If you couldn’t tell from the new credit sequence, a moderately paced montage of New York and AWN stuff, Newsroom is trying to be different this season. Credit sequences are cheap (not really), what about our characters? Clearly they are the quickest way to translate major shifts. Enter Maggie(Alison Pill). Who quickly walks into the deposition room looking very different. Gone is the seemingly happy go lucky newsgirled-ness (that’s a word I swear). Replaced by someone described as looking like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Noticeably paler, hair now extremely short, frazzled and red. If there wasn’t a line about a trip to Africa for a story that went bad, you’d suspect Maggie picked up a meth addiction or something along those lines.
The Newsroom is trying to be different in season 2. Well, different, but still keeping the same tactic of Aaron Sorkin commenting about the new’s ability to cover major events from roughly two years ago. Instead of aimlessly jumping from event to event with the loose confines of the news team coming together,growing, and sticking it to Leona Lansing(Jane Fonda) to serve as the season arc; Season 2 will be looking back and figuring out how it all went wrong. With the cast all giving depositions to Marcia Gay Harden as Rebecca Halliday. These depositions are part of a wrongful termination lawsuit. It’s actually rather clever. Sorkin can still have season 2 start up weeks after the end of season 1 while using the deposition as a device to jump from story to story. Hopefully he plays with the idea of the fallibility of memory and we get some stuff where the narrator isn’t trustworthy.
The Five W’s (who,what,where,when,why) of this lawsuit aren’t all that clear. Something to do with a story on a black op codenamed:Genoa. Everything just went wrong in all the right ways that cause butterfly wings to start hurricanes. It’s the season arc, you expect it all to make sense in episode 1? (My Dad seemed to think so)
"First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers" deals with the lead up to AWN’s coverage of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the early days of the Occupy Wall St. movement, and the Romney campaign. Instead of one big event that pulls everyone together we’ve got a couple little things pulling everyone apart. Along with sprinklings of other events such as the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and S.O.P.A. . Man remember when S.O.P.A. was ready to totally just kill the cool side of the internet? See, that’s somethingThe Newsroom is good for, cataloging important events. Because man I sure am going to forget when they actually happened. It is kind of funny hearing Sorkin, a content creator, talk about piracy via the fictional CEO of a major telecom/ISP and saying,“Who the Fuck knows?” When it comes to how much people actually lose to piracy each year.
It is a bit too early to say that Sorkin has really taken most complaints to heart. But there is a surprising amount of meta humor at his handling of the characters in season 1 found in "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers". Maggie, god love her, was a bit of a klutz who was only outdone by MacKenzie when it came to supposedly competent characters being wholly incompetent. They just all got away with being totally dumb, that would never happen on The West Wing. The West Wing wasn’t around during the age of YouTube, The Newsroom is. Finally stupidity is being pointed out and mocked. Low and behold Don, who is sent an email from Maggie’s stalkery cousin with links to Maggie doing her rant against the falsehoods of Sex and the City and how she loves Jim. Don takes it in stride, attempting to quietly slip out of his place and get Maggie to move back in with her friend. When he shows it to her all he can do is laugh. How couldn’t you? He’s right, if he were not a character in this play he would be laughing. I sure was. Sorkin doesn't do romantic relationships very well, and after Maggie and Jim made audible their feelings towards one another and then went all ‘too bad we are both in relationships” I expected something to rival Sports Night season 2. It’s actually nowhere near as bad and might turn into something good. Maggie is being thrown through the ringer. Jim finally manned up and did something that wasn’t act like a non-funny version of Jim from The Office by going on the Romney campaign trail. And thanks to YouTube there is no more office love rectangle. Don and Sloan can now move into the number two slot of The Newsroom couple power rankings.
The majority of Newsroom’s characters in season 1 seemed underdeveloped save for a couple. Someone left on the outside looking in was Neil(Dev Patel), a character giving a decent backstory (spurned into journalism via the internet due to the London bombings) and even used to move a multi episode arc forward. All that was done just to get into the latest news event. Newsroom has a habit of placing events before character. With the start of the Occupy Wall St. movement, things appear to be more synergistic. Neil goes to get in on the ground floor of the movement allowing for a bit of character and event growth. Sorkin beings his critique of the Occupy movement by painting them as a horizontal movement akin internet hacker group Anonymous. With no clear power structure or front man the groups message gets lost and grows all at the sametime. What started as a sit in to spur a Presidential investigation into political corruption grows to a laundry list of demands by the end of the meeting. At the same time it allows him to paint Neil as a compassionate activist who is also a realist.
"First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers" has all the expected Sorkin bits of quick dialog and quickly paced sequences where little things are made into big things. These little bites were the right amount of sprinkling for the overall episode. Overall this felt more complete and competent in what it wanted to do than the majority of season 1. Maybe season 2 won't be some bipolar in quality.
The Bits At The End
Don ended up becoming one of my favorite or at least more tolerable characters in season 1. Why? Becasue he was an ass hole who knew he was an ass hole. That can’t really be said for most of the cast. In seaosn 2 Don, still an ass hole. He totally ran into that lamp in order to wake Maggie up and announce his leaving and the dissolution of their relationship.
Consider me pleasantly surprised with the appearance of Hamish Linklater(New Adventures of Old Christine) as Jerry Dantana the temp producer while Jim is out on the road.
Michael Mazzacane can be found many places on the internet mainly on Twitter @MaZZM and at mazzz.net . In both places he wonders; how long he needs to recover from watching Evo 2013 and what he needs to do to get back in the swing of things of Super Street Fighter IV in preparation for ULTRA Street Fighter IV