The Newsroom 2×09 ‘Election Night, pt. 2’: Everything goes exceedingly better than was probable

source: HBO

And thus ends this completely ineffectual and pointless second season of HBO’s The Newsroom, as no blood is spilled, no stakes are delivered upon, and the status quo from before the entire season even began is returned to in bold, bland fashion.  Like the Grinch upon the peak of Mount Crumpit, everyone’s hearts grew two sizes, and then we all hugged it out, laughing off the shackles of the inane plots of this season like snow on our shoulders.  This was not fun television to watch, but Aaron Sorkin did his best to make us think it was supposed to be.

source: HBO

source: HBO

When we last met our fearless heroes before the cliffhanger ending last week, hope was running low; Charlie was trying to get fired, Mac was trying to get Will to fire her, Leona wasn’t firing anyone, and Will was promising to deliver an elitist east-coast smackdown on Romney Lady’s assault on the media’s treatment of conservative politicians.  Aaaaaaand . . . . none of that really came to pass, because everyone all changed their minds at the last minute and destroyed all the momentum established by the entire preceding episode so we could hurtle into a rushed finale that finds closure for almost every single person on the show.

The episode (and as such, the season) ends with everyone choosing to do everything the exact opposite as they have done for the entire season with regard to the fallout from the Genoa debacle, which was always the correct moral and profession decision from the very outset of this issue, so it’s been really frustrating to see Sorkin drag all of this mess out this long and then take the most obvious path out of it; you either subvert expectation, or you get on with it, but don’t ask your audience to watch you slowly drag out the proceedings to their least surprising resolution.  Ugh.  This episode was the date and time to which this season’s clockwork universe was always designed to reach, and I couldn’t shake the feeling during the last five minutes where so many plotlines were hastily bludgeoned into a paste of conclusion that Sorkin absolutely knew where he wanted these characters to be by this year’s end, but was utterly baffled as how to get them there.  I suppose the good news is that at least those dynamics are at a new checkpoint for next season, and perhaps we won’t have to wade through another slog like this ever again.  My breath, however, she is not held.

The use of Lisa so prominently in this episode was egregiously clunky, as her sole duty to the plot was to facilitate the eventual reconcile between Jim and Maggie, which, A) is the worst and least essential dynamic on this show, and B) just kill me already with the Jim and the Maggie.  The script wields Lisa like a cudgel in its getting certain characters from place despite the fact that her being in the ACN building that night was improbable to the point of breaking all suspension of disbelief, and then as she’s being used as weak crutch for the writers, they finish the job of manhandling her by having Jim show up and remind her of just how terrible of a boyfriend he was oh and by the way tell her that he’s still into Maggie despite the fact that she knows that he’s already seeing someone else.  I guess it’s a good thing that Jim doesn’t smoke, because I got the feeling the writers would have just had him put his butt out on her arm or something and then drop it in her drink.  Yep, Jim, you’re a bad boyfriend, but at least you’ve been consistent with every woman you’ve been involved with, so I guess that counts for something.

source: HBO

source: HBO

It also turns out that Don is yet again winning the “Best Recovery from a Love Triangle” award, as Sloan finds out he’s the one that paid $1000 to Hurricane Sandy relief to buy her book.  See, show?  This is a good relationship.  It has two competent, mature, adult people who solve their issues like intelligent people should recognizing their own chemistry and then acting on it.  I will root for Don and Sloan, because I like them.  I like them as individuals, I like their chemistry, and I don’t have to sit around thinking when I watch them together, “Jeez, why are these people together again?”  Sure, they’re flawed; all characters need flaws because conflict drives narrative dynamics, that’s just Intro to Fiction 101 stuff.  The difference between Don and Sloan from Jim and Maggie (and even Will and Mac to an extent) is that their relationship isn’t defined by their interpersonal conflicts and flaws (or at least, not yet).  It’s just two people who have lives of their own who are into each other.

Which is completely the opposite of Will and Mac, who are basically one big feedback loop of neuroses and awkward betrayal-fueled revenge schemes.  Even here near the end, Will goes out of his way to try to hurt Mac again as a defensive reaction to his own wounded pride in her original betrayal of him, but thankfully later rushes out to Maggie, admits his hurtful ways, and tries to unencumber the both of them from this oppressive ghost of a relationship by proposing to her.  And she said yes!  Aww, I could just cry, but mostly because I want to believe that we’re done with this laboring sexual dynamic and we can get back to this show’s central tenet I thought it established at the end of the last season.

will

source: HBO

Sorkin seems to address that, too, and tries to sugar-coat everything at the end with a big musical interlude showing that our gang is back in fighting shape and hungry to take on the world again, but it all just goes to remind how much of a water-treading waste this season turned out to be.  Here we are, back where we started, only a little better for wear, pledging to return to our originally-scheduled crusade.
Fingers crossed.

 

Until next season, you guys.

STRAY THOUGHTS:

– Best line of the night goes to Don, after being blind-sided by Sloan putting the lip-lock on him: “You just can’t teach what I got.”
– Okay, I’m officially done with Marcia Gay Harden’s character.  I’m full up on smarm.  Move along.- Either Sam Waterstone is brilliantly subtle at portraying Charlie’s alcoholism at times, or his speech is just naturally that difficult to understand.

 

With this season ending on the election of Obama to his second term and the Petraeus scandal, what events do you guys think will drive the show next season (my vote is for the Benghazi hearings, the Boston bombing, and, oh, let’s go with Ted Cruz’ constant flailing)?  Can we expect Will and Mackenzie’s engagement to be less drama-filled than their long courtship?  And do we want Jim and Maggie to finally get together, stay apart, or (my choice) be mauled by bears while on an exploding train that’s derailing off a bridge?  Answer in the comments below!

Atomika D.

is a writer and critic of TV and film since 2006, an alumnus of NYFA’s school of celluloid direction and production, and she once ate seven burritos on a dare. It was not pleasant. Read all about it on Tumblr.

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