There were a number of places we could've gone after the soaring highs of last week's episode, which was a real-time searing journey into the darker parts of this show that was both unapologetic and perhaps the series' finest hour. Where we've ended up, it seems, is back on the death-march to the Genoa explosion and perhaps business-as-usual for the writing of The Newsroom. Which, in all honesty, is pretty good this week, but still disappointing somehow, now that we know what this team can really produce.
A quick reminder on Genoa: the team is trying to uncover information on a Sarin gas attack on a Pakistani village. While this story is completely fabricated for the show, it is based on the Tailwind incident from 1998. Click here for more on that.
We open with a display of the evidence thus far, including testimony from a gunnery sergeant, tweets from the time and region of the attack, a report of a mass grave, and a fishy munitions list provided to Charlie. Jim and Don aren't convinced, but Charlie's now a believer. Jerry is still the dogged spearhead of the story, and Mac has some surprising doubts about Jerry's ethical standing and trustworthiness. Up until now, we've never seen him twist the facts or drop the ball--but this conversation sets us up to expect Jerry's inevitable fall, where he alters a video testimonial of a general to better support the story. All of this was foreshadowed, come to think of it, in multiple storylines last episode, especially Maggie's editing of the George Zimmerman tape. The general in question agrees to meet with Mac and Charlie.
In side plot news, Sloan chases down the economics of why Disney's summer box-office bomb John Carter of Mars isn't that big a deal, and Will, perpetually concerned about his likability, goes on an insufferable ACN-owned morning show. Neither plot really seems to have legs.
There's also a double date, in which Jim and Hallie go out with Neal and Hallie's friend. Mitt Romney's mouthpiece Taylor joins them, and we learn she's been fired from the campaign. There's also a shouty political argument that might just be the most unwatchable segment in the episode.
Wrapping back around to Genoa--the general gets taped, and carefully crafts his answer about Sarin with "IF we used Sarin, here's how we used Sarin," in a deft couching of the facts. Jerry edits it down to "we used Sarin," which is laughably, horrifically bogus as far as journalism goes. It's used as evidence to the ACN staff in its edited state. Charlie demands further proof, and Jerry gets all uppity and accuses the rest of the team of liberal pandering to the current administration instead of following the story. The Genoa story is put on ice for months, and we jump ahead to September 2012, where another piece of confirmation about Genoa is dropped in the producer's lap.
Here's what I want from this show, people--I want it to be about journalists being journalists, and doing their jobs well, and struggling to find truth and good reporting in a world that seems to want less and less of both things each day. When The Newsroom is at its best, it really does that. And I really love it for that. But here, we're almost back to a "Goofus and Gallant" level of comparison between what a good journalist is and what a bad journalist is. With the revelation this episode, Jerry goes from a different perspective to an out-and-out villain and ticking time bomb. It's not exactly fair. It feels a little bit like lazy writing that will eventually dress the whole issue down into blacks and whites.
We'll see what happens. Last week proved to me that The Newsroom still has the potential to be the best thing on television. We have four hours left. Make me believe, Mr. Sorkin.