The Newsroom: “Willie Pete” Season 2 Episode 3 Review

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I truly want to love The Newsroom. But it shouldn’t take a show a season and a half to recognize its strengths and weaknesses. That’s where we are, and the show has become no more self-aware than when it began.

The true tragedy of this show are the flickers of hope we’re given. Sloan, for example. Sloan is undoubtedly my favorite character. I’m aware that this doesn’t mean she’s necessarily the best character, but her scenes are consistently funny, smart, and heartfelt. She’s vulnerable without being weak. She’s intelligent without being condescending. And Olivia Munn has a way of bringing out the best in each actor she encounters on the show. She did that this week with Don and Will both. She accidentally leaked that Will wasn’t sick for the 9/11 coverage, and sought counsel from Don about the situation. While it was yet another plot that seemed to escalate and then go absolutely nowhere, she was still delightful to watch.

Also delightful, and reminiscent of earlier and better Aaron Sorkin shows, was the interaction between Neal and Mackenzie when he stood firm on his position that Occupy Wall Street deserved coverage. The defiant up and comer, sassing his superior and succeeding. It truly seems that this role was written specifically for Dev Patel, because he exceeds expectations every week.

The most brilliant part of the show came in the opening scene. As I said last season, all of Jeff Daniels’ best scenes come from behind the news desk. This episode we got a truly fantastic monologue addressing a question from a gay soldier directed at the potential Republican presidential candidates. The thing about Will McAvoy is that when he uses his platform to chastise, he always does it with a noble purpose. The broadcast was an example of what I wish this show could be all the time.

Unfortunately, it isn’t. And with the exception of the few scenes I described above, they really drove that point home this week. Aside from a complete overhaul of the show…storylines, cast, pacing, overall tone…I don’t know how this episode could have been saved, and I don’t know how the remainder of this season will fare either

Jim’s experience on the Romney press bus has been exhausting. For him, and for us in the audience. This week he tries to start a revolt and ends up getting kicked off with two of his colleagues, and I can only hope this signals the end of Jim’s time in New Hampshire because I don’t think I can take another week of this. (To be fair…the actual news coverage of the entire 2012 presidential election was relatively exhausting, so maybe I’m projecting a little here. But if I am, it is only a little, and still doesn’t excuse the poor execution.)

Maggie is the worst. She’s still going to Africa, she had to take a bunch of medication with a bunch of side effects, Mackenzie gave her a human interest story to include. Maybe next week when she’s actually in Africa she’ll add something of value to this show, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Will and Nina Howard have no chemistry at all, and the writers are trying to force a storyline between the two anyway. I really have nothing else to say about that. Except that I’m sure it’s going to drag on for several more episodes, trying to make us care that Will is still in love with Mackenzie and Nina knows and lied to Mackenzie about it.

If I hear one more word about Will’s high voicemail from last season I am going to start screaming at my television.

And now to the climax of the episode, which was anything but climactic. The Genoa tip. This whole thing that the entire season is revolving around is so boring. It doesn’t have to be either, it could be exciting, but like so many other things in this show, they’re carrying it out poorly. Basically Jerry and Mackenzie meet with a soldier who tells them the story of the classified operation. Mackenzie doesn’t believe him. Charlie doesn’t believe it. Jerry wholeheartedly does. By the way, who the hell is Jerry? I hate that a character that was just dropped into the show out of nowhere is having such a big and terrible impact on it. Anyway, Jerry and the rest of the staff try like hell to confirm the story. They get confirmation in the form of translated tweets from Pakistan at the time of the attack. It’s ridiculous on so many levels, that I can’t even delve into it.

And if you were wondering why the episode was called “Willie Pete” it’s because that’s code for white phosphorus, which was supposedly what the US was dropping during the Genoa mission. But you probably weren’t wondering. You may have even turned the channel by then. Grade: C-

By: Meghan Coan


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