It’s driving me crazy. I hate it half the time. Well, maybe more than half the time. So let’s recap where we are now that the fourth episode has come and gone:
Episode two… made me want to throw things. Break things. All the things. In case you had forgotten that Sorkin is an ass when it comes to women, he spent a solid hour reminding you, making us watch as a woman who has over twenty years of journalistic experience and has spent the last three years BEING SHOT AT, completely lose her shit over an email mishap. I will concede that yes, those kind of office mistakes happen. However, as a journalist, as someone who lives and dies by devices like cell phones and technology like email, and seeing as they had just discussed the whole “emailing to the whole staff, vs. not the whole staff” thing… it was clear and obvious what was going to happen and I expected better. And okay, sure, she makes the mistake. But then she goes batshit crazy and starts breaking people’s phones. Right. Totally the qualities a war correspondent would have, let alone a sane person of high professional standing (or any respectable standing, really) working any decent-paying job.
Snap to the other female lead: Maggie hates condescension, unless it’s coming from Jim. Then it’s charming. And she fucks up at work, and it has to be, obviously, because she cannot for the life of her keep her personal affairs separated from her professional business.
He excels at writing careers that you want to have and creating characters who are sometimes pricks, and sometimes wrong, but whose professional flaws are really only that they care too much and work too hard.Which brings us to my issues with The Newsroom in general, and episode four in particular. It is all about the relationships. Relationships, which by the way, I don’t really buy. Sorkin is really great at making work seem awesome; he excels at writing careers that you want to have and creating characters who are sometimes pricks, and sometimes wrong, but whose professional flaws are really only that they care too much and work too hard. I don’t know if it’s unfair to compare everything he does to The West Wing, but I’m going to. The relationships were second and the job came first. Always. Leo ended his marriage for this very reason.
That doesn’t exist here. He keeps trying to impress on us how important it is to do good news, how seriously these people take their jobs and how much they care… and yet, his message always falls flat as they are so clearly willing to jeopardize their hard-earned careers in favor of making sure their unattainable other knows that they are still alive and would they please just notice them, please, please, please. 50 minutes of episode four was dedicated to Will’s dating life and Maggie and Jim’s will-they-won’t-they admit their feelings, which really did nothing but make me like Don more. The final ten minutes came alive and covered the shooting of Gabriel Giffords. So let’s take this one at a time, leaving the best for last.
First off, Will’s dating. The whole, Will-parading-women-in-front-of-Mackenzie thing has been building for two episodes now, and in this episode we are shown there is not a single woman outside of the ACN newsroom who is intelligent, and not one of them can measure up to Mackenzie. Will’s an ass, but we’ve come to expect that, it’s who he is, and that’s fine. But despite the fact that I agreed with a lot of the Real Housewives commentary, it was still annoying, preachy, and sanctimonious… and played out like it came directly from Sorkin’s mouth, not Will’s. I get that buddy wants some, and wants some to flaunt in Mackenzie’s face, but I find it a little difficult to swallow that someone as smart, as accomplished, and as condescending as Will would deign to spend this much time with women he clearly feels are inferior to himself, even if he is on a “civilizing” mission (which, barf). We are told Will is a prick; we are shown Will is a prick – done.
So what of Mackenzie then? From the pilot, the show set her up as a super star. She’s smart, she’s moral, and she wants to “speak truth to stupid”. The only problem with that is, as far as I can tell, Mackenzie is one of the stupidest characters on the show so far. I can’t stand her. Every episode she is more emotional, more incompetent, and just more all over the place than the last. We know she cheated on Will, so she was in the wrong in that relationship, but why, why, why, must she always be in the wrong at work? Episode two was a disaster. Mackenzie was intolerable. And since then she has come off as a flighty wreck, who can’t run her own meetings with authority and who nearly cries in her control room a large percentage of the time.
The big payoff at the end of episode four, which I’ll discuss in a bit, was tainted by the fact that Mackenzie can’t ride the news high that everyone else is on as they do the right thing and score, instead she gets weepy. No one in Will’s romantic life is suitable, because apparently, according to Sorkin, women are morons, turned on by guns pointed at their heads (which ugh, we won’t even discuss). Mackenzie is the one he can’t get over, but I can’t see WHY. She is just as infuriating as the “parade of Netflix with digitally-altered breasts” that Will brings around – even more so, because she’s supposed to be the smart one.
Maggie is Maggie. Nervous, emotional wreck Maggie, who can only be comforted by Jim, with his newsroom wisdom. Jim, who she will scream at in episode four because she cannot keep her feelings in check, not even long enough to notice that she shouldn’t be screaming at Jim, she should be screaming at her roommate. Maggie is annoying, her office romance is just as ridiculous as the others, but she at least gets some professional wins now and then.
But the big winner this episode was Don. He played everybody and got to deliver the gem of the show: “she’s a person. A doctor declares her dead, not a network.” And here’s where it gets good again, and why I’m still watching, despite the long-ass rant I just went on about everything that is wrong with this show. Because when they do the news, they DO the news, just like they said they were going to. They do actually kick ass at it a lot of the time. Watching Will wipe the floor with the Tea Party was fun. Watching them do the right thing by Gabrielle Giffords was touching, and brought back everything you felt when that event actually went down.
I was really worried about Sorkin taking on real-life news stories. And I still am. And sometimes I wonder if it isn’t kind of a big middle finger to everyone who works in the industry who covered the stories in real time. But damn, when they get it right, they get it right. I don’t want to watch Maggie turn herself inside out and speak in high-pitch sentences because she is in denial about her love for Jim. I don’t want to see Mackenzie show her boyfriend off to Will, and for some inconceivable reason apologize for it later, when he’s been showing off his bevy of girls for weeks. I want to see leads get chased down and the tough calls get made at the right time. I want to see Don be a newsman and earn an apology from Will. That’s what I want. Why can’t I get it all the time?