September 4, 2013
The Newsroom: Second season, second thoughts
The Newsroom is back again for the first time!
I was hesitant to hop in the saddle for a second go at Newsroom, especially with an already packed schedule of Breaking Bad, Top of the Lake, re-re-watching Orange is the New Black and replying to a heavy influx of fan mail after one Pablo Schreiber made me Twitter famous. But with only one episode left before the finale and my grievances having gone unrealized so far, it’s safe to assume the time catching up was well spent. These characters are finally growing into their third dimension, and their dialogue is a vehicle for communication instead of that formidable mansplaining echoing through the News Night hallways of Season 1. You hear no one gets a second shot at a first impression, but a first shot at a second impression isn’t so bad either. And as of last night, a third impression is on the horizon with HBO giving the official go ahead for Season 3.
I’ll start with the newcomer, my favorite cowboy from Capitol Hill Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater). He exploded into the tightly knit News Night quilt after Jim fled the scene to cover the Romney campaign and spend some needed time away from jagged little (Alison) Pill. (Reaching, I know … just go with it.) Dantana brought the ruckus by way of an investigative mission that, according to a tipster, “makes careers and ends presidencies.” Eager to show the team his chops (and win a Peabody Award), he bites. And so begins the drama of “Operation Genoa,” an extraction mission involving US fighter planes allegedly dropping the very deadly and very illegal sarin gas on a Pakistani village to rescue two soldiers taken hostage.
Dantana is hypnotized by the implications. And as more sources backing the story start oozing in, he falls deeper into the spell. Deep enough to cook a key witness’ interview tape.
He was the lone ranger who really wanted, needed this story in the public eye. And despite Jim rattling off the federal gravity of these claims, Mack and Charlie’s visible hesitance in the final hour, and Will’s historic “I trust Mack and Charlie” copout, to the public eye it went. And to the Pentagon. And to their lawyers. In a matter of just three Red Team roundtables and one expired shot clock, Dantana had managed to completely unravel each of their journalistic better judgments at the seams.
Of course the best type of villain is one you like, so I don’t think I’m the only one a little bummed to see him lawyer up into the sunset. Stinging more is a disappointment that he pulled such a bush league stunt in the first place. A guy with as stacked a resume as Dantana expecting to not answer for fudging the interview tapes of a Gen. Corporal 5-star NCAA owner or whatever he is makes Will’s relationship with the New Year's huss almost believable. Maybe his Jerry curls masked my judgment, but this interviewee had taken special care to distinctly say, “If, if we used Sarin, this is how.” It was the only aspect of the interview as carefully thought out as his viewing access to March Madness before and during. How could he think a frantic boy-who-called-libel wouldn’t be waiting in the very near future? Maybe we’ll find some insights in the depositions to come, but we do know the Genoa saga doesn’t end well. Not that we care much about the lawsuit’s outcome, though, since it’s the journey we’re finally invested in. A journey that will now span a third season.
This has been really, really fun to watch.
It’s been nice to see a resemblance of maturation in Mack this season, too. Watching her trip over fewer wires and pop culture references is a welcome change as the Mackenzie McHale, Executive Producer Extraordinaire, promised in The Newsroom’s pilot episode starts to shine through. She busies herself with heart-to-hearts over drinks with Don (Thomas Sadoski), instead of acting a complete fool over Will’s date nights.
I’m also a staunch supporter of this Lady Maggie of the Night bit. She escaped Jim’s quasi-romantic clutches by signing up for a stint in Shantytown, Uganda, where she learned there are human sicknesses that lie beyond psychiatric walls and outside prescription bottles. She then found herself a drinking habit back in the states and a sassed up mouth to boot. It looks good on her and last night’s vodka tonic smells even better. Definitely better than her new spiky red ‘do, anyway.
If anyone wants to fill me in when exactly that happened, please don’t hesitate.
The Newsroom airs Sunday night at 9:00 pm PST on HBO.
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