Turning the Lights Out on THE NEWSROOM

The Newsroom died as it lived: pointlessly.

It took me a month and a lot of grain alcohol to get over the Hindenburg-esque let-down that was Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. Even after all that time I couldn’t bring myself to get more than a handful of words down, so I gave up (with many apologies to my editor, David), but… just as I was dropping this article into the garbage I decided to make good on my obligations and write SOMETHING. So, here’s what happened in the last three episodes of The Newsroom:

Nothing. Nothing happened. Nothing matters. None of what I ranted about being so exciting and intriguing in the first half of the final season mattered, and damn near none of the things that happened in the first two seasons mattered. It’s as if Sorkin had a really great plan for a full third season and after shooting the third episode HBO pulled the plug, gave him three episodes to wrap it all up and Sorkin said “Oh, you want to cut my finale cruise short!? I’ll sink this bitch to the bottom of the ocean, I don’t give a f**k, we’ll ALL go down!” … And so it was.

“Contempt”

First up, we have a pretty well-structured episode where Will decides he’s going to tell the Department of Justice to stuff it, and then does so over the course of a nice long week, at the end of which everything will be fine…at which point we all know that things will not be fine. The episode plods on, taking us day by day through the comings and goings of the Newsroom all the while everything Will says was going to happen actually happens.

Blah blah blah, this episode is actually pretty dull, and then–

The episode ends with an adorable little impromptu courthouse wedding scene between Will and Mackenzie, all to a solo rendition of Ava Maria that is just heavenly (though isn’t that what one expects of Ava Maria?) This, of course, ends not well (see above) as Will is taken into handcuffs just minutes after being married.

“Oh Shenandoah”

Next up we have the Willshank Redemption, in which we watch Will spend the entire episode talking to a cell mate with a haircut that from the get-go really makes it hard to believe this person really exists (spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Meanwhile, everything in the newsroom is terrible because BJ Novak is running the joint, and he’s here to bring the network into the social media era by appealing to the lowest common denominator. There’s a completely rushed and mishandled bit about campus rape that doesn’t really go anywhere because Don shrewdly talks the victim out of going on the air, and then there’s a bit where Sloan takes a troll to task on live TV for endorsing a network-owned celebrity-stalking app. The result of Don’s “failure” to produce a rape accuser and Sloan’s completely sound (though apparently stolen) argument causes network patriarch and former voice of reason and morality-turned-flustered corporate stooge Charlie Skinner to literally die. Going back to nothing mattering: somewhere in the middle Mac discovers that the inside source in the whole hacking scandal has committed suicide and so there’s no reason Will has to spend any more time in prison with his hotheaded roomie, but wait – there is no roomie! Will was just imagining his dead, abusive father all along. And, because it would be a crime to give us a final moment with Will and Charlie, of course Will gets out of prison just a few hours too late to ever make that happen.

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“What Kind of Day Has It Been” (Ugh, come on Sorkin)

The final episode is the biggest kick in the ribs as it literally unwrites the history of the show, and establishes Charlie as some sort of brilliant puppetmaster who orchestrated the entire coming about of the Newsroom team, from Mac’s note to Don Quixote, to… just everything. The finale manages to not only refuse to give us resolution of the present, it also manages to take away previous measures of resolution from the past.

Wait – I’m not sure I can properly write about my disappointment in the finale. So, here’s a highlight reel of the ACTUAL text transcript between myself and Screenfellows editor-in-chief David.

Sunday, December 14, 2014 –

Me (9:48pm): I’m not going to write tonight, but I’m all alone (wife is out of town), so can I text you reactions as I watch the Newsroom finale? Otherwise I’m just going to be yelling obscenities at my dog, and that’s probably just confusing for him.

David (9:39): Yes, please!!!

Me (9:40): Feel free to publish anything I say online as this Sorkintastrophe may be the event that collapses my liver.

David (9:40): Just like Sam Waterston.

Me (9:41): Aw, Jesus, brah… Too soon.

Me (9:43): Have you watched it yet?

David (9:43): Yeah, it ended here about half an hour ago. It’s definitely a thing that happened.

Me (9:44): Oh, god. Is Mac pregnant… Really!? Can you pull a muscle from rolling your eyes?

David (9:45): It’s like the West Wing episode after Leo McGary’s death if you actively hated Bartlet and his staff.

Me (9:47): I’m five minutes in. So don’t tell me things like that until it’s over.

David (9:48): Still love Sloan, though.

Me (9:48): No male can speak ill of Olivia Munn. No one. I challenge you to find me one.

Me (9:51): MESSAGE: The internet is evil!

David (9:51): God, (Sorkin) hates the internet.

Me (9:53): Oh, lord… We’re building flashbacks to the pilot. Give me a finale!

Me (9:54): Stop justifying what you’ve done- give me resolution!

David (9:54): DENIED

Me (9:56): Shit, this invalidates everything! Why is Charlie the one who swings Will from nothing?! Will was given to us as a man who was pushed to breaking point, not coerced to breaking point…

David (9:58): I laughed out loud when they talked about Will having built his career on “being likable” when we’ve literally never seen that in three seasons.

Me (9:58): Why is Sorkin trying to RetCon his world? What is happening?

David (9:59): It’s his final middle finger.

Me (10:00): I’m fifteen minutes in… Do I want to keep doing this?

David (10:01): Just put your head down and finish. You have a five minute musical number to look forward to.

Me (10:01): You’re not serious.

David (10:02): Just you wait.

Me (10:05): Is Charlie actually the Architect from ‘The Matrix’?

David (10:06): Yes. He also hired Murrow and Cronkite, but Will is the true Savior.

Me (10:06): What the hell is this!?

Me (10:08): How did someone as open and genuine as Charlie perpetuate a lie, or not even a lie, but an orchestration, for this long?

David (10:10): Because he just decided to.

Me (10:10): Well played.

Me (10:11): Hold- Don’s rant on Sloan was epic.

David (10:11): True. Because it was Don and Sloan.

Me (10:12): Oh my God, why!? This changes everything I thought about everyone!!!

Me (10:15): Did McKenzie seriously just influence THE question!?

David (10:15): Bahahahaha

Me (10:16): I’m about to pass Charlie Skinner drunk. This is ridiculous.

Me: (10:25): I hate finales that are composed of flashbacks that we never saw coming. Battlestar did that and it was bullshit.

David (10:26): Filling in answers to questions nobody was asking.

Me (10:28): I don’t want more past, I want conclusion of the present. I don’t want to know why they think what they do, I know what they do, I want to see them do what they do to deal with what’s happening now.

David (10:30): Couldn’t put it better. It’s filler and it’s dumb and it’s assuming we’re invested enough in the characters to care, but I didn’t even like it when West Wing did it.

David (10:32): Nothing has me reconsider “show, don’t tell” like Game of Throne’s exquisite monologues, while Sorkin pulls… whatever this is.

Me (10:32): Jane Fonda looks like a million bucks. Good lord, woman.

Me (10:34): Get em’ Neal! Strike! Kill! Defend the millennials!

David (10:35): Poor Neal doesn’t get a welcome home or anything. They applaud when he’s not there to see it and then he just goes back to work and talks to none of his friends.

Me (10:35): Aw! That’s it?!

Me (10:37): Cue musical number…

Me (10:39): And Jim just walks in to the musical number… Seriously?

Me (10:40): Oh, and the whole office, too. Yeah, that happens…

David (10:41): (my wife) totally called Jim walking in. She saw the extra guitar and asked if he’d do it. I said “he better not”.

Me (10:43): No, no, no, no… Will, stop…

Me (10:46): I hate Maggie and Jim.

David (10:47): They are perfect for each other in that they are horrible.

Me (10:47): That’s a really good point.

Me (10:52): What the hell did I just watch!? The kingdom is restored? What!?

David (10:53): A victory for journalism!

Me (10:54): Yeah, all the journalists reporting on how bad the Newsroom finale was are going to get a bunch of views.

Me (10:55): …On a website that the Newsroom hates.

David (10:55): Which Sorkin will never read.

Me (10:56): Burn.

David (10:56): The silent final minute was actually pretty neat if it was the beginning of the series and not the end. God, what a waste.

Me (11:03): Not enough bourbon.

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