By Ethan Renner
6:06 AM EDT, August 12, 2013
"Tonight we take care of all family business." -- MacKenzie McHale
"The Newsroom" began "News Night with Will McAvoy," the fifth episode of its second season, by trying to humanize its central figure, as we saw Will ignoring a phone call from his father's number as he was going on the air.
We learned back in Season One that Will and his dad had a complicated relationship growing up. Actually, Will's father drank and hit him and his mother and we know that Will eventually started to hit him back, so maybe it's not that complicated.
Will was flustered as he started his show, and there was unrest in the control room as well. Maggie charged in to tell Mac and Jim about breaking news from Syria, where explosions rocked Damascus, killing at least 15 people.
A cut to Charlie's office revealed an equally flustered Charlie, who was defending Sloan against an angry Reese, who was outraged, outraged I say, over some private, intimate photos of Sloan that had leaked online. Sloan admitted that she had initially lied about the pictures and said that more were likely to appear.
During a commercial break, Will called his dad's phone back. It wasn't his father who had called, but a paramedic who used the phone to contact Will. His father had collapsed and was being transported to a medical center for treatment for a mild heart attack, according to Will. Mac urged Will not to wait until the show was over to call back for more details. Will blankly stared straight ahead.
In the newsroom, a woman called in, claiming that her husband was stuck in the rubble in Syria, and that she had him on the phone. After speaking to the man, Jim asked Mac to allow him to put the man on the air. Meanwhile, Maggie downloaded George Zimmerman's 911 call.
Don was also in the newsroom, scrambling to have a story that he was used as a source for taken off a less-than reputable news site. He found Sloan crying in an office. She was crushed by the betrayal of her ex-lover, who had posted her photos online. Don told her it would be okay.
Jim stood over Maggie's shoulder as she waited for the Zimmerman call to download. They engaged in some banter about Hallie and her writing. Jim talked Hallie up, while Maggie took some passive aggressive shots at her. Jim accused Maggie of having a problem with alcohol, saying that he smelled it on her.
The toxicity of this relationship that never was is wildly annoying and watching this caused me the kind of stress that thins hair or turns it gray. Or is that all genetic and the stress thing is just a myth?
Neal went to Will during another commercial break and told him that someone on Twitter was claiming that Will had snubbed her at a restaurant. Mac chased Neal out of the studio and again asked Will to call about his father.
Mac went to the hair and makeup room to confront Jesse, a young man who was set to be a guest on the program, after he tweeted that he was going to come out on the show. She told him that "News Night" was not "that kind of show," and told him to sit tight.
Charlie welcomed an intelligence official to his office. After some catching up, the man asked Charlie why Jerry had been chasing the Genoa story. The fact that a veteran intelligence man was asking about Genoa instantly gave the story credibility in Charlie's eyes.
Charlie was even more certain that the story that Jerry and the crew had been chasing was true when the official seemed to confirm that the special forces unit in question indeed may have committed a war crime. At first glance, the man seemed to press Charlie not to dig any further. In reality, he slipped him some coded information that gave the Genoa story further credence. Charlie went to Mac and told her that they would prove the story to be true.
Don and Sloan continued to sit together in the dark office. Don gave Sloan a pep talk and encouraged her to think more highly of herself, while Sloan helped Don out of his jam.
Neal then confronted Maggie about an error that she made when editing the Zimmerman call. She cut a question from the 911 operator, making it seem as though Zimmerman had commented on Trayvon Martin's ethnicity without being prompted to do so.
Mac went back to Jesse and told him that he was being cut from the show because of a time crunch made worse by Maggie's error. Jesse asked if it was because what he had planned to do was controversial. Mac said no at first, but later contradicted herself. In her mind, she was making the best decision for Jesse, and protecting Will's show as one that doesn't make its audience too uncomfortable. This painted Mac in a really unsympathetic light, as something between a bigot and an out-of-touch elitist.
Mac returned to the control room and did a different kind of outing, exposing the caller that had claimed to be trapped under rubble in Damascus as a fake, just before he was going to be put on the air with Will.
Sloan decided to handle her situation by confronting the man who had betrayed her. And by confronting, I mean she kicked him in the groin and punched him in the face in front of a room filled with his colleagues. Justice was served, and we saw yet another instance of woman-on-man violence on this program. Sloan could teach Ronda Rousey a thing or two about striking.
Jim and Maggie had another meeting at her desk. Maggie let her guard down a little bit, admitting to Jim that she has trouble sleeping at night after her time in Africa. Jim looked concerned.
Mac went back to the studio to instruct Will on how to handle the replay of the Zimmerman call. Will told Maggie that his father had passed away before he got the chance to speak with him one last time. Mac was devastated for him, while Will sat in silence.
"News Night" went back on the air, while Will sat at the desk, allowing for an uncomfortable period of dead air. Will finally went on with the show, but we almost saw a very human moment from a character that we know has very few of them.
"News Night with Will McAvoy" was about trying to give some depth to "The Newsroom's" characters. With a show that moves at the pace of this one, it can be difficult to make the audience feel empathy for the good guys when they face their struggles, as is the case in traditional, three-act storytelling.
Really, that might be the biggest problem with this show. Will McAvoy isn't an antihero along the lines of Walter White or Don Draper, but he also isn't the traditional sort of protagonist that would work better in the kinds of stories that Aaron Sorkin is telling. Will is something in between, and as a result, it's hard to know what to make of him or what we should feel for him.
If you can put that aside, and just want to enjoy an hour of entertaining banter, though, you could do worse than spending part of your Sunday night in "The Newsroom."
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