This week on The Newsroom … Jim, Will and Maggie all do or say things which lead to unintended consequences: an unexpected kiss, the near loss of a lead in the Operation Genoa investigation and the death of an innocent child.
This week’s headlines
We discover the reasons for both Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden) deposing the newsroom staff and the events resulting in Maggie‘s spiky red hairdo.
“It happened.” The general didn’t say that.
In the flash-forward timeline, we learn Rebecca is representing ACN’s parent company AWM in a wrongful termination suit brought by Jerry Dantana. Maggie is being deposed. Rebecca asks her about an interview she and Jerry conducted with an army general in March 2012 regarding Operation Genoa. Maggie testifies the general never confirmed Genoa actually happened. Rebecca says that Jerry contends she was in no fit state to be a reliable witness, as she had been prescribed antidepressants at the time, which she wasn’t taking.
Back in September 2011 Maggie and Gary Cooper head to Uganda to report on the 100 US combat troops who had been sent to hunt for Joseph Kony‘s Lord’s Resistance Army, which included both abducted and recruited child soldiers. (They were ultimately unsuccessful. This April, the Obama administration offered up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of Kony and others suspected of crimes against humanity. He is still at large.)
Before joining up with the troops at Kasenyi they head to Nakapiripirit, where US soldiers are building an extension to an orphanage, to shoot a human interest PR piece. While there, Maggie befriends a young boy named Daniel, with whom she quickly forms a bond and reads a book to him repeatedly (although she tells Rebecca it was only three times).
That night the orphanage is attacked by armed cattle raiders looking to steal Gary’s camera. The children are evacuated on to a bus but Daniel is missing. Maggie and Gary find him hiding under his bed and Maggie carries him out to the bus on her back. Gary slips, Maggie turns to look back at him and Daniel is shot in the spine, saving Maggie but killing him instantly. After returning to New York, Maggie remembers how Daniel was fascinated by her long, blonde hair and cuts it all off.
Something’s got to fall out of the sky and right into our lap – a preposterous stroke of luck has to occur.
Just as the Genoa trail seems to be turning cold, Neal‘s Occupy Wall Street contact Shelly Wexler (Aya Cash) tells Jerry and Neal about someone she knows whose NGO was shut down by the Pakistani government after he wrote a report alleging that American troops had used chemical weapons. However, after Will rips her to pieces in an on-screen interview, she refuses to share her source unless he issues an on-air apology. After Neal, Sloan and Don all fail in talking Shelly around – Don unhelpfully referring to her “debilitating persecution complex” – Will apologises to her in person, even though he has already located Shelly’s contact, whose report seems to validate Gunnery Sergeant Sweeney’s testimony from last week about the use of sarin gas.
After being thrown off the Romney campaign bus last week, Jim, Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer) and Stillman are forced to follow by car and struggle to keep up to date with advance copies of speeches. Jim goads uppity press officer Taylor into an unwise on-the-record statement. To smooth things over, she cedes to his request for 30 minutes with Romney. However, he gifts it to Hallie, figuring she needs it more than he does after overhearing a heated phone call with her boss. Initially angry at Jim, Hallie eventually kisses him. Mac calls Jim back to New York after Taylor informs her about Jim giving away his interview.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Despite Jerry voicing the need for a miracle to happen to keep the Genoa investigation going, the fact that Shelly just happens to know a guy who can deliver exactly that is a coincidence of the same magnitude as Maggie’s roommate/landlady Lisa going to school with Casey Anthony last season, and one which stretches the viewers’ suspension of disbelief to its absolute limit.
Having said that, it’s good to see this season’s disparate threads all starting to come together under the umbrella of the still-developing Genoa story as the Occupy strand suddenly ties directly into it. (Although it’s a shame that Neal’s personal OWS arc seems to have turned into a means to an end rather than a genuine plot in its own right.) Maggie’s Ugandan trauma also feeds into questions about her state of mind in a key future interview.
Overall, the episode benefits from only having three main strands to service. Maggie’s African adventure is compactly told and, contrary to too many previous episodes, largely shows her in a professional and competent light in both timelines. Jim’s campaign storyline finally gets some room to breathe and a sense of closure, as his flirtation with Hallie comes to a head. And Will’s apology to Shelly – not for destroying her on air, but for enjoying doing so rather than maintaining an air of professional detachment – leads to a startlingly frank admission: “I’m not smug. I’m having a crisis of confidence”, which hopefully tees him up for a return to form in the coming episodes.
My one complaint about the episode is that Don and Sloan are underutilised and again reduced to the role of comic relief. Both Thomas Sadoski and Olivia Munn have had their moments so far in this season, but feel largely peripheral to the main plot thus far. Although now we have established that they and Will have been deliberately kept out of Genoa thus far so that they can be co-opted on to the ‘red team’ at a later date – presumably Jim will be joining them – should see them brought back into the heart of the fold.
Also, after four weeks of giving the new title sequence a chance to grow on me, I’ve decided that I just don’t like it. I understand why the producers felt the need to change it, but it’s just too cold and impersonal for my liking. What The Newsroom tries to impress on us more than anything is that news is a ‘people industry’ and the new titles fly in the face of that. Oh well.
And finally …
Maggie reveal that she lives on East 75th Street. She has an address (albeit as a tenant) on the Upper East Side? It’s hard to sympathise with her Sex and the City tour bus rant about having no money after that.
The Newsroom continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.