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Somewhere between the end we wanted and the end we deserved lies this episode. Aaron Sorkin has raised our hopes with sterling writing this season, only to occasionally dash those same hopes as he reverts to type with formulaic and sometimes silly/lazy writing. We got a little of both last night, wrapped up in a curious set of plots without loose ends, as if Sorkin himself doesn't want a third season, despite all the tweeting and unofficial announcing his cast has been doing about just that happening as a done deal.
We start exactly where we left off, on election night. Charlie and Will are still desiring their own resignations, and Will has already exercised that special clause from the first episode and fired Mac, but apparently for the same petty reasons of relationship drama we've rolled our eyes at for eighteen episodes at this point, instead of professional misconduct. And we're informed of one more twist--Reese will decide if Charlie and Will are allowed to resign, not Leona. Uh oh. Charlie expresses relief, but he and Will don't seem all that okay with this development. After all the hand-wringing about taking the fall for Genoa, maybe they're not so eager to leave. Which makes sense, but makes all of this debate over the last two episodes even more pointless. All of the ACN senior staff is planning to go if Charlie and Will go, which is a nice gesture, if nothing else.
All of this is ridiculous, but gives us a great bit with Will and Mac and Elliot and Don, as Will makes it clear Elliot is his heir apparent and hands off a major segment to their two younger counterparts. It's touching and genuine, and then totally undercut as Will and Mac go to watch the segment and end up squabbling about their relationship and that engagement ring in Will's desk. Again.
And then we get a nice bit of prose from Charlie about how he and will shouldn't quit. It sounds pretty but it's empty, given the context, but it somehow, in the biggest WTF-moment of the series thus far, convinces Will to let go of his anger at Mac, and then...uh...propose to her.
Here's where things got really goofy, as I said, aloud, at my TV: "What the **** is happening right now?" and then, a second later, MAC SAID THE SAME THING. When your critics and your characters are in agreement, there's a problem. And then there's this weird big-hug-kiss thing they do after she says yes; it had all the chemistry of a lap dance at a family holiday.
So, that's a happy ending right there, but sort of a major infraction as far as good writing and consistent storytelling goes. Don't worry, it's not the only one in this episode. For comedy, apparently, Sloan's big storyline is getting cut short, over and over, as she reports on a key election trend. Only men get to speak in complete sentences on The Newssroom, Olivia. It's in your contract. Will gives another sermon on the difference between the vintage (good) Republicans and the eeeeeeeeeevil modern versions. And there's plenty of mud thrown about traditional media against new media, which would've been a little bit dated in 2006, let alone now. Oh, and Jim's big action this episode is fixing the friendship between Maggie and Lisa. Because somehow, that may saver Maggie from a life of alcoholic decline and ruin. Or something. If he'd gotten a certificate in hairstyling and somehow fixed whatever is sitting on top of Maggie's head, I'd say that would be every loose end, wrapped up.
And here we are, at what feels like a series finale but is (unofficially at this point) just another chapter's end as we wait for Season 3. Assuming the cast is right and that's where we're headed next year, I really hope Sorkin takes note of the really great episodes this season and what worked; when journalists are heroes because they do their jobs well, and choose what's right instead of what's easy, it makes for great television. We don't want to watch magical, out-of-nowhere "sources" fall into our characters' laps; that's super-cheap, and we deserve better, and he's used EXACTLY that plot point five times, including once this episode. It's not okay.
To paraphrase an oft-repeated scene from last year, The Newsroom is not the greatest show on television. But it could be.
I want, desperately, to feel a solid, indestructible feeling of idealism and joy at watching this show. Sometimes it earns it. Sometimes it doesn't. Most of this season, it fell short. That makes me sad.
But I'll keep coming back. Here's hoping next year learns from this year, and we get a third season with a happy Mac and Will at the helm, without "Sex and the City" bus tours, and a crew of heroic, capable journalists who fight the fights worth fighting instead of tiny personal dramas.
See you next year, gang.
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