This week’s headlines
I believe, except for the things we did wrong, we did everything right.
Continuing against the backdrop of the 2012 presidential election – guess what? Obama won! – the real story, and the only real source of tension in the entire episode, is over whether Reese Lansing will decide to accept Charlie and Will‘s resignations. After taking a long walk with a Rockette – let’s face it, why wouldn’t you? – he declares he cannot do so. Which is just as well, because Charlie has already decided that Genoa was nobody’s fault other than Jerry Dantana‘s and withdrawn their resignations.
Mrs MacKenzie Morgan McHale McA … That’s not gonna work.
At the same time, Will has a road to Damascus moment of his own when he realises that, apart from what she did wrong (sleep with her ex), Mac has done everything right in their relationship too. To rectify the situation, he forgives her, declares his love and proposes to her on the spot. She accepts.
Elsewhere, loose ends are tied up and relationships are brought full circle. Jim bumps into Lisa, who is catering Reese’s party, and the pair resolve their differences while convincing Maggie to open up about her hair. (She cut it off herself. It was related to her Uganda trauma. It’s never explained exactly why she waited so long to do it. Move on.) Net result? Jim and Lisa draw an amicable line under their doomed relationship. Jim and Hallie are reinforced as a couple. Maggie reconciles with both Lisa and Jim.
With a little help from Neal, Sloan realises that the mystery auction buyer of her book was Don. She marches into the control room, autographs the book and kisses him, cementing the best relationship on the show and eliciting satisfied sighs from Don/Sloan shippers everywhere.
Neal comes up with a way to get Mac’s Wikipedia entry corrected. Jim sweats over the result in the Michigan first, which he accidentally prematurely called for Dan Benishek. Jane Barrow in Washington makes enemies of the entire New York studio with her unconcealed designs on Will’s anchor’s chair.
I want Dantana to iron his clothes while wearing them.
And we have not one but two great rants. Firstly Don fights back against Dantana’s lawsuit against him, railing against the loss of common sense for fear of being sued. Then Will, at the end of a verbal sparring match with former Romney PR aide Taylor Warren, launches into an impassioned defence of his criticism of Republicans.
I call myself a Republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions and I believe in common sense realities and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world and that’s about it.
Problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect in the 21st century.
But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really the only requirement, is that I have to hate Democrats. And I have to hate Chris Christie for not spitting on the president when he got off Air Force One.
If that monologue by Will feels reminiscent of the series’ very first scene from the pilot, it’s far from the only call-back to season one.
With the aid of brief flashbacks, Maggie reminds Jim of when she first noticed him and herself of how they grew close in the first place. By finally opening up about her experience in Uganda a year ago, she finally achieves catharsis and is ready to move on.
Just as Mac didn’t have to tell Will about her infidelity, so Will explains the real truth behind the engagement ring he bought in haste when Mac was having him vetted by the team. And the team’s decision to opt for congressman Brody’s old anti-rape comments over the scoop on David Petraeus is a clear return to the original mission statement of News Night 2.0 – to give voters the news they need to make informed choices, even if it only impacts a few thousand people in this case.
Above all, though, the season finale is about happy endings. It’s clear that Aaron Sorkin wrote this with the genuine possibility of cancellation at the forefront of his mind, giving us an upbeat ending to conclude major story arcs which this season have been largely divisive.
The team has yet to rise to Leona’s challenge to win back the public’s trust, giving us a clear mission for season three, but this is very much a secondary focus.
Nobody trusts us. Men, women, over 49, under 49, Republicans, Democrats … Our lack of credibility is immune to demographics.
Overall, It’s been an up and down season and too many plotlines have required characters to behave in odd ways or for viewers to suspend their disbelief a bit too much – not to mention the ongoing annoyance of pretty much everything Maggie did – and yet the central narrative did pull together strongly over the final three episodes, bringing us laughs and drama in equal measure. The highlight of the episode for me was Sloan’s growing exasperation at being cut off by Will every time she started to make a point – Olivia Munn carries off her character’s rising frustration beautifully – but everywhere through these concluding episodes Sorkin’s trademark clever, rapid-fire dialogue fizzes off the page.
A show whose first season was in equal measure brilliant and infuriating found a greater degree of consistency this time around, with the final two episodes a fine example of marrying up the fictional drama with the authentic feel of a real-life newsroom.
Season three? Yes please. Having written the finale to meet the possibility of the series ending in a satisfying way, it will be intriguing to see how Sorkin chooses to ramp up the drama and conflict again next season.
And finally …
The early part of this season was heavy on musical references, and so is the finale. Leona references the Allman Brothers Band – best known to many for Jessica, the song used as the theme to the BBC motoring programme Top Gear. And the concluding montage is played out to the Pete Townshend song Let My Love Open the Door – although the version used is Luminate’s recent cover.
Oh, and Jim’s off the hook. Dan Benishek did win the Michigan first.