The First Season finale begins with the hospitalization of Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) brought on by a bleeding ulcer, a hatchet job by Mackenzie’s (Emily Mortimer) ex-boyfriend (Paul Schneider) in The New Yorker, and an overdose of anti-depression medication. By the end of the week, despite his eagerness to throw in the towel and walk away, Will is back at the anchor desk reporting on voter disenfranchisement, the fallacy that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and calling out the Tea Party as “the American Taliban.” So much for playing nice for ratings.
There are several ongoing stories covered over the course of the episode, one could argue too many, but Aaron Sorkin and director Greg Mottola manage to juggle things fairly well. Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) is approached by Nina (Hope Davis) who has a source that Will was high on the air the night he reported the death of Osama Bin Laden. Charlie (Sam Waterston), Will and Mackenzie meet with Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) and Reese (Chris Messina). Armed with the knowledge Will was high on the air Leona immediately fires him, but is backed into a corner when Charlie explains that Reese was only privy to that information through the illegal hacking of Mackenzie’s cell phone.
On the love front, the Don (Thomas Sadoski)/Maggie (Alison Pill)/Jim/Lisa (Kelen Coleman) merry-go-round continues but it finally makes a stop (after a seriously awkward sequence involving a Sex in the City party bus) with Jim and Maggie in each others arms. Sadly for us, the music starts up quickly and every jumps back on for, apparently, another full season of the same romcom storyline. Sloan (Olivia Munn) seriously considers a new job offer and tries to advise Don against his plan to ask Maggie to move in with him by completely catching him (and I’m guessing most of the audience) off guard by admitting her attraction to him.
Charlie has to inform his NSA source (Stephen Henderson) that he can’t report on the story because he’s not a credible enough witness. Although the man commits suicide shortly after Charlie breaks the news, he leaves something behind to help Charlie make his case to Leona. Neal’s (Dev Patel) attempt to track down the person responsible for Will’s death threat has unintended consequences in the form of 100 new threats. And last, but not least, the return of Riley Voelkel as the sorority girl Jennifer Johnson, who shows up for an internship, gives Will a second chance to answer the question that started News Night 2.0’s tumultuous first year.
I doubt The Newsroom will ever be as fun as Sports Night and it lacks the gravitas of The West Wing, but it’s turned to be an engaging, face-paced show that succeeds far more than it stumbles. If a little pretentious and condescending at times, the show has an important message, when it isn’t being ignored for the various office romance nonsense. Daniels and Mortimer are great together and Munn has proved to the show’s biggest surprise. I’m looking forward to seeing what stories of interest the show brings us next season with, hopefully, a little less emphasis on Maggie and Jim’s (two characters I like, just not necessarily making goo goo eyes at each other) ultimately tiring will-they/won’t-they relationship.