If you wanted a bow on HBO’s The Newsroom Season 2, last night’s season finale didn’t disappoint, because Aaron Sorkin solved all the world’s problems and everybody’s insecurities even as it relived Barack Obama’s second election night. Oddly, amid everything working out even among bad people-who-turn-out-to-be-good, it was Thomas Sadoski who stole the show as he has done much of the season in spite of a relative also-ran role as 10 o’clock hour producer Don.
It wasn’t even the rote Sorkinian dialogue he was given to utter in the mid-episode scene where he tells ACN’s hotshot lawyer Becca (Marcia Gay Harden) he is going to fight a corollary lawsuit brought by tape-hacking DC bureau producer Jerry Dantana that now has the whole ACN team’s rep sullied. Dantana cooked an interview with a retired general in order to forward a story on the alleged use of sarin by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a story the team pursued throughout the season but eventually wound up dubious and orchestrated by bad actors, with Dantana now suing ACN claiming he took the singular blame for what was an institutional breakdown. When Becca asks him what he wants, he says, of course, he wants to do his job, but it is the moments before he answers, as Don mulls his uncertain future, that you see Sadoski silently, balefully give us something pure and honest and human, which are opposite things to Sorkin’s habitual affectation and contrivance.
It’s been that kind of season, the underutilized Sadoski proving he should have better things in front of him, a semi-intriguing plotline threatening to keep us interested, largely diluted by Sorkin’s obsession with matters of the heart played out through the awkward-cum-clever patter of The Newsroom‘s emotionally stunted staffers.
So it should just be stated upfront that lead anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), facing almost certain termination at the end of the election night broadcast, finally got over himself and asked his executive producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to marry him. He did so awkwardly, laced with some cleverness. She said yes. This occurred after it was revealed to all of them that their mercurial company chairwoman Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) has delegated to her more douchey son Reese Lansing (Chris Messina) the task of whether or not to accept Will, Mackenzie and news chief Charlie’s (Sam Waterston) resignation over the story-gone-wrong. Reese has previously shown his disdain for the team and their doing-real-news-at-the-expense-of-ratings formula, so we figure this is a fait accompli.
It’s not, but not without a bunch of people initially assuming it is. Jane, the DC anchor, looses some sneering snark while gabbing over the feed with Mackenzie, who instructs her to send it back to Will in New York to call the Senate for the Democrats. “We’ll try not to drop sarin gas on anyone when we do,” she says. Then later, “Let me know if you have any recommendations for your job when I take Will’s job in New York.”
In a rare moment of magnanimous, Will leaves the set and cedes the center chair to 10 o’clock anchor Elliot giving him the limelight to call the House for the Republicans, even as Mackenzie cedes the quarterbacking producer job to Don. Will meanwhile retreats to the makeup room where he and Mackenzie engage in another obfuscatory exchange about their long-ago breakup, which he has been unforgivingly abusive about. He continues that with some yarn about how he bought her a ring as a practical joke.
This should make the rational viewer hate him still more, but as Sorkin presumably uses Will to project his own self-image, he attempts to make him a Great Man with a final dig at America’s hate-fueled atavist movement. When his contrived Republican PR hack foil (Constance Zimmer), now drafted onto the ACN election night team, asks Will if he has outed himself as a Republican merely to dismiss “liberal media” bias in his routine broadsides against the Tea Party, he responds:
“I call myself a Rep because I am one. I believe in market solutions and I believe in common sense realities and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world, and that’s about it. Problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inf complex that I fear eduction and intellect. In the 21st century. But most of all, the biggest requirement – really, the only requirement – is that I have to hate Democrats. And I have to hate Chris Christie for not spitting on the president when he got off Air Force One.”
After some moments of introspection, Charlie figures out they shouldn’t resign over Dantana’s being an ass and Will figures out he’s been an ass, Charlie withdraws their resignation just as Reese says he’s not accepting their resignations, and Will grabs the ring he bought Mackenzie years ago and finds her and does that whole thing. Oh, and Jim makes nice with Maggie’s awesome estranged best friend Lisa, and so does Maggie, who reveals her PTSD in an attempts to rebuild the bridge, and Jim digs his new girlfriend, and Reese is kind of an okay-if-douchey-dude, and Will and MacKenzie make out.
Yet the nice payoff to it is a reward for Sadoski/Don, whose own funny introspective arc this season has humanized and humbled him, given him the show’s funniest lines and essayed into a genuinely sweet friendship with impossibly hot business anchor Sloan (Olivia Munn). Sorkin caps a dumb sub-thread begun last episode about Sloan trying to track down a mis-autographed book sold at a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser auction, and discovers Don had not only bid on it under a series of fictional names but purchased it under one. She finally breaks the sexual tension by marching into the booth and planting a long deep one on him before strutting smirkily back tot he anchor desk. A reward well-earned, dude.