‘The Newsroom’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 7): “5/1″
Who wrote this episode?! I know it wasn’t Sorkin, because it was actually really good! Props to the unknown, already-fired staff writer of this week’s “5/1″.
So after last week’s mess, The Newsroom stayed true to form (just fyi, it’s form is a mess) and came back last night with a strong, well-written episode that was not blatantly racist or sexist, which was awesome! With most shows (especially on HBO) that’s usually a given rather than a complete, delightful surprise, but we’ll get there! Baby steps! Season 2, maybe!
This week opened during News Night‘s one-year anniversary party at Will’s apartment. Charlie steps outside the party (leaving behind a stoned Will, a Guitar Hero thrashing, more karaoke, and declaration of love from Jim to Lisa) to take a call from a source informing him that the White House press secretary will be contacting him later in the evening. Charlie is skeptical, and returns to the party without telling anyone else about the call. But within the next few scenes of the episode, it turns out that there is some big presidential news occurring: Osama bin Laden has been killed.
This episode neatly wrote in its character arcs around the main news story, which for the most part was handled well. While everyone at the party immediately makes their way to ACN headquarters to try and confirm the story, the runway at LaGuardia is providing Don, Elliot, and Sloan with the opportunity for a bottle episode. Trapped on a taxi-ing airplane, Don is perfectly, enjoyably awful as he bickers with a flight attendant and a creepy high school boy who has the hots for Sloan. The moment when he lands face-first in the aisle is just so, so fulfilling–maybe even more so than when he got beat up by a door a few episodes ago. The three spend their scenes trying to understand and then confirm the story as it develops, and the rest of the passengers start receiving emails and calls alerting them to the President’s imminent and sudden press conference. In order to calm the airplane, Don starts making announcements that are angry enough to get the pilot and co-pilot come out front. He stops mid-tirade when he realizes he’s on a United airplane, and calmly tells them the news. It was maybe a little too much, but I liked the scene.
In the newsroom proper, Mackenzie has realized that Will is the farthest thing from sober, but it really turns out to be not too much of an issue since he gave the ending speech on-air just fine (uuummmmmmm, ok) and there is a well-done scene where we find out that Neal’s girlfriend Kaylee lost a parent in one of the Towers. Her reaction to the news is very well-written, and a rare example of both a realistic and restrained scene in this show–it’s pretty quickly overshadowed by the rest of the cast and plot, however, but it gave the episode a nice moment of space.
The other main sub-plot of this week was, of course, the ongoing saga of Maggie and Jim. Jim’s girlfriend Lisa (she of the ‘fix-up’, and Maggie’s roommate) told Jim she loved him, which prompted an uncertain, potentially ‘polite’ response from Jim of “I love you, too”, even though he didn’t mean it. Maggie knows he didn’t mean it, and so pushes Jim to break up with Lisa–who has already beaten them both to the punch, breaking up with Jim because she realized he didn’t mean it, and telling Maggie that she couldn’t date Jim anymore knowing that her roommate still had feelings for him. Maggie then makes a public declaration that she has no feelings for Jim, forcing him to do the same, and it’s agonizing. But the upside is that Jim asks Lisa out again, as a “do-over.” I know we will never be free of the Maggie/Jim romance but it’d be refreshing to have a break from it.
During this episode we also had:
-A great moment from Sam Waterston, when he explains why it wouldn’t be so bad to just let the President break the news. It made a lot of sense so I don’t know why, in the end, they broke the news anyway, but whatever.
-Nobody likes Geraldo Rivera, or his news coverage! Who would win in a battle between Geraldo’s mustache and Sam Waterston’s bushy eyebrows?
-Again, the news only came together because of highly improbable and well-placed sources (and a softball-playing Joe Biden), but I’m not sure if that’s unrealistic writing or how the news actually works. Both options are vaguely concerning. And I don’t think I even need to say how concerning the image of Joe Biden with a bat is.
-Ending with the President’s actual speech–very nicely done.
-Chris Matthews’ son might have actually had a line this episode? Can not confirm, but I’m pretty sure it was him.
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