The second episode of The Newsroom season three had more of what fans love and what critics hate about Aaron Sorkin’s show. It also had an ending that felt incongruous with the rest of the episode. The show had a pair of triumphant returns (Leona! Rebecca!), a pair of lovely new additions, and an ending that felt like The Fugitive. Here are some random thoughts on The Newsroom s3e2.
Return of the Awesome Old Ladies — Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) and Rebecca Halladay (Marcia Gay Harden) are two of the best characters in The Newsroom. As the CEO of Atlantis World Media (AWM) and the company’s legal counsel, respectively, they’re a pair of powerful women that are proud of their power. Fonda and Harden deliver their lines sharply, but in different ways. Fonda’s Lansing is an in-your-face tigress, while Harden delivers Halladay’s lines softly, but the impact is just as hard. They’re immensely entertaining characters and it’s wonderful to have them in the mix again.
A Douche on the Side of the Angels — For me, the show’s MVP continues to be Reese Lansing. Aaron Sorkin writes a lot of great lines for a lot of characters in every episode, but so far Chris Messina has been doing the best job of owning scenes. As the president of AWM, Reese is dealing with a hostile takeover from his half-siblings, Randy and Blair. The incredibly sexy Kat Dennings is a fantastic antagonist as Blair, while Christopher Nicholas Smith plays a delightfully vapid Randy Lansing. While Dennings is easier to pay attention to due to her gorgeous looks and harsh lines, I was impressed with Smith’s portrayal of a slow trust-fund kid. He reminded me of several people I’ve met in Los Angeles.
Getting back to Reese Lansing, Messina has crushed the first two episodes of The Newsroom. Other actors on the show have had lines written for them that are on par with Messina’s, but nobody has been as consistent with their delivery.
Don and Sloan Get Testy — On the romantic front, an unfortunate situation with insider trading has gotten Don and Sloan to label their relationship. There’s some great banter between the two, starting with buffet trickery and ending with an awesome “I love you” test. The chemistry between these two characters is great and I have to give it up to Olivia Munn. She might be a wretched human being, but she’s highly entertaining in The Newsroom. Between the seriousness of the AWM hostile takeover and Neal’s accidental espionage, Don and Sloan provide a fun and frivolous distraction from the weighty issues.
Scenes From a Train — Heading back from her television debut in Boston, producer Maggie Jordan in on a train heading back to New York. I’m not sure why 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch isn’t with her, but I’m guessing he stayed behind with his family in Boston or talent was entitled to a more advanced form of transportation. Whatever the case, Maggie makes the most out of her AmTrak ride. She overhears a rep from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing his (off-the-record) disgust with the Obama administration, confronts the EPA agent over his comments, feels guilty about slouching in a chair to spy on the EPA guy’s conversation, decides not to do anything with the info she overheard, and is rewarded by the EPA guy with an exclusive story. Oh yeah, she also catches the eye of a strapping young Fordham Law professor.
On paper, Maggie’s AmTrak adventure is way to preachy and unrealistic. She got the information fair and square, and I can’t imagine a producer just dropping it. The Newsroom’s pundits will point to this situation as another naive and dreamy Sorkin parable that shows that people will be rewarded for doing the right thing. She snagged an exclusive and a handsome man by being a just person! While I understand people hating this storyline, Alison Pill was really cute in it.
[Side Note: The handsome Fordham Law professor was played by Jimmi Simpson. He and Thomas Sadoski acted together in the Jason Biggs’ classic Loser.]
Superflous Jim — Atlantis Cable News senior producer is still a background player after two episodes. This time around, he was featured in a superfluous storyline with his girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!). For reasons that defy logic, Hallie sends out a tweet on the ACN account — the kind of tweet that would never be typed by an experienced reporter. Naturally, the tweet gets picked up by every Internet outlet imaginable and Hallie gets fired. Aside from Sorkin reinforcing his disdain for Twitter and the Internet in general, these scenes were useless filler.
Sexy Thick Mary McCormack — Early in the episode, ACN executive producer MacKenzie McHale goes shooting with her FBI agent friend Molly Levy. Mac isn’t really there to sharpen her skills as a marksman. Instead, she asks Agent Levy how much trouble Neal Sampat is really in and if he will get nailed for espionage. Levy says that Neal will probably get slapped with a contempt charge and likely spend 10 days in jail. Happenstance being what it is, Agent Levy just happens to be in charge of the FBI raid on ACN. That was way too convenient.
When I first saw Agent Levy, she looked familiar to me. Then I figured it out — she played Howard Stern’s wife in Private Parts! Actress Mary McCormack has gotten quite a bit thicker since Private Parts, but I found her to be very sexy. Her face is still beautiful, I like the idea of a hot FBI agent having her way with me, and chicks with guns are hot.
Slumdog Fugitive — Neal Sampat spent most of this episode in a conference room, reviewing his legal situation with Rebecca and, eventually, most of the ACN senior staff. He adamantly wants to report on the leaked documents he received and is prepared to deal with the consequences. The Newsroom hero and News Night anchor Will McAvoy doesn’t want to see one of his charges go to jail. After several rounds of intense debate, Will notices that Neal’s expression has changed. Neal appears content, which Will immediately picks up on and knows that the FBI will hit the office shortly. The two have a very cute big brother/little brother moment…
…and then the episode got weird. Instead of the comedic drama that usually fills The Newsroom, the episode jarringly shifts to a spy thriller. Will makes creative use of menus to send secret messages. Neal destroys his phone and goes on the run. While the drama definitely hit a new level, Neal becoming “The Fugitive” felt strange. Oh well, let’s see where it ends up next week.