Review: The Newsroom, “5/1”

By Charlie Harwood on Aug 8, 2012 to The Newsroom

Titled “5/1”, in reference to May 1, 2011, the seventh episode covers the day when Osama Bin Laden was killed by American Special Forces. However, what seemingly should have been a great episode – full of pride, patriotism, and heroism – turned into a meaningless entanglement of relationship drama, meaningless sitcom-styled jokes, and an unhealthy dose of Sorkin’s pro-Liberal banter.

The episode begins at Will’s high-flying bachelor pad for the “one year and one day” anniversary of News Night 2.0. While the team is busy celebrating, something is afoot because Charlie receives an anonymous tip that breaking news is about to hit his desk. The caller, who calls himself Deep Throat, tells Charlie that he will receive an e-mail from the White House in exactly 90 minutes.

When the 90-minute mark hits, MacKenzie also gets an e-mail from a national security reporter saying that he is “available” to talk. The fun times abruptly end once the team starts to piece together the information they are receiving and everybody starts clamoring to get back to the studio. Credit is due where it is deserved as The Newsroom continues to nail the suspense that is experienced when breaking news comes in, especially when it’s news that will change the world. However, the show’s biggest failure is not holding onto that feeling for an entire episode. There always seems to be some underlying conflict that draws attention away from the real story, the news.

While at the party, Will managed to score some “magic” cookies from Neal’s girlfriend and admittedly ate two along with a few Vicodin. Neal is visibly concerned that the lead anchor might not be able to handle the effects; however, Will is ever confident that his tolerance is second to none. While this scene was obviously included to build a basis for the comedic aspect of this episode, it’s not hard to see why journalists are upset at the way The Newsroom depicts their world. After all, I doubt any lead anchor of a major corporate news program would take any drug, even if it is only marijuana. Additionally, there’s no way that he would actually get ON THE AIR in that state of mind. The comedic poke at Will’s inability to control himself is carried on throughout the episode. While humorous at times, it ended up seeming cheesy and unfitting in an episode whose theme strikes so much emotion with Americans.

One of the biggest drawbacks I’ve noticed with The Newsroom is that is hasn’t held my attention for the entire 50 minutes yet. In Sunday’s episode we are tossed, turned, and thrown all over the place and the idea that some of these people are more concerned with Jim’s love-life than the fact that Bin Laden was killed is simply astonishing.

Of course, an episode of The Newsroom wouldn’t be complete without the regular Jim-Maggie (Jaggie?) love drama. This time it stems from Jim’s cowardly and polite response to Lisa saying that she loves him. Mr. Harper, never one to step outside the lines of chivalry, tells her that he loves her too. This undoubtedly unnerves drama queen Maggie and she can’t help but get into the middle of their relationship issues. She even recommends that Jim break up with Lisa, but we all know that it’s really just a ruse to free up Jim for her own personal attempt at scoring with him. But Maggie is already with Don. She loves Don. She wants to be with Don. Yea right! Why do we have to go over the same spill every week with this love circle? I get that a strong personal relationships between characters is important. In fact, it’s imperative. But when the story doesn’t make any progress it becomes nothing more than fill, which this subplot in “5/1” most certainly was. In the midst of breaking news that every news agency wanted to report since the 9/11 attacks, it’s really hard to put my head around why this being included in such an emotionally tied episode. Also, Jim and Lisa did break up but got back together at the end. So, now we’re right back where we started from.

It seemed like the time leading up to announcement that Bin Laden has been killed was really drawn out. I didn’t get the whole Don, Elliot, and Sloan trapped on a plane thing. Maybe it was for more comedic enhancement like Will’s “getting high” bit was. Whatever the reasoning, it was a little funny watching a helpless Don try to charm his way by the strict instructions from the flight attendant. Unfortunately, the unnecessary part came when his love-life with Maggie came into the discussion. Once again, can’t we have one full episode without getting into this? I mean, these people have just found out that Bin Laden has possibly been killed by a U.S. sanctioned hit and they still manage to bring up Don’s relationship issues. Needless to say, it made the airplane scenes fairly unsettling.

Even though I have a lot to complain about, the entire episode wasn’t all bad. There were certain moments that were extremely poignant and impactful. Charlie mentioning penance when demanding his news team wait for word from the White House was a win for the show. He tells the story of an operation in Tel Aviv from 1991 where his reporting was actually helping the enemy aim their weapons, killing and injuring dozens of people. While waiting for the announcement was inherently slow, The Newsroom lets us know that it’s all for a good purpose. Being the first to announce something isn’t worth risking getting the news wrong. Sorkin takes jabs at Geraldo Rivera for reporting that the U.S. was at war with Libya, but manages to show a more reserved and intelligent news team at ACN. Even though the team has double confirmation, Charlie won’t let them break the news until they know from the White House that it’s reportable. This moment further drives home the point that ACN is part of the media elite and their only goal is to make sure the news is done right. The part where Will misses an e-mail from Joe Biden confirming what they’ve been waiting to hear was, well, a disappointment. Again, don’t think the added humor of Will being completely stoned was necessary.

Another great piece of writing from this episode was the “Obama Good, Osama Bad” signs placed in front of Will just before he went on the air. It was yet another gag to poke fun at him for being high, but also gave a head nod to all the anchors that had trouble with the pronunciation during this time. The names are irritatingly similar, and any anchor – whether high or not – would have trouble with the correct pronunciation during an extremely stressful broadcast.

The moment where Charlie informs his news team that Bin Laden has been killed, and the climactic ending when Will announces it to the world, where the highlights of the episode. These moments showed just how much it meant to Americans that Bin Laden was no longer a threat. It’s times like these when The Newsroom is at it’s best. Showing the emotional roller coaster and extreme hardships of reporting the news is what this show is all about. However, there is still so much that needs to be fixed. At times the news takes a back seat to other subplots that ruin the overall story for each episode. Misogyny is still an issue, and the endless amount of intense dialogue continues to drown out the storyline. I know a lot of readers will disagree with my views on this episode. There has been very strong outpouring from fans who love The Newsroom. Maybe it’s not my style of show, or maybe I just don’t get what Aaron Sorkin is trying to do, but I have had trouble getting into the series. Whatever your thoughts on the show may be, the jury is still out on whether or not it will be a success. Only time will tell.

Please leave us a comment with your thoughts and opinions. If you agree or disagree, we want to hear from you. What do you think about the show so far? Particularly this episode. Here’s a look inside Episode 7, “5/1” from

  • I loved this episode. I agree that the love square going nowhere thing is getting tired. Other than that I thought this was an incredibly moving story. The trapped on a plane element was set up to give a nod to airline employees who still deal with the repercussions of 9-11 every day! That is when this story was the most touching to me. The nods to airline employees, victims families, the FDNY, the NYPD and our Military were respectful reminders of what getting Bin Laden was really all about. I applaud Mr. Sorkin and the entire cast and crew for working all of that into the episode in an organic way.

    • I would have to agree that the airplane scenes really illustrated the changes to air travel that occurred directly as a result of terrorism and 9/11. The public has become so accustomed to the current regulations that it may have been easy for viewers to miss the significance of those scenes. It didn’t fully hit me until the end of the episode when Don informed the flight crew with the news. Even though I have recently traveled by air, I too have come to accept security regulations as the norm.

      Regarding the lighter side of the episode, while there seems to be a lot of focus on sexual tension, I do think, in part, that it reminds the audience that many of the characters are young, and that while they may be highly intelligent and serious at what they do, they still have some growing up to do in their personal lives. Even Sloan, who is brilliant, well-educated and successful is often lacking in social awareness. And while we want to believe that we keep work and personal life separate, very often the two overlap, especially when we spend 8-10 hours a day at the workplace.

      I’m not sure if I buy that Will would have taken the marijuana, let alone host a party at his apartment, but I enjoy seeing Will’s character go back and forth between hanging back in his comfort zone as the cynical, often cranky (lonely) guy who needs to be in control and the sometimes emotionally generous guy who wants to do good and perhaps connect with others. I look forward to seeing more scenes between him and the therapist.

      Also, I am really enjoying Sam Waterston in his role – he’s solid and fun to watch.

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