The Newsroom Review: Season Finale “The Greater Fool”

By Charlie Harwood on Aug 29, 2012 to The Newsroom

Before The Newsroom first aired ten weeks ago, Aaron Sorkin’s return to television was met with high hopes and immense anticipation. Sorkin is no stranger to high praise for his writing abilities. Widely considered his finest creation, The West Wing was an Emmy juggernaut every year that it aired; and most recently, Sorkin took home an Oscar for his screenplay of the movie The Social Network. Needless to say, when The Newsroom arrived, viewers were expecting something with the same penchant for excellence that Sorkin has delivered in his other works. The pilot episode had its flaws – as most of them do – but showed an enormous amount of potential. However, throughout the course of its premiere season, The Newsroom took us on a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, twists and turns, and of course, always ending up right back where we started from.

Most of the time, the show has been filled with Sorkin’s own political distaste, intense dialogue, and an annoyingly intricate plot following the love lives of certain staff members. While all of this has been on my list of “reasons not to watch The Newsroom”, it’s no surprise to me that the Finale would end in much the same way that most other episodes ended this season: disappointing. It was yet another episode that shows Sorkin is nowhere near the form he had on The West Wing. In fact, it made me a little nervous as to what might come next season. Not all of it was bad, however; and one storyline that wrapped up on Sunday night has me excited to see what happens in Season Two.

Episode 10, “The Greater Fool”, takes on a flashback theme with Will announcing on News Night that the top story is about a woman named Dorothy Cooper; then subsequently going back in time to eight days earlier.

Will’s idea of hiring Brian – the guy Mac cheated on him with – to write a tell-all article about News Night 2.0, backfires when the story, title “The Greater Fool”, is a less-than-favorable review. Accordingly, Will is so upset at the bad press that he nearly overdoses on anti-depressants. Mac and bodyguard Lonny find Will lying unconscious in his bathroom, and immediately call an ambulance. It turns out the stress has finally gotten to him and Will has been bleeding internally from ulcers due to his self-medicating. The situation has rattled News Night’s lead anchor, so much that he actually tells Mackenzie that he might not come back to work.

The Season Finale marks the return of gossip columnist Nina Howard. The woman who primarily served as a villain in previous episodes has decided that she wants to switch teams and help Mackenzie. Nina tells her that she knows Will was high on the air the night Bin Laden was killed. Of course, Mac defends her boy and tells Nina that it simply isn’t true. But the gossip columnist is very insistent that her source is unquestionable and warns Mac that if she finds another source, then the story will have to be published. If the story runs, it would be more than enough cause for Leona Lansing to fire Will.

Meanwhile, Charlie meets with whistleblower Solomon Hancock. He tells Solomon that News Night can’t run his story about the U.S. Government’s exploitation of the Patriot Act because he won’t be viewed as a credible source. Rightly upset at the news, Solomon refuses to give Charlie the information he needs to prove Reese Lansing has been ordering hacking. The conversation ends on a sour note, and Solomon jumps off a bridge a few days later taking his own life.

Charlie receives a mysterious envelope from Solomon, which he apparently sent before going swimming (we’re never told what was in it either), and leaves his office immediately to visit Will in the hospital. Along with Mac, the three of them piece together who Nina’s source is. Will left a voicemail for Mac (this becomes a dragging storyline throughout the episode), which she never got because Mac’s phone was hacked. This is all the motivation, and evidence, Will needs to jump out of bed and confront Leona and Reese Lansing head-on.

They take their new information, and Solomon’s envelope, to meet with Leona and Reese. Leona fires Will for admitting he was high on the air, but then things get dicey as Charlie claims to have evidence Reese has been ordering the hacking. Actually, they had no such evidence but Reese admits it anyway, which Charlie records with a tape recorder hidden in his pocket. Will’s job is no longer in jeopardy and now it seems as though Leona is on the same side as the News Night team. But she does give Will a stern warning, “Don’t shoot and miss”.

At the start of the episode, we hear about a woman named Dorothy Cooper. She’s the grandmother of one of Will’s nurses who has become unable to vote due to not having a voter ID card. An obvious jab at the Tea Party, News Night attacks the idea that senior citizens are being denied the right to vote merely as a method for making sure certain candidates get elected. Will calls these people the “American Taliban” and, with that, The Newsroom has new ammo at which it can slam the political system. Honestly, I like the new approach and this was the most promising point of the whole episode. Hopefully they keep this style going forward and ditch the use of old, worn-out news stories. It’s more interesting when News Night focuses on what nobody is reporting, rather than trying to perfect stories that everyone has already put a spin on.

Of course, you can’t have an episode of The Newsroom without a massive dose of inter-office love drama, right?

The most interesting relationship entanglement has been between Will and Mac, but unfortunately it looks as though we will have to wait another season (or two!!) until we finally see these two back together again. There was a tense moment when Mac admits that she was the one who held up the sign that sparked Will’s rant at Northwestern. But Will never changes and ends up yelling her at like he always does instead of having an emotional moment. He never admits what the voicemail said the night he was stoned out his mind, but the final montage reminds us that that it’s because Will said he never stopped loving Mackenzie. He’s obviously too afraid to tell her that while sober, even though that’s what they both want. Is it fear of being hurt again? Probably not. Most likely it’s his own pride getting in the way and the fact that he feels that he hasn’t quite gotten even with her yet. Maybe after another season of torturing poor Mackenzie he will finally come around.

The most uninteresting and crippling aspect of The Newsroom continued to drag on with no end in sight. The love triangle/square/pentagon thing between the staff is getting out of hand. Straight out of left field, Sloan tells Don that she has a crush on him. So, this would be the perfect solution to the problem, right? Don goes with Sloan; Jim goes with Maggie; and Lisa just disappears because no one really cares about her. Perfect! Wrong.

Don tells Jim and Sloan that he wants to ask Maggie to move in with him – much to Jim’s displeasure. Things start to reach a climax when Maggie confronts Lisa about who Jim was really there to see in the last episode. Lisa doesn’t believe her, which leads to a fight between the roommates and Maggie going on a rant in front of a Sex & the City a tour bus, which Jim just happens to be on. Realizing she admitted her love to Jim right in front of him, Maggie runs off at a speed that would even impress Usain Bolt. Jim catches up with her and we finally get “the kiss”. Then things go horribly wrong. Jim is such a good guy that he ditches Maggie because he knows Don wants to move in with her. I couldn’t be more annoyed with this outcome. Mostly because there was NO resolution whatsoever, and now we have to suffer through this debauchery for another season!

My Thoughts

The highlight was the meeting with the Lansings’ and the News Night crew. Jane Fonda gives an excellent performance, as does Sam Waterston. The whole thing was played out brilliantly, although it was sort of ruined at the end with a poorly written remark from Mackenzie. The show never misses an opportunity to show her dim-witted nature. Sometimes it’s simply uncalled for, and this was one of those times.  However, the scene showed the kind of potential The Newsroom has when it sticks to this kind of drama. The show is at its absolute best when sticking to the news and the problems that a network faces while trying to change the status quo of how news it reported. This is especially entertaining when the writers create unique stories for them to report. Using old news stories and simply re-telling them from a hindsight perspective has gotten to be monotonous up to this point, and it was a breath of fresh air to get the introduction of Solomon and a completely original plotline. It looks like the show will continue to use the strength of this story going forward into next season, and that gives me hope that Season Two will overshadow the failures of the first.

The romantic subplots WILL BE what ruins the show if it is allowed to continue. I was hoping, wishing, praying that this would somehow be concluded, but alas there was nothing. All season long we have seen Maggie and Don break up, and then back together; then Jim and Lisa break up and get back together. It goes on and on and on with no resolution. It’s one big circle of the same nonsense happening over and over again. It was interesting when Sloan declared her crush on Don, but of course that led absolutely nowhere too. It’s extremely frusterating to know that all this will be dragged out for another season. Considering that it’s the least interesting aspect of the show, I have no idea why Aaron Sorkin feels like he has to torture us with this subplot for another season.

Neal’s disastrous storyline took an even worse plunge in the finale. Now his seemingly harmless attempt at creating a story about internet trolling – which was quite boring and nowhere near the quality of story that News Night would produce – has managed to create a massive stream of hate-mail directed solely towards Will. Instead of one death threat, now there are dozens. Am I only the one that doesn’t see the point of all this? I mean, Will got the death threat episodes ago, which is months in Newsroom time, and nothing ever happened. Neal discovered the person who made the original threat on some trolling website and I expected to see an attempted hit on Will after watching the promo trailer for “The Greater Fool”. But once again, I was utterly disappointed at the lack of a solution to this plot as well. I guess the bright side is that Terry Crews will be back for Season Two.

The best part of The Newsroom’s Season One finale was the acting. In fact, it’s been terrific all season. Don, Sloan, and Mac continue to be incredibly rich and diverse characters due to the outstanding performances from Sadowski, Munn, and Mortimer. I’ve said it before, but I still hope that Olivia Munn gets a boost for her character in Season Two. Sloan is really intriguing, intelligent, and independent woman who obviously has a lot to say, but doesn’t. I would like to see Sloan break out of her shell to become an irreplaceable member of the News Night team. Tom Sadowski and Emily Mortimer were great as usual, and their performaces – as the often do – carried much of the weaker scenes during this episode.

Overall, I thought this episode could have been so much more. It just didn’t quite feel like a finale to me, and not much changed in regards to the various story arcs that viewers have been following all season long. Sorkin has said that he has listened to criticisms and is willing to make changes – this is a rare statement for any writer to make and he understands that an overwhelming amount of the criticisms of the show all had the same issues. As a result, Sorkin has said that changes will be made for Season Two and a brand new team of writers and consultants has been hired to help heed some of the criticisms. I’m hoping that they learn from the mistakes made in Season One and come out firing on all cylinders next year. There is an Emmy winning show here somewhere. They just need to find it.

  • retired’08

    Love this series….especially the opening scene with Will’s soliloquy about the US to the journalism student.
    Please have closed captioning for Mr. Sorkin’s commentaries at the end of each episode. Some of us depend on the CCs!!!!

  • Giles

    Interesting take on things, I agree with you on the Neil story line, this feels like they’re just trying to make sure the audience don’t forget the first threat so it all seems plausible when he’s attacked in season two. Although I expected an attack when Will walked out the building at the very end, this would have been a little to reminiscent of the west wing season 1 final. But, I have to disagree with you on the personal story lines, whilst dragging Jim and Maggie out for another season will be a little tedious; I think the personal slant on the office makes the show work and although I would love to see more of the Will/Mac relationship taking place through his earpiece whilst he’s on the air, I think the show wouldn’t feel the same if everyone was happy (or at least in a stable relationship.

  • Frank

    When does series 2 start..I already miss it

  • Ian Taylor

    Hate to correct, love the site, but Sorkin find win an Oscar for Moneyball although he was nominated, he did however win an Oscar for The Social Netwrok

    • Ian Taylor

      *didnt

    • Charlie

      Corrections are good man. It keeps us honest. Plus, we’re all human right? Mistakes happen. Guess I got my Sorkin movies mixed up there but I fixed it. Thanks for letting me know!










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