Sunday night was the season finale of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show about a cable news program. The critical reception of the show has been mixed, at best. In a seeming acknowledgement of the bad press surrounding the show, Sorkin has written some of it into the Newsroom season finale itself. After a damning New York Magazine-profile about Newsnight (I know, it’s confusing. Newsnight is the program within the program), the host, Will McAvoy, overdoses on antidepressants which cause him to vomit blood because of a stomach ulcer. Yes, in this weird meta “bad press” storyline, Aaron Sorkin might die if you don’t like The Newsroom, media people. It’s like saying “I don’t believe in fairies” around Tinkerbell. Everyone clap so Sorkin stays alive!
While Will is in the hospital recovering from badpressitis, his staff are all out making hatchet jobs of their personal lives. Here is now the final tally of who is in love with whom. Laminate it for next season:
Sloan à Don*^
Don (with caveats) à Maggie
Maggie à Jim
Jim à Maggie
Lisa à Jim
Will < -- > McKenzie
*denotes new development.
^ denotes author’s excitement about new development.
On the finale Maggie and Jim finally kissed and it was … pathetic. Maggie runs out of a restaurant (It’s Little Owl on Bedford — that restaurant must have a great agent) only to get Carrie Bradshaw puddle-splashed by a Sex and the City tour bus going through the West Village. After a rant about what it’s really like to be a single woman in New York City (preach!) she inadvertently reveals to Jim that she is in love with him because Jim is on said Sex and the City tour bus (it’s like … I know). We, who have dutifully watched The Newsroom all season, and have put up with the will-they-won't-they are then treated to the most chaste kiss on television since 1946. Maggie then walks home to break up with Don, but (twist) he asks her to move in with him. She says yes. Probably because Jim is such a weak kisser.
McKenzie and Will are finally, almost, barely admitting to each other that they are completely in love. Will, when he was high on the day Bin Laden was killed, left McKenzie a voicemail telling her he never stopped loving her. However, that voicemail never reached McKenzie because TMI magazine has been doing some Murdoch-style wire-tapping and deleted the message before she could hear it. We know that TMI is engaged in illegal wire-tapping because Charlie has a whistle-blowing source (RIP Morgan Freeman’s dad). This illegal wire-tapping extends to the government, ostensibly authorized under the Patriot Act but gone horribly awry, and will surely be a massive story in The Newsroom’s next season.
To make it all come full-circle, Sorority Girl is back! The girl who asked the question that launched Newsnight 2.0, “Why is America the Greatest Country in the World?” is back and she wants an internship at Newsnight. Will gives her the internship, after a few more Don Quixote references. If you keep track of these things -- I do, meticulously -- the count of Cervantes references in The Newsroom is now at 4 bajillion. Presumably, McKenzie then makes her sign the contract which says that to work on that show, you MUST date a co-worker.
So, 10 episodes on, where does that leave you, oh viewer? Charmingly befuddled? Rankled and cuddled at the same time? I feel that way too. Sorkin is a bit like his Great Men: He is flawed, he is stubborn, he has a worldview that he wants to spoonfeed to you like he’s fattening you up for a slaughter. At first you don’t want to eat it, but it tastes kind of good. I think what I’m saying is -- “we’re all coming back next season, right?” We’ll be there for Maggie, Jim, especially for the sadly-underwritten but still fabulous Jane Fonda, for Will and McKenzie, for the nerdy guy from 10 Things I Hate About You, and, ok, yes for you, Sorkin. Just keep showing us quotes of the Founding Fathers defending separation of church and state and I’ll be on board.