Catch up with what happened in episode 4 of The Newsroom.
It seems with this week’s episode of The Newsroom, Sorkin was concerned he had parked some of the more romantics subplots. Stepping back from on-air skirmishes and speechifying, he’s carved open the awkward tension and battleship sexual politics between Will and Mackenzie, while developing the soon-to-come relationship of staffers Jim and Maggie.
This episode is actually the strongest so far, excluding the fact that the pilot burst onto the scene in raw, jingoistic fashion (which was at least entertaining). The tight spots Will gets himself into after trying to “civilise” a couple of desperate housewives (namely, they pitch their encounters to populist magazines) are actually handled with a welcome buoyancy. It escapes the sermonising we’ve been exposed to in the first three episodes and has actually started to build a mounting level of sympathy for the characters, if still a bit undercooked. Jim and Maggie’s relationship has potential to become wildly repetitive however, as they shuffle around the office flirting with each other but awkwardly looking away at the last minute. If Sorkin doesn’t come up with something for these two quickly, any desire we have for the pair to succeed will soon crumble.
These plotting devices still expose a general weakness to The Newsroom however. Sorkin isn’t handling relationships vs. storylines in the controlled and intelligent way he has done before and is losing his own battle against preachy politics and slamming hardline Republicans. This is partially down to poor casting (Daniels and Mortimer just seem implausible and false), but also down to the way Sorkin has approached the material. We don’t need to see how much he cares about news-making and politics; his TV track record does this. What we want is inventive teleplay. Sorkin falls into the trap at the end of the episode by closing with the 2011 Tuscon shooting, either setting up a sensitive news story for the next episode, or just reminding us he’s still tracking real events.