Review: ‘The Newsroom’ – ‘Red Team III’

A review of tonight’s “The Newsroom” coming up just as soon as I spend $1000 to meet Daniel Craig…

Last week, I wrote that Sorkin was letting the rest of his characters off the hook by pinning the blame for Genoa on a new character we had no investment in. Much of “Red Team III” seemed to be designed to counter that complaint, by having Rebecca, Mac and others point out the ways in which our “News Night” staff also screwed up. In some cases, this worked – Mac leading the witness in the pre-interview felt like a mistake that could actually happen – while in others the mistakes were again written off as the fault of others. Reporters definitely get screwed over by sources who lie to them, but the specific circumstances of this lie – Shep seeking vengeance after his son fatally overdosed upon being fired by Neal – feel so big, and specific,(*) that you can’t really blame Charlie for any of it.

(*) And out of the blue. It’s entirely possible that there was a story in season 1 about an intern being fired for publicly objecting to “News Night 2.0,” but I don’t recall it. If this is Sorkin playing off of something that happened last season, it works much better than if it’s brand-new information.

As many of you predicted last week, the shot clock was Jerry’s undoing, but it doesn’t seem the least bit plausible that no one at any point in the production of the story would have noticed that. Will’s not the only sports fan who works for the show. You’re telling me that Sloan, Charlie, the studio technicians – even someone with no interest in sports but a functioning pair of eyeballs – noticed those numbers jumping back and forth during the damning sound byte? That’s something that makes everybody look bad – and was foreshadowed, sledgehammer-style, throughout the episode – and yet somehow not one of the things Rebecca or anyone else brought up as a massive institutional failure for this story.

And as much as I love hearing Jane Fonda recite Sorkin dialogue, and play stoned, and as Sorkin-channeling-Capra-esque as her refusal to accept the resignations was, it feels like Sorkin looking for an escape hatch on the consequences of this story. It’s possible that Will, Charlie and Mac will do something extraordinary in the season-ending two-parter(**) that would justify their continuing viability as newspersons, but I’m not sure what the ultimate point of the Genoa arc was, then. Our heroes don’t make any damning mistakes, and don’t even suffer the consequences of their actions or anyone else’s. That’s just conflict for conflict’s sake, rather than revealing insight into either our characters (Will has, by design, been kept on the Genoa sidelines until this episode) or about the problems of TV news in the 21st century.

(**) The show takes Labor Day weekend off, then is back the following week; because Sorkin asked for extensive (and expensive) reshoots on the first two episodes, HBO cut the episode order for the season from 10 to 9. 

What did everybody else think? Do you feel like the show laid the groundwork for 5.8 million people tuning into this special? Do you believe Leona would keep them all around? Given that we’re now caught up to the season’s framing device, are you disappointed/confused that we skipped over the events that immediately precipitated Maggie’s fateful haircut?