If I was going to name a star of last night’s episode of The Newsroom, “Willie Pete,” it would, without a doubt, have to be Sloan (Olivia Munn). Sloan has always been one of the strongest characters on the show because while she may have the social awkwardness that Aaron Sorkin seems to find so adorable in his women, she is also a kickass professional and a brilliant woman. As Don puts it, “She’s got 50 IQ points on both of us.”
And though that’s been demonstrated for a while, tonight Sloan got to dominate the screen in a way that is usually only afforded to Will McAvoy, and she did it with way more poise and grace. Observe:
“I’m telling people where the fucking money comes from, and if you have a problem with that, you should speak to the president of the news division, Charlie Skinner. And if you ever lead me by the wrist through that newsroom again, I’m going to take each of your goddamn knuckles out with a ball-peen hammer.”
This beautiful little monologue is directed at Sloan’s EP, Zane, who is trying to bully her into talking about stocks without putting her moral spin on it, and when that didn’t work, he takes her to Don to get him to try. But Sloan doesn’t take shit from anybody, and she proves completely capable of standing up for herself without Don’s help.
It was a good day for women in The Newsroom (minus Maggie, but what else is new?). Nina Howard is smart and reasonable, and redeems herself so much in Will’s eyes that he asks her out on a date, which she refuses (but doesn’t by the episode’s end). Hallie finally comes around to Jim’s side when he takes the time to read her writing and figure out what she’s passionate about politically, but she doesn’t back away from calling him out on his bullshit even so (Grace Gummer continues to nail her indifferent zingers like, “You’ve called me Maggie twice since you got here,” and “You can’t blame me for trying.”/”I am. I’m blaming you.”)
When Mac won’t give up her playfully whining voicemail schtick, Will almost cruelly shuts her down with the line, “Sometimes you’re not as cute as you think you are.” And finally, The Newsroom acknowledges the problem with Mac. She is both a commanding and empathetic leader, and she walks the line between those two qualities masterfully, yet she can also quickly fall into the unprofessional dynamics of a 13-year-old girl. At this point, I think this is not a mistake in the writing, but rather a real flaw in a well-rounded character. Why shouldn’t Will call her on it? Mac calls him on every little neurosis in every episode.
Finally, there’s Maggie, who is not only the least qualified in the newsroom and romantically incompetent, but she is also unable to even look up the possible side effects of the medication she’s taking. I know horrors await her in Africa, but at this point I’m looking forward to her facing a little tragedy just so the character can grow up and we don’t have to watch this flailing, which is tragic in its own right.
Also, let’s check in on possible couples. Don and Sloan are progressing nicely and are definitely the most enjoyable to watch. It doesn’t speak well for Jim and Hallie that he’s already called her Maggie twice (or does it?). And Nina Howard throws a pretty good wrench into the Will/Mac thing that rears its head consistently but with absolutely no development ever. Is that everyone? Great, thanks.
Finally, this Genoa thing is still moving full steam ahead because it’s the framing device for the season. I can’t wait for the return of Marcia Gay Harden and the deposition scenes next week, because watching Jerry Santana pout about how important this story is annoys me and I’m excited to watch him eventually fail.