Finally! After a so-so season premiere and a disappointing second episode, ‘The Newsroom’ finally gets back to what makes it a great TV show in Episode 3, ‘Willie Pete’. In short, we get less of the tiresome Maggie/Jim relationship and more focus on the character of Will McAvoy, who has been little more than a supporting character up until this point in Season 2.
The change back to what made me love ‘The Newsroom’ last season also probably means that those critics who hated Season 1 but liked the new style of Season 2 will be harping once again about how Left Wing this series skews. Episode 3 opens with Will giving an on-the-air editorial about how all the Republican candidates for President stated that supporting U.S. troops was one of their most important priorities, then lambasting them for not standing up for a gay soldier who gets booed by the crowd when he asks a question during a Republican debate.
Episode 3 also reintroduces us to Nina Howard (Hope Davis), the gossip columnist who gave Will so much grief in Season 1. She’s now discovered that the reason Will didn’t do his show’s 9/11 anniversary coverage wasn’t because he was ill, but because Charlie Skinner yanked him from the broadcast to avoid controversy (after Will called the Tea Party the “American Taliban” on the air). Will decides that the best way to deal with Nina this time is just to come out and tell her the truth – which he does during a dinner meeting, and is shocked when Nina decides not to run the story after all. However, Will is on a quest to find out who in the newsroom leaked the story to Nina.
Meanwhile, Jerry Dantana is still determined to uncover the story behind the Genoa black ops mission. He and MacKenzie meet with a soldier who insists that Sarin gas was used on civilians during the operation. Back at the newsroom, Charlie and MacKenzie tell Jerry that they don’t have enough solid evidence yet, so Jerry uses the newsroom team to search for more info, including looking for Twitter activity in the region the night of the mission.
Still covering the Romney campaign, Jim is getting increasingly frustrated over the lack of answers being provided by the candidate’s spokeperson (Constance Zimmer). After spending days getting no straight answers, Jim finally proposes on the bus that there’s no need for the reporters to continue to be part of the campaign tour. They can rent their own cars and do their own reporting independent of the spokesperson. Only Jim’s new friend, Hallie (Grace Gummer), and one other reporter agree with him, and the result is the three of them being kicked off the bus and ditched on the side of the road.
Back at ACN, Sloan fears that she might have been the leak to Nina, because she went to a wedding with Nina’s book agent and spilled the beans about Will not doing the 9/11 coverage. However, whoever leaked the story knew that Charlie pulled Will off the coverage, but Will had told everyone (including Sloan) that he made the decision himself. That leads Charlie and Will into the office of network President (and son of Leona) Reese Lansing, who admits to being the leak. Charlie and Will threaten to use the recording evidence they have on him (of wire-tapping their cell phones in Season 1), only to discover that their recording either never actually occurred or was inadvertently erased at some point.
The episode wraps up with Jerry, MacKenzie and Charlie in the newsroom as Tweets from the night of the Genoa operation start being faxed into the office. They appear to show evidence that deadly gas really was used on civilians.
This week’s episode brings back two things that have been missing so far this season: stinging commentary about a real-life news event, and the witty back-and-forth banter between the characters. These are actually the two things that people seem to complain the most about on ‘The Newsroom’ – believing that the commentary is too self-righteous and the banter takes the realism out of the show (as no one really has conversations like this in real life). But they’re the two things I love most about this series, and I’m glad to see a return to them.