This week on The Newsroom … Charlie and the team face a dual threat from the Department of Justice and new owner Lucas Pruit. Don and Sloan face an unexpected threat to their relationship. And Maggie’s exclusive EPA interview takes a surprising turn.
This week’s headlines
Do you think it’s possible I’m not as big a TV star as I thought?
Charlie calls the FBI’s bluff by threatening to broadcast their raid on the newsroom live on air, buying Rebecca Halliday enough time to negotiate a one-week ceasefire.
However, the subsequent meeting with Barry Lasenthal, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, does not go well. He knows that Neal has fled to Venezuela, and after Will refuses to give up his source he goads Lasenthal, saying that he wouldn’t dare put a high-profile TV figure such as him in jail for contempt.
At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner the following evening, Mac is approached by a stranger named Lilly Hart, who reveals herself as Neal’s source. When Mac explains they are attempting to cooperate with the authorities in the national interest, Lilly gives her 96 hours to run the Kundu story or else she will upload it herself.
Will is approached by a Department of Justice intern, who serves him with a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury. It appears that Lasenthal wasn’t posing empty threats after all.
A person has already been born who will die due to catastrophic failure of the planet.
Maggie engages an unwilling Jim to help spice up Will’s interview with Environmental Protection Agency administrator Richard Westbrook, only for it to go spectacularly wrong when he openly talks about Earth having passed the tipping point beyond which an environmental doomsday scenario could be averted. Will desperately tries – and fails – to redress the balance.
Reese and Leona admit they’re struggling to raise the money to buy out Blair and Randy‘s impending sale of their AWM stock, and that the only solution is to spin off ACN to Lucas Pruit.
Charlie meets Pruit at the Correspondents’ Dinner and learns of his plans for ACN – to create a mass of user-generated content and crowdsourced news that goes against everything they currently stand for.
A high-handed Jim argues with Hallie about her new job, which offers incentives for page views. When the pair meet Maggie and her date, ethics professor Jack Spaniel, Hallie and Maggie exchange frosty barbs.
Have you Googled my romantic history? I date guys called ‘Mr Chairman’. I date first round picks, high second round if it’s a skill position. Do you think I’m dating the EP of a 10pm newscast that barely outrates a rerun of Just Shoot Me?
Don meets Wyatt Geary, AWM’s new vice-president for HR, who says that if he and Sloan are in a relationship, he might have to move one of them elsewhere. Don assures him they’re not dating, only for Wyatt to discover them together at the dinner.
This rapidly turns into one of the most serious and least news-focussed episodes of the show, but there’s plenty of humour sprinkled in. Jim and Don have to be shown by Maggie how to make things work in the control room. Will discovers that there’s a ‘loser table’ at their wedding. Don flies into a blind panic in his attempts to conceal his relationship with Sloan. And pretty much the whole interview with Richard Westbrook is a perfectly pitched exercise in comic cringe.
My one quibble this season is that the always idealistic Jim has been turned into such a dinosaur, spouting his (for which read Aaron Sorkin‘s) disdain and lack of understanding of social media like some kind of mini-Will. He has always been a romantic idealist when it comes to journalistic principles, but he’s become a real wet blanket whose characterisation seems more driven by the need to give him a good reason to break up with Hallie than anything else.
If Jim has become an increasingly pointless and unlikable character, then Don has progressed from his starting point of being the master of the journalistic dark arts and the bad corner of season one’s Maggie love triangle into the show’s best character. Pragmatic, quippy and adorable in his relationship with Sloan, his transformation into The Newsroom’s equivalent of The West Wing‘s Josh Lyman is now complete.
At the midpoint of this truncated final season, it’s hard to know exactly where we’re heading. The focus has firmly shifted from an alternate view of big news events to the fictional storylines of the whistleblower case and the ACN sale, opening up a wealth of dramatic possibilities.
A frightened Neal has fled the country and although it looks like he’s on his way back, exactly what fate awaits him? Is Will going to end up in jail for refusing to give up Lilly as his source? What does the future hold for Don and Sloan? And can Charlie protect ACN from being tossed to the wolves of Lucas Pruit’s citizen journalism?
If nothing else, Sorkin is going out with a bang. The Newsroom has always had its great moments but this final season has found a balance between real drama and humour, providing trenchant observations on the state of mainstream news media while also servicing all its key characters with meaty storylines. Here’s hoping the final three episodes deliver on the promise of the first three.
And finally …
Wyatt meets Don over a complaint raised by a female staffer against Gary, who she claims unfairly passed her over for a piece about Justin Bieber’s comment that he left while visiting the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam in mid-April 2013 (just over a week before the events of this episode). He wrote, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.”
Charlie must be a great poker player. Here he picks up the phone to Domino’s Pizza to initiate a huge bluff that forces the FBI investigators to stand down. In the season one finale, he convinced Leona that he had evidence of Reese authorising phone taps with an envelope that contained only a recipe for beef stew.
EPA administrator Richard Westbrook is played by Paul Lieberstein, who is also one of this final season’s executive producers and directs the penultimate episode.