The Newsroom: S2 Ep7 – Red Team III

The Newsroom logoThis week on The Newsroom … Jerry Dantana’s Operation Genoa story finally airs – and the world comes crashing down around the ACN team when they realise it isn’t true.

This week’s headlines

Charlie: We don’t have the trust of the public any more!

Leona: Get it back!

It’s all about Genoa this week, as the story no one wanted to believe, the one which has been Jerry Dantana‘s obsession for a year, finally goes public.

And then all hell breaks loose as Mac realises too late that the interview with General Stomtonovich was doctored. In reviewing Jerry’s supposedly raw footage she notices the time on the game clock in the basketball game on the TV in the background jumping around.

In various depositions with Rebecca Halliday‘s legal team, the leads and assumptions built up during the previous six episodes are deconstructed as follows:

1. Jerry’s preferred military expert Cyrus West is discredited as being known to be “a guy with ambition”.

2. When interviewed by Elliot the night after the Genoa story breaks, Gunnery Sergeant Eric Sweeney reveals that he suffered a traumatic brain injury – a fact concealed by sealed medical records – which frequently causes memory loss, rendering his testimony unreliable.

3. Hamni8. the on-the-ground Twitter source found by Neal never constituted anything more than circumstantial evidence.

4. The same applies to the report from the non-government organisation which was shut down after alleging use of sarin gas.

5. The helo manifest provided by Charlie‘s contact Shep indicated the presence of a classified item, but not necessarily sarin. Shep deliberately fed Charlie the document – which contained the inscription “F*** you, Charlie” in invisible ink – after his son was (rightly) fired from his role as an intern at ACN and died after relapsing into drug use.

6. Stomtonovich’s interview was edited out of context by Jerry.

7. Lance Corporal Valenzuela’s testimony was motivated by a desire to stand by his friend Sweeney and provided no new evidence as he parroted Mac’s information back to her.

7. Will‘s independent confidential source, the existence of whom lent additional credence, turned out to be Shep.

Mac summarily fires Jerry, who brings a wrongful termination lawsuit. Charlie, Will and Mac all offer to resign, but AWM CEO Leona Lansing refuses to settle with Jerry or to accept their resignations, and tells them to go and win back the public’s trust.

The B-block

The US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya is bombed on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. News Night reports the incident as having arisen from a protest about an inflammatory film, Innocence of Muslims – as had happened in Cairo. They ignore a government insider stating that it was a terrorist attack, as they’re unsure about the validity of their sources after having their fingers burnt with Genoa. In real life, subsequent investigations confirmed there was no protest and that the attack was launched by Islamic militants.

Observations

The season arc comes together in a single episode which attempts to demonstrate the many ways that even the most conscientious of news teams can be led astray by assumption, misinformation and (in the case of Jerry) naked ambition. However, it comes across as a little contrived, leaving too many questions unanswered.

First and foremost is Jerry’s motivation. I understand his desire to make a name for himself. I understand to an extent his decision to doctor the Stomtonovich interview – he believed he was merely giving the truth a helpful nudge. I even understand that, in the heat of the moment, he thought he might get away with such a blatant lie.

What I don’t understand is his righteous indignation about being made a scapegoat, citing other errors made by the team. There’s a huge difference between negligence and cynical, unethical deception, and only one party was guilty of the latter. True, he was probably holding out for an out-of-court settlement, but I just don’t buy Will’s assumption that a court would view it as institutional failure rather than Jerry’s own fault.

My second quibble is about Shep’s role. I can appreciate the anger of a grieving father, but for a high-ranking intelligence officer to lash out at an entire organisation for the entirely justifiable firing of his son felt horribly disproportionate. The fact that both Charlie and Will’s ‘reliable’ sources ended up being the same person was plausible, though, due to the journalistic code of respecting a source’s confidentiality, echoing Don’s dilemma over outing his Troy Davis source in The Genoa Tip.

Will’s readiness to run with the story did make sense, however. He believed he had an unimpeachable source. He knew Jerry was ambitious but had no reason to believe he would go to such extreme lengths. And, unarticulated in the episode itself, he probably saw it as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: redress the balance with the Republican party by attacking the actions of a Democrat administration, and win over a whole new audience to give him the love he craves.

Jane Fonda’s appearance as a drunk/stoned Leona at the end steals the show and adds a welcome touch of levity at the end of an unremittingly dark episode, calling Will a “Daniel Craig wannabe” and referring to Mac as “McMac”. (That could catch on …)

This was so nearly a great episode, but the strain of creating a large enough deception without compromising the integrity of the central characters required me to suspend my disbelief just a little bit too much.

And finally …

Genoa is based on a real-life 1998 scandal surrounding Operation Tailwind, where both CNN and Time magazine ran unsubstantiated stories about the use of sarin in Vietnam.

As he attempts to defend his position, Jerry cites the case of Lynndie England as an example of wrongdoing by soldiers. England was one of 11 military personnel convicted in 2005 in connection with the torture and abuse of prisoners during the occupation of Iraq. 

Rating: 8/10

The Newsroom continues on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.

The Newsroom reviews

2.1 First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

2.2 The Genoa Tip

2.3 Willie Pete

2.4 Unintended Consequences

2.5 News Night with Will McAvoy

2.6 One Step Too Many

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2 Comments on The Newsroom: S2 Ep7 – Red Team III

  1. I agree with you about Shep, Tim – his role was bizarre – but to be honest I enjoyed the episode so much it didn’t matter. I loved it.

    The Jerry thing troubled me less: Will was in self-pity, self-flagellation mode, and Jerry has been filled with self-righteous indignation and resentment since we met him. I can see him – much as he did in the Red Team meetings – talking himself into believing that everyone else was wrong and he’s just hard done by and misunderstood, and they should all pay because it can’t be his fault, it must be everyone else’s. He’s quite Maggie-like in some respects…

    • It was a very good episode, but it was just those little stretches that niggled me. Plus – enough already – what *is* the timeline with Maggie’s hair? Still no red as Genoa goes to air and is retracted on Sept 11th – and we have now established the deposition timeline as leading up to Nov 5th (the day before the US general election). So she goes red some time between 11/9 and the days leading up to 5/11? Is that right? Should I really care?!?

      Jerry as a male Maggie, though? Heh.

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