“The Newsroom”: A proposal, an apology, a debate about the GOP

In the season finale, a pair gets engaged and Barack Obama is elected president

Topics: The Newsroom, will mcavoy, mackenzie mchale, Aaron Sorkin, jeff daniels, TV, Television,

"The Newsroom": A proposal, an apology, a debate about the GOP (Credit: HBO/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)

It’s been a long road, and we’re at the end.

I’m almost sad. There are no “Newsroom” episodes left in 2013.

The show — which has not yet officially been renewed for a third season — has, more than predecessors like “The West Wing” or “Sports Night,” provided gem-like insights into creator Aaron Sorkin’s apparent beliefs, amid turgid stretches where nothing happened. Women need rescuing. Men’s crises of confidence are matters of the gravest import. In this episode, Will overcomes a season-long crisis of confidence rooted in some nonsense that happened before the show even began and proposes to MacKenzie after firing her at her request.

The first half of this episode, which aired the week before, set up a quasi-fictitious scenario: a congressman running for reelection had made Todd Akin-like remarks about rape in the distant past, and his campaign was willing to provide ACN with sources for the scoop about David Petraeus’ pending resignation in order to make that happen. The team decides to go with the story about years-old remarks rather than the scoop, citing the viewer’s right to useful information (though the resignation of the CIA director is not exactly a story about Miley Cyrus twerking, utility-wise?).

Sometimes the show’s implausibilities wash over one like water, and nothing more need be said.

Jim is trying to decide if he absolutely needs to retract putting a call on the air too early because he forgot the state abbreviations. So far he is thinking about not doing so. He gets in a fight over Skype with his girlfriend, who is a blogger, over the Internet’s standards versus those of legacy media, a fight that would make sense for Jim to engage in over the course of any of this series’ many episodes that don’t feature a television network broadcasting a call incorrectly because a young producer misread his own handwriting.

Sloan discovers that a newsroom employee who is fluent in German signed a book for her and sold it at the charity auction because she was too busy. OK! This is as much as I will devote to that subplot (it ends with her kissing Don). Here’s another one to deal with quickly: the staff makes up and publishes a fake article featuring MacKenzie so that they can get her actual alma mater onto Wikipedia, notwithstanding the fact that any public figure able to rant about college as much as she has in two episodes likely has dropped that name in SOME press interview heretofore. Whatever!

Everyone will resign over the Genoa case if Leona accepts their resignations, despite the fact that Charlie has set up a plan of succession. Leona and Marcia Gay Harden are high and talking about the Allman Brothers and she tells Charlie that she will sue them if they resign and rants about how Queen Elizabeth ought to resign. At this point I am writing what I put in my notes but, even having watched the episode, I can’t believe this aired on television.

Charlie walks into a waitress and she drops all the glass. It turns out she is Maggie’s roommate who isn’t speaking to her because of their fighting over Jim in the first season. So much of this episode in particular seems rooted in stuff that people who skipped the first season don’t know about and those who don’t remember it with crystal clarity might not care much about; it’s as though after crafting a season to appeal to as broad an audience as possible (creating a fictional through-line in the form of Genoa, for instance, and jettisoning some of the show’s bombast) Sorkin couldn’t resist falling into habits from the early going. Anyway, Maggie’s roommate ends up talking to Jim who encourages her to be nice to Maggie despite how he tore them apart and tells her that she doesn’t deserve him. He finds out that Maggie cut her own hair, which for some reason shocks him into being truly worried, as though a stylist would have left Maggie looking like this.

In other “nice guy” news, Will has walked off the set to finally have it out with MacKenzie, even though the election is still unfolding. She asks about an engagement ring that he claims to have bought as a joke to present her. These are deeply weird, broken people I won’t miss being around.

Don is countersuing Genoa producer Jerry, who is suing Don for having called Jerry a “sociopath” in a job recommendation. He yells about tort reform. Meanwhile, back on-air, Will and the former Romney aide are arguing about why Will calls himself a Republican when he’s opposed to the party’s current direction. How many people watch ACN, and why are they tuned in on election night when every other network is discussing the race and not why one man personally chooses to be a Republican? (The reasons are national defense and capitalism.)

Charlie decides that he’s “not embarrassed” by the Genoa incident, arguing that the critics of the network are immersed in a culture of “terminal irony.” Remarking factually that a news outlet got something wrong even though they tried really hard not to get it wrong isn’t irony, exactly, and ACN’s survival isn’t a matter of the common good, but no matter — Charlie quotes turn-of-the-century “For Common Things” philosopher Jed Purdy, an early foot soldier in the war on snark. So everyone keeps their jobs and is basically forgiven; if Jim is to be punished for publishing a wrong electoral call (in a race that keeps getting tighter as the episode ends) it’ll be next season.

And Will decides his proposal to MacKenzie wasn’t a joke. Or shouldn’t have been. Or maybe there wasn’t even a proposal and just a ring, but now he decides to make use of it. He proposes to MacKenzie, saying he’ll always be in love with her. Presumably her firing is off. She says yes. Everyone drinks champagne as that song about letting love open the door plays. It’s a scene that changes everything and nothing; their relationship will change in legal status, but heaven knows that if there’s a third season they’ll keep on bickering over some thing that happened in 2011 for years to come.

Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

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