all. Charlie demands that TMI be shut down, and threatens Reese and Leona if they don’t let Will do the show they set out to do. Leona seems to reluctantly agree to his terms, but there’s still a level of uncertainty in the air when the meeting is over.

Back to work, Will gives an absolutely brutal report on the Tea Party. He rips them apart, separates them from true Republicans like himself, and quotes the founding fathers and the Bible itself to show the ridiculousness of the platforms of the movement. He calls them “The American Taliban.” Will McAvoy is without a doubt strongest when he’s behind the anchor desk, and so is Jeff Daniels. The material this amazing actor is given during provoking and intelligent broadcasts such as the one featured in the finale allow him to truly shine.

In the intermittent time during the broadcast, a few things occur. Sloan has decided to stay, and gives Will a sweet little pep talk about the true meaning of “The Greater Fool” that seems to resonate with him, typical of their very strong dynamic. Sloan then runs into Don and tells him that while she’s staying, they will no longer speak or make eye contact. Theirs is a relationship that I hope continues to develop, as both characters have come into their own this season and seem to be able to enhance one another.

Mackenzie is pressing Will to tell her what the rest of the message that got hacked said. It’s then that we learn that what he thought was a hallucination of Mackenzie holding up cues for him at Northwestern was in fact really her. We also learn that the college girl Will had berated at Northwestern is applying for an internship with News Night. While the Camelot references are truly exhausting, it’s an important moment for Will. She tells him that she’s watched the show since, and that she wants to be a part of what they’re trying to do. She knows that “The Greater Fool” is, she says, and she wants to be one. He tells her that what makes America the greatest country in the world is her, and that she’s hired.

The episode ends with Nina Howard listening to the message Will left for Mackenzie (from which we can infer that he tells her he never stopped loving her) and deleting it. This scene, along with Leona Lansing’s role in the finale were incredibly important scenes of redemption in The Newsroom. Not only because they were pivotal to the plot, and showed characters’ true colors in the most positive way, but because it has been rare this season that Aaron Sorkin let his female characters be rational and heroic at the same time. It took ten episodes to get there, but that made it all the more refreshing.

The finale of The Newsroom helped the season to come full circle, something Aaron Sorkin is truly a master of. While it wasn’t even close to the strongest full episode of the season, the ending truly made up for a lot of the absurdity in the first three quarters of the hour. Things wrapped up neatly enough to satisfy us, but still left room for a lot of questions to be answered in season two. Which is, in my opinion, the best way to end a season. (7/10)

3 Responses to The Newsroom: The Greater Fool Review

  1. Utah says:

    “teenage wasteland?” come on, the song is titled “Baba O’riley”

  2. Blue Shark says:

    This show is so frustrating.

    …It is sometimes the very beacon of brightness and the very shallowest of pedantry … often at the same time.

    … Time to choose. Sorkin needs to go with Highbrow and leave the Twenty-something angst to all the other shlock on TV, or he needs to go with the inane romances and quit the News.

  3. wanda says:

    This episode certainly had a lot of twists and turns, including the confusing chronology of events that you mentioned. I must admit that I had to rewind every once in a while to get back on track since the scenes skipped around so much. Also, I was confused about the whole Maggie/Don thing because I swear they broke up in the last episode. I was just talking about this with a few ladies from my office at Dish, and we were positive that they separated because Don received those flowers from another woman. I’m going to have to watch that one again and check it out. It’s lucky that I record all the episodes for instances just like these. Plus, it helps that I have the Hopper DVR, with loads of recording space, so I can keep the whole season stored while barely making a dent on my hard drive. Besides these little bits of confusion, I thought the season finale was a good way to wrap up everything!

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