The Second Season of The Newsroom opens with a new set of (far less pretentious) opening titles followed immediately by a legal meeting between Will (Jeff Daniels) and ACN’s legal team (led by Marcia Gay Harden) 14 months after the events of last season’s finale. Following this introduction the episode jumps back in time just weeks following the finale in which Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) requests to fill-in for a reporter on the road to get some distance from the rosy state of Maggie (Alison Pill) and Don’s (Thomas Sadoski) relationship causing MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) to bring in Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) to replace him for a couple of weeks which begins a series of dominoes falling that ends 14 months later with News Night‘s anchor talking to a room full of lawyers.
“First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” sets up the season by focusing on big arcs rather than any particular important news story. First is the reprisal from the Tea Party for Will’s on-air reference to them as “the American Taliban” which finds ACN shut-out of important meetings in Washington and the network’s access being drastically cutback by Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney. Second is the introduction of Neal’s (Dev Patel) interest in the beginnings of a small movement known as Occupy Wall Street. And third is a series events that lead to News Night chasing a story about a black op known as “Operation Genoa” (the show’s first completely fictional news story).
Riley Voelkel returns as Jennifer “Sorority Girl” Johnson, and Sloan (Olivia Munn) continues to spread her wings by filling in for Elliot’s (David Harbour) show and pushing for more coverage and discussion of U.S. drone strikes. Given the push back the network is receiving, Charlie (Sam Waterston) decides to pull Will from the 9/11 anniversary show. Will appears to take the news in stride, but later on-air it’s apparent to everyone that some of the fight has gone out of their Don Quixote.
I’m not wild about the introduction of the structure which I assume we’re going to get over the show’s complete Second Season. I’m also a little surprised with Aaron Sorkin‘s decision to make a fictional story the linchpin of the entire season, especially after giving away so much about its fallout in this first episode. Jim’s departure from the newsroom is necessitated by the story, and the introduction of Jerry and one of his sources (Benjamin Koldyke), but it’s the Don’s discovery of a YouTube video of his girlfriend that finally brings and end to the Maggie/Don/Jim love triangle in a way that allows him to leave the relationship (and possibly begin one with Sloan?) without coming off like a jerk.
I like the fact that Neal has to fight for News Night to pay attention to Occupy Wall Street and the episode does a fair job of presenting both the group’s strengths and weaknesses. The Tea Party’s reaction to Will’s statements seem a bit petty, but certainly not out of character. And Charlie’s decision to pull Will from the anniversary coverage shakes up the pair’s friendship in a way that nothing in the show’s tumultuous First Season could.
As a single episode there’s really nothing all that special about the season’s first show. However, as a season premiere “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” succeeds in setting up several important arcs for the season (and teasing us multiple times with what is to come), and also finally, and hopefully for good, shutting the door on the Maggie/Don relationship for good. As to the rest of the drama? We’ll just have to wait for our next regularly-scheduled news update.