After all my complaining, you may wonder why I still watch ‘The Newsroom’. Quite simply, with all the talent involved, I know that this show must have potential. Unfortunately, the first four episodes didn’t live up to their promise. The fifth, however, demonstrates a notable improvement. Perhaps things are finally turning around?
I’m not sure what to make of recent news that Aaron Sorkin has fired the rest of the show’s writing staff. Does this mean that he recognizes that the scripts to date haven’t been working? Maybe, maybe not. After all, Sorkin does the majority of writing for the series himself, so he is ultimately to blame.
In any case, here’s what happened in episode ‘Amen’:
It’s February, 2011, and Egypt is in chaos with riots and protests over president Hosni Mubarak. ACN’s 10 PM anchor Elliot is on location, but is stuck in his hotel room and has no useful footage or information to provide. When Don pressures him to go out into the streets, Elliot gets beaten up and has to be pulled out of the country.
Neal (Dev Patel) recommends a young local stringer named Kahlid who has a talent for getting into places he’s not supposed to be and providing good news coverage. After one excellent report, Kahlid gets kidnapped by the military, which tries to ransom him for a quarter million dollars. The network refuses to pay. Eventually, Will puts up the money himself.
While this is going on, protests by the Wisconsin teacher’s union compete for airtime. Initially, this seems like a lesser story, until governor Scott Walker threatens to call in the National Guard in what seems to be a gross overreaction and abuse of power.
It also happens to be Valentine’s Day. Maggie (Alison Pill) has romantic plans with Don, and demands that Jim arrange for the same with her roommate, Lisa, so that Lisa won’t ruin Maggie and Don’s date. Jim doesn’t consider his relationship with Lisa to be that serious, but agrees. Like a stupid man, he forgets and stands Lisa up. She shows up and makes a big scene in the newsroom.
Mac is asked to give a speech about economics reporting at the Paley Center. Unfortunately, Mac doesn’t know anything at all about economics. She asks Sloan (Olivia Munn) to give her a crash course.
In addition to being trashed by the TMI tabloid rag, Will is also attacked by the network’s morning news show. When he finds out that TMI plans to run a vicious story about Mac, he considers paying off editor Nina Howard (Hope Davis), who extorts bribes to keep silent on certain stories as “protection money.” At the last minute, Will gets high and mighty and decides to wage war on Nina instead.
The rest of the men in the newsroom are shocked to find out that Jim has never seen the movie ‘Rudy’, and re-enact the whole plot for him. While this may sound like a dumb storyline, I believe it 100%. Some guys just go crazy for that movie.
This episode has a much better balance and flow than any before it. The main storyline about the Egyptian freelancer is very compelling and suspenseful, and has a satisfying emotional payoff when Will comes through and saves the day without making a big deal of it. This also nicely ties in with the running gag in the other storyline when Will gets his ‘Rudy’ moment at the end.
Even though the episode is a little preachy in regards to Will continuing to go after the Koch brothers, Sorkin’s didactic tendencies have been dialed way down here. I could live without the Valentine’s Day subplot, but it has some decent humor, and the Maggie/Don/Jim love triangle doesn’t grate too much.
If the show’s following episodes are more like this one and less like the first four, ‘The Newsroom’ may finally start to come together like it should have from the beginning.