Episodes set in real time always throw me. “The Fly” episode of Breaking Bad made me anxious (a whole post on Breaking Bad coming up later, obviously). “Get on with it,” I said. “Nothing is happening.”
Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Although not a lot of action happens in episodes set in real time, in one location, they usually set up a lot of emotional tension. “The Fly” established Walt’s increasing need for control in an uncontrollable situation, foreshadowed the killing of Gale and Mike, and wound the issue of Jane’s death so tight we felt like Walt might just choke it out.
Last night’s episode of The Newsroom was a good one–definitely the best episode of the season. I’m not saying it was comparable to “The Fly,” just that it had a similar style. Set the show within one hour of News Night and you finally see the nuances of putting on the news, which is really why I wanted to watch this show in the first place. That and Aaron Sorkin.
“It’s me,” Sloan finally says as Reese keeps rattling off information that lets everyone know there are naked pictures of her on the Internet. It’s Sloan. She bought her boyfriend a nice camera for Christmas and then posed for him. When she broke up with him, he leaked them on the Internet.
Sloan spends most of the episode curled up against the wall in Don’s office. She wants to die. Her father Googles her every morning to continue his scrapbook of her.
“I am feeling so intensely something that I don’t know what it is,” she confesses, watery-eyed and shaking.
Don tells her it’s rage, but she says it’s just humiliation. He says she’ll get to rage. You always get to rage. And she does. In the train of kickass Sloan moments of season two, she goes over to her ex’s building a block over and kicks him in the balls and punches him in the nose. And Don is there to have her back, just in case.
I’ll admit that these segments were my favorite part of the episode. One, I just like Sloan and Don together because they’re two of the more interesting characters on the show. And two, this was a place where the Sorkin dialogue really came to life in a believable way and made you appreciate a moment between two people. “You’re impressive,” Don says, which is what I’ve been saying all season.
Meanwhile, Will’s on the air and gets a call from his dad’s phone. It’s not from his dad, who used to beat him as a kid, but from someone who brought his dad into the hospital. His dad had a heart attack. And thus during every commercial break, Mac comes into the studio and begs Will to call his father’s phone to leave a message so that when all of this is over, the father and son can finally have a conversation. But then it so happens that Will’s father dies while there is still ten minutes on the show. Prompting Will to say to the camera, “It’s just us now.”
In the midst of all of this, Neal keeps coming in to tell Will that a woman is bitching on Twitter (Aaron Sorkin really hates Twitter) about how he snubbed her in a restaurant, and Will is consumed with the idea of apologizing. And Mac has to deal with a teenager who they brought to go on air who tweets (…) that he’s going to come out to his parents on the air.
All of this is in there to build up this question of what an audience can give you. When you never received love from your abusive father, can the love of millions of people watching you on the screen make up for that? When you don’t receive support from your parents over your sexuality, can the support of faceless viewers fill that hole in your heart?
No, Mac says, it can’t. She pulls Jesse, the gay kid trying to come out, from the air. And when he calls her a bitch, she lets him have it. “Fuck you, Jesse,” she says to this kid, and while some people might think she was being a little harsh here, I’ll point out that she did try to let the kid off easily. But he was tweeting for attention, going on the air for his fifteen minutes, and then he called her a bitch. If she would have just walked through the door, everyone would be ranting about Sorkin’s sexism, again. She may have been a little harsh, but she was right when she said the kid was only pretending to stand up for something.
The two plots that I care the least about were Jim and Maggie snipping at each other over the George Zimmerman 911 tape and Charlie talking with his spy buddy about Genoa. I know the Genoa thing is what’s framing this whole season so I know it’s important but every time someone brings it up I just want to change the channel. It’s too vague and boring right now. I’m not interested enough to keep track of the pieces they keep giving me to try to put them together. At least Jerry Dantana’s gone now. But come on. Can we get some traction on this storyline? Preferably from Marcia Gay Harden?
And Maggie and Jim. OK. Jim and Hallie are apparently still dating five months later. Distance, Jim, really? Maggie’s not impressed by her feminist ranting, which she thinks is being blown up for show. Jim’s not impressed that Maggie is dealing with Africa by being an alcoholic, which doesn’t really bode well for him testifying as to her state of mind. Maggie’s a lot angrier now but not necessarily less annoying. Where was that cold control we saw last week? Now, five months after Africa, she’s still as jittery as ever, flubbing her cut of the 911 tape and spitting sarcastic remarks at Jim. I want red hair Maggie, even if the red hair is terrible.
Oh and Neal is actually my favorite character. I want to hug him every episode.