I need to say right off the bat that I’m aware that writing about a TV show right now seems like a waste of time; there’s much more important news going on this afternoon, but given that this has become a weekly franchise and last night’s episode of The Newsroom was the season finale, I want to go ahead and get this out of the way. The funny thing is that even in the realm of cable TV dramas, writing about The Newsroom this afternoon feels anti-climactic and like a comical avoidance of the elephant in the room, given that last night’s Rian Johnson-directed episode of Breaking Bad was sincerely one of the most painfully tense and emotionally devastating hours of television I’ve ever seen put together. It was damn-near perfect in every single way from the first frame to the very last.
With that out of the way, as expected, the second season finale of The Newsroom, being that it was the second half of a two-part episode, was largely anti-climactic and was in fact more of the same if you caught last week. I really disliked last week’s episode and I stand by that, although I get some of the seemingly silly plot lines that were set up last week now that they’ve finally been resolved. And that may be the one thing you can definitely say about “Election Night: Part II”: It resolved just about everything, ending on a very exclamatory, and pretty much cheesy as hell, Kumbaya moment set to a cover of Let My Love Open the Door. The whole thing, in fact, felt like a finale for the entire series, like Sorkin might have written it thinking it wouldn’t be renewed for a third season. (It apparently has.)
Don and Sloan finally got together, their kiss in the control room being admittedly a rather nice little scene; Will proposed to Mac, also an admittedly nice little scene even if the outcome has the potential to really take some fire out of their relationship in the long term; Jim and Meryl Streep’s daughter are in journalist power couple bliss; Thanks to Jim playing the role of God in Sorkin’s deus ex machina Maggie may finally be getting over Africa and, hey!, she’s friends with Lisa again (Lisa being one of the very few smart and sympathetic female characters on the show); oh yeah, and nobody’s gonna get fired or resign or generally lose their jobs or whatever. Everybody lives happily ever after, smoking cigars and drinking champagne and not commenting on the fact that Leona is high as a kite.
When the Genoa storyline was in full-swing, there was a lot for me to comment on from a production perspective, but in the last two episodes — with Sorkin seeming to break down, smash open the liquor cabinet, and begin gulping the sauce again to feed his lousy habit — everything kind of went right back to Season One of the show. There was a big focus on the personal and not so much on the professional, which means that I don’t know what I have to offer in terms of a “recap.” Last night’s episode wasn’t quite as horrific as last week’s but I still found myself rolling my eyes more than being engaged by it and only when Sorkin really poured on the shock (the kiss) or the schmaltz (the proposal) did I even kind of smile. The show, sincerely, felt like it limped across the finish line — and to further the analogy, that’s kind of infuriating because it was so strong for so long this season, then out of nowhere it seemed to break its leg at the very end and just kind of drag itself to a conclusion.
What this bodes for next season is daunting and disconcerting. It shows that even when Sorkin is succeeding and firing on all cylinders, he’s Sorkin — which means he can always have the potential to just give up and go back to his old, bad ways. As I’ve said many times it’s that lack of consistency that’s so frustrating about the show. Even when you’re enjoying it you’re always aware that the whole thing can go back to being crap at any moment, that being tragically flawed is its default position rather than something that only happens on occasion.
Regardless, I will still watch next season. I’m an ex-TV news producer; we’re not known for being sane or avoiding masochism.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.