By John Keegan and Edmund Boys
This episode of “The Newsroom” was its biggest gamble so far. While the date, 5/1/2011, isn’t as imprinted into the world’s consciousness as 9/11/2001, the surprise announcement of a Presidential address late one Sunday night certainly is, at least for those residing in the US. Presenting Osama bin Laden’s death, a story virtually everyone in the audience knows is coming, imposes an extra burden to get the tone right. For the most part, they do. While the interweaving of the personal stories is, at times, clunky, it is helped immensely by a show of strength from an unexpected source.
The evening opens in Will’s apartment, where the staff are celebrating their one year (and one week, just to get the dates lined up) anniversary. Conveniently timed work-related gatherings are becoming a favored conceit, but this one works better than the Bigfoot briefing’s overlap with Rep. Gifford’s shooting. It brings the significant others into the mix, rather than everyone rushing in from home and leaving them behind. Sure, budget dollars are saved by keeping everything on the established set, but it also serves the drama by introducing a wider range of reactions.
This is a story that is as much about its precipitating event. Having the father of Kaylee, Neal’s girlfriend, work at Cantor Fitzgerald was a little on-the-nose, but also an important reminder that avenging a wrong isn’t always satisfying. Kaylee also precipitates some of Will’s reactions (or lack thereof) by bringing him some medicinal cookies. His macho downing of two, plus some Vicodin, threatens a monstrous mashup of Dr. House plus Tommy Chong delivering the news. It also gives us another terrific scene with Lonny Church, before Will slips his guard in traffic. (The physical exertion of jogging to the studio might provide some explanation for Will’s magical recovery. Not that I’ll admit how I might know that.) Letting Lonny tell the cops who chase him to the studio the news worked very well to defuse the situation.
Once back at the newsroom, there is the latest round of ‘get it first’ vs. ‘get it right,’ about whether to report the news before the President. The news and media wonk in me wishes Judith Miller’s name had come up when Mac argued the New York Times reporter’s sources could be trusted. Charlie makes the call to hold off, with a telling reminder that they don’t know what mop-up or rescue operations are underway. There is also push-back from the Washington desk (with Eureka’s Salli Richardson-Whitfield playing an anchor Dr. Alison would have eaten for lunch), as a reminder that the rest of AWM is firmly on Reese’s ratings bandwagon.
Not everyone makes it to the party, as Don, Sloan, and Elliott are stuck on the tarmac at La Guardia. Here, as well, the journalism mixes with the personal, as Don is now blurting his fears about losing Maggie to all and sundry, not just Sloan. There is some great chemistry here between characters who started out burdened by weak writing (Don, especially) or low expectations (Olivia Munn, who gets a sly nod to her fanboys, dealing with the kid in the aisle seat). Their juggling act of reporting by blackberry, while trying to keep it under their hats, was very well done. The only jarring note was Don’s sudden reversal from manic, pushy producer to respecting the pilot’s stars and bars. After spending so much time establishing Elliott as the sanest, most grounded member of the group, that was the moment for him to step in and save Don from himself. After all, Elliott does get paid to deliver the news, and telling the pilots would have been a nice consolation for not getting to do it on-air.
The love quadrangle continues sputtering around the periphery of the story, but with a welcome surprise. Lisa finally wises up (with the help of FaceTime) and delivers an intelligent, mature smackdown of Jim’s ambivalence. Jim and Maggie still seem meant for each other, but not because we’re rooting for them. Neither of them seems much of a catch right now, but they are perfectly matched in relational ineptitude.John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Edmund Boys is Critical Myth's reviewer for The Newsroom.