Here is where it all hits the fan, folks. The weeks of teasing flashbacks and flashforwards give way to exactly what went wrong with the Genoa story: Jerry does indeed get fired for his editing of footage and then sues ACN with a claim of wrongful termination. And then, we find out, almost comically, what terrible journalists the ACN team is, one by one. It's really sad, and scary, and almost makes it impossible to respect these folks. But somehow, we're still supposed to see them as the good guys. Okay.
For the most part, I want to go out on a limb and say that this might just be the best episode of the series, tied with the real-time tour-de-force we got two weeks ago. There are moments that grate, to be sure, like the ridiculous and overused element of overdramatic music as we watch the team watch a report that will spell journalistic doom. Also, I'd like Sorkin to stop beating on that poor intern girl, please. Two years of this is enough.
But anyway, even when this show is sort of pedantic and relentless in a sort of milquetoast idealism, there's still so much that makes me want to cheer. I still think the structure of the season robbed the central plot of a lot of its suspense, but it was supremely gratifying to watch Sorkin really use his abilities to cut his characters down in hopes of bringing them back up. The bouncing-back-and-forth of Rebecca's questions receiving answers in the past and present was a neat bit of writing trickery, as well.
There's also a side-plot about the September 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya--it turns out the News Night crew could've had the scoop on this story, but was too busy dealing with lawsuits and Genoa drama. Oops.
Whereas last week seemed to indicate that Jerry was the sole perpetrator of wrongdoing in screwing up the Genoa story, the intriguing bit here is how badly each and every member of the team got it wrong. This was the perfect storm of bad journalism at play, friends.
Let's go point by point:
THE GUNNERY SGT.: The first-person witness and member of the extraction squad agreed to video testimony--but he also has a severe brain injury and unreliable memory. This fact comes out during a follow-up interview on another ACN program.
THE MUNITIONS LIST: Remember two episodes ago, when Charlie got that smoking-gun list of chemicals and puts his full weight behind the story? Yeah, it was a fake. It turns out Charlie's source friend hates him because his kid was fired from ACN at some point. So, Charlie gets hosed and screwed here.
THE LANCE CPL: Also involved in the operation, this guy's testimony is what convinces the team to go forward. But he didn't have firsthand knowledge of the Sarin gas attack and looks to be supporting his friend, the Gunnery Sgt., almost blindly. Mac has a moment of clarity in which she cops to leading him forward with less-than-integral questions.
THE GENERAL: Jerry's mis-edited quotes from this guy are what brings the whole thing down. Mac sees the shot clock on the basketball game playing on the TV behind him, and realizes Jerry fixed the testimony. She calls him out on it. He shows no remorse. She fires him.
So, Genoa creates the biggest ratings in cable news history, and then threatens to crash the journalistic integrity of the program and the network. The State Department discloses a series of classified information in preparation to sue ACN, and Charlie, Mac and Will go to Leona to resign. It looks like our heroes are done for.
Except--she doesn't accept their resignations. Charlie admits they've lost the public trust. And Leona bellows "GET IT BACK!" And that's the end.
That ending is the big whoopsie of this episode, friends. We see the team as good, earnest journalists making a series of mistakes, some willful, some not, and we learn a lot about these people through really good writing and pacing in this episode. And then we get that completely unrealistic ending. "GET IT BACK!" How, exactly, is that going to work? What kind of leadership is that on Leona's part? I was completely engrossed in this episode, and I laughed out loud at that moment. It wasn't cool.
Still, I'm on board for the next few, and I'm excited again. When Sorkin is on, he's on. And this episode was 98% on. See you next week.