The Newsroom: What Kind of Day Was It?

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Sick of my Newsroom posts yet?  Well, this will be the last one. The Newsroom is over.  It’s going to take some time to come to grips with the series as a whole; for right now, we can simply react to the end on its own merits.

The cringe-worthy penultimate episode was both a blessing and a curse for the finale.  While it left a mess to clean up, it also significantly lowered the bar – to feel uplifting after last week’s disaster, all the finale had to do was give us some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

I think it did that.  It wasn’t a great episode – it wasn’t even in the Top 5 episodes of The Newsroom, and this is a show whose run consisted of ~30 episodes.  It was, like the show itself, riddled with flawed moments and brilliant moments alike, trying too hard in some places (the garage jam, oh my god, the garage jam), and curiously glossing over others. (Uh, welcome back for 15 seconds, Neal.)

In the end, maybe it wasn’t the finale we wanted, but it was the finale we deserved.  Fitting for the series, that is.

First impressions as I watch, completely unedited:

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  • Flashing back to West wing Leo’s funeral with how it cuts to different people.
  • now I’m flashing back to Sports Night, intro, where the show is bad, and fluffy.  You’re watching News Night / Sports Night, so stick around.
  • interesting to see Charlie break it down like that – so was his kowtow a head-fake?  Are we about to be uplifted?
  • Jim and Maggie… at least it wasn’t terrible, in the limo.
  • I’m really enjoying Leona take apart Pruit.
  • I like Sloan and Don so much that just hearing them very calmly explain to Will why it was sort of their fault that their “very close friend and leader” had a heart attack and die was awesome.  Grace under fire.
  • Most obvious joke in the world – Mac, bowling, completely missing: “I hooked it.” Charlie: “Little bit.” Charlie’s deadpan delivery made this a freaking gem.
  • I can kind of see how this episode is shaping up: Charlie got everyone together at the beginning, and now, at the end…
  • I wish we saw more kinds of “first meetings” like Don/Sloan in pop culture.  Zero subtext of romance – two professionals, arguing, informed opinions, broad concepts, compelling perspectives.  That’s the foundation.  That’s the base.  Not some lingering glance in a bar.
  • With the show’s present in shambles, perhaps the best thing they could have done was a return to the past.
  • Mac being the setup for the instigating “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” bit is bordering on too cheesy.
  • Best line of the night so far, from Leona: “You have a PR problem because you have an actual problem.”
  • Bringing up Don Quixote: feels like this is trying too hard.
  • Awkward Sloan: Freaking awesome.  (Her “brokering the deal” between Maggie and Jim was hilarious.)
  • Leona is KILLING IT.  “You know, there were times when I thought if I was at Charlie Skinner’s funeral, it would be because I’d killed him.”
  • Neal – owned that scene.  Yeah, his opponents there might have been a little bit straw men (the article they were proposing was basically an Unreality article, and journalism this ain’t, as much as I enjoy it.), but still, he didn’t rant, he didn’t rave, he just came back and did his thing.
  • OK, I could have gone without Will singing.  That fell flat.  It felt like your parents doing something embarrassing and you hiding your eyes.
  • No music on this last, slow panning shot.  Love it.  Business as usual.  Charlie Skinner: the path goes on without him now.

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What do I even need to expand on?  The finale really ran you through the gamut.  The garage band scene with Will singing and everyone joining was one step away from having them literally gather around and sing “Kumbaya.”  It was hard to watch.  Neal coming back felt rushed, and as much as I liked the acting in that scene – he had this air of confidence and equanimity that hinted at some real depth, some real development with his off-screen arc – it felt like a loose end, narrative-wise.

At the same time, you had Jane Fonda absolutely stealing the show every time she was on the screen.  You had a flashback sequence that felt like a reasonable bookend to the series.  You had Don and Sloan being Don and Sloan.

You had that last scene, the slow panning shot of the newsroom.  Understated.  No music.  Nothing epic or huge about it at all.  Almost disconcerting in its quietness.  Then, of course, that final cut to Will, blending the fake show and the real show in a meta-moment of poetry.

And the rest, as they say, is silence.


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