Monday, July 22, 2013

'The Newsroom' Review - 2.02 The Genoa Tip

        On the newest episode of HBO's The Newsroom, a tip on a story that will ultimately cripple the network starts to become more real; Mackenzie and Sloan continue to push Will on drones as Don urges Will to advocate for Troy Davis; Maggie is un-friended by her roommate but gets the assignment she's been begging for; and Neal gets arrested on Wall Street.

        In these first two episodes, it's become apparent how much Will has changed from season one to season two. Will's comments on the Tea Party having really effecting him deeply. He's afraid of saying anything too controversial in fear that he may be removed from more than just the 9/11 anniversary coverage. He's in a down-on-his-luck slup - googling himself just to see all the terrible things people on the Internet have to say about him. And yet, he remains self-righteous and telling the staff that he pulled himself him the anniversary coverage because of his ego. This has been a slow build and one of the season's most promising arcs. It made that scene where he goes to get Neal out of prison land very well. That moment felt like a turning point for the character as he realizes how big the weight of these two stories of Americans being killed truly are - in comparison to his issues, and Neal's arrest too.
        Don and his fight to get coverage of Troy Davis was the best utilized effort for the character and was a highlight of the season so far. Sure, it was a pretty abrupt entrance for the story and reminiscent of how the news team always had a connection to some big story in the first season. And yet, his passion for this story with clearly set life and death stakes gave some well-needed dimension. We all knew how the story would unfold and yet when it came to the gut punch of him being executed the series handle it with class and respect - pulling the Twitter scroll which had been a main punchline earlier in the hour.
        Maggie is, without a doubt, the most problematic and irredeemable character on this show. Her attempts to get the YouTube video taken down and confronting the poster in a laundry mat were so entitled. And they only made Aaron Sorkin's issues and complaints with the internet even more self-evident. The moment were Lisa finally knocks her down a peg is immensely satisfy because once you get all that information out there you can see just how terrible Maggie really is. And yet, the show wants us to care because now she's going to some volatile area in Africa - and we know things will go wrong very quickly there. It's just so hard to feel anything but hatred and dislike to her because of how whiny and narcissistic she is and how invaluable she is to the things that actually work on the show. The increased focus on her here is the large reason the episode doesn't really work despite so many great things happening elsewhere.
        Neal was usually positioned as a superfluous character or the one at the end of too many jokes in the first season - Bigfoot, blogs, etc. Here, the characters still don't treat him very serious but he's at the center of what's about to become a huge story. And that makes me like him a tad more - not a whole lot, but hey at least I'm not still openly mocking what he's doing here. But at least, the show has somewhat figured out how to react without the aid of hindsight - at least in this plot and how everyone openly mocks Neal in the beginning with the video.
        Finally, the hour made the details of the Operation Genoa tip more real. And yet because we know exactly how this story ends - thanks to the premiere's flash forwards and even the episode description for this episode - I feel no real attachment to this story. I feel that I'll love it when all of these characters actually report on the story only to realize how costly a mistake they made. But there's is too far off and simply don't care about it as much as the show wants me to. This reaction is because of the choice to tell us how it all ends in the first place. A risky storytelling choice that fails more often than it succeeds.

Some more thoughts:
  • Last week, Jeff Daniels and Jane Fonda were nominated for Emmys (in Lead Actor and Guest Actress respectively). Neither nomination is too surprising because they do decent enough work here for their names to carry them to a nod without many people being too upset. The more shocking omission is creator Aaron Sorkin not getting recognized for writing the pilot episode - which is without a doubt a fantastic script.
  • The reveal that Will's first day was on 9/11 felt unnecessary. We know that he has close connection to that moment in time because everyone does. The show didn't have to give an explicit reason why it's so important to him individually and why being taken off the anniversary coverage would hit him harder than most. 
  • Sloan's insistence on pushing Maggie to Jim so that she can go after Don without any kind of major blowback is slowly turning me against the show's best character - that and the above-mentioned laundry mat scene.
  • The episode also introduced Grace Gummer - famous for Smash's favorite "It's this kind of crap that makes me want to flee to Micronesia" and being Meryl Streep's daughter - as Hallie, a rival reporter on the Romney campaign bus with Jim. It seems pretty obvious the two will become really close while working together. I moan at the thought of yet another person being added to this detrimental love entanglement.