Maggie wants things to go back to normal, but Aaron Sorkin and The Newsroom have spent the first two episodes of season two making it clear that there’s a new normal this year. We know that Sorkin hired conservative consultants to weigh in on Sorkin’s real-news drama, and while it does seem like the show is intent on being a little fairer to the other side this year, I can’t even say this development is the most exciting thing about season two so far. So what’s the most exciting thing?
All of a sudden, there are real problems.
I know it feels like The Newsroom had real problems last season (bringing together a green news team, Nina Howard’s tabloid stories, the Don/Maggie/Jim/Lisa headache), but when you think about it, were those real problems? Were there ever stakes on the show? Not to say that I didn’t enjoy last season or Sorkin’s trademark quippy dialogue, but there’s clearly so much more going on right now.
Although it wasn’t a part of episode two, the season is framed by a legal case–Will giving a deposition to his very expensive defense lawyer, played by the wonderful Marcia Gay Harden. The most Sorkinese of scenes, the deposition is reminiscent of those in The Social Network. But even more than giving the audience an area in the creator’s wheelhouse, this framing device sets up an ominous foreboding to the season. Every triumph and victory the news team experiences is colored by the knowledge that something dark is on the horizon for them.
Maggie, for instance, is finally being held accountable for her immaturity and selfishness of last season. She has lost her (suddenly much more appealing) boyfriend, Don, her best friend, Lisa, and her confidant and love, Jim. “Who does it get bad for?” Lisa asks her after seeing the Sex and the City YouTube video. Maggie wasn’t upset about the pain she was causing Don or Lisa or Jim–she felt bad for herself, making her one of the most annoying characters on television. But we know that her upcoming trip to Africa will open her up to real tragedy (not to mention a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo haircut), and thus this is just the beginning of Maggie’s inevitable growth in season two.
And how about Lisa, huh? Her icy and dark demeanor in that scene finally turned her into a respectable character.
As for the actual news in “The Genoa Tip,” we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. There’s the Genoa tip itself, the tenth anniversary of September 11th, Troy Davis’s execution, the drone strike that killed American citizen Anway al-Awiaki, and of course, Neal’s beloved Occupy Wall Street. Whew.
Don’s obsession with Troy Davis came out of nowhere, making me wish that it had been brought up in a previous episode if the guy has a bulletin board devoted to it, but it felt especially relevant given the tension surrounding the Trayvon Martin case. Mac handled Dantana’s pushing of the Genoa tip like the seasoned pro she is instead of like a frazzled little girl. And Neal finally gets some validation with an hour in jail and relevant video of police brutality at Occupy Wall Street.
Finally, let’s devote a little space to all of the relationship development going on this week, romantic and otherwise. Sloan shows a little sisterly solidarity to Maggie, who spent the night in her office after leaving Don’s apartment with her bags. This budding friendship may or may not (but definitely is) due to the guilt Sloan feels at having a crush on Don himself, and I have to say, this is my new favorite Newsroom couple, especially now that Don seems less oily. Mac and Will have gone so long without any romantic fulfillment that I’ve come to few them more as bickering siblings than an actual romantic possibility, which will make it really hard on me when they inevitably get to it on Will’s anchor desk or something. With Maggie going off to Africa and Jim getting bullied on the Romney trail, that makes Jim and Hallie (Grace Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter) our only viable pairing in that department for the time being.
And for everyone out there who thinks The Newsroom is harder on women then men, just look at how thoroughly Hallie is kicking Jim’s ass on the campaign trail.
Jim didn’t like normal, and to be honest I wasn’t that thrilled with it either. But we’re definitely looking at a new normal.