It’s quite fitting that this episode of The Newsroom, which deals with the news story about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, comes a day before the trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s hotly anticipated thriller Zero Dark Thirty.
However, this coincidental event of two projects dealing with the same subject causes a comparison that is fatal for The Newsroom, as it goes a bit All the President’s Men with the News Night team tackling one of the biggest stories of the last decade.
Will is reluctantly hosting a party in his colossal apartment where everyone is having a nicely stereotypical time. Drinks are being consumed, drugs are being taken (by Will himself) and Guitar Hero is being played, it really does feel like a middle aged man’s view on house parties, written by a man who seemingly hasn’t been to a party in a very long time.
Meanwhile, the party shy Jim finds time to check the baseball score, only to be again accosted by Maggie and then by his girlfriend Lisa, via FaceTime. This sparks another awkward conversation between the three which only highlights further the romantic friction between Maggie and Jim. The real drama, however, is going on with Charlie (the only character who actually looks like he is on drugs) walking around Will’s apartment after being blindsided by a Deep Throat style phone call that tells him he is going to receive an email from the White House.
Word from sources across the web say that the President is going to address the nation on a matter dealing with national security. Charlie, Mac and the other news crew believe that they have found or killed Bin Laden (how they make this insane guess with no other knowledge is left to the audience’s imagination).
Back at the ACN offices they are trying to scramble a team together to get on the air, but Will isn’t anywhere to be found due to running away from his bodyguard while still high. Meanwhile, Elliot, Don and Sloan are stuck on the tarmac at LaGuardia airport.
When Will finally turns up he is still completely wasted and Mac is afraid to put him on air. On top of this, sources are confirming that an enemy has been killed in action but Charlie refuses to go on air with it, being very particular about the fact that they should wait for the official, White House confirmation, which means we get to spend more time with the hapless romance.
Although the night before Lisa said “I love you” to Jim and he returned the sentiment, it wasn’t really mutual. Lisa sees this and chooses to break it off with Jim, even though it was Maggie who initially instigated that Jim should break off with her if he didn’t feel the same way. Lucky for him, he didn’t have to and with Maggie becoming ever closer to Jim, perhaps this is the perfect time to make his move.
Back at the office, while they sit around waiting for the White House confirmation (which keeps getting pushed back), Mac keeps pushing for them to go on the air and do the story. When she prompts the still stoned Will to look at his phone, they find an email from Joe Biden (which had arrived 20 minutes earlier) that confirms the death and they go on air to play out the story.
Truth be told, this is by far the weakest episode of The Newsroom thus far. It is the most comedic episode of the lot but it should be perhaps the most serious. The imbalance of tone is a major problem when Sorkin wants to hit a heartrending or patriotic target. When Don sheepishly announces to the plane’s crew (who he treats terribly throughout the episode) that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, it comes after a moment designed to produce laughs. Same goes for Will being high while trying to report the news. Daniels is really good but Sorkin lets him down here.
Of course, Sorkin has never been very confident when dealing with issues surrounding our current affairs in the Middle East. The infamous episode of The West Wing which was filmed in direct response to the 9/11 attack, entitled Isaac and Ishmael, was a very misjudged and sanctimonious piece of old bilge, proving that the best thing for culture to do at that point was let that event settle before responding to it. This episode isn’t quite as bad but they both do share the same problems.
The most interesting development of the show at this point is that TMI, the tabloid magazine owned by ACN’s parent company, may be involved in some form of hacking scandal similar to the News International scandal that hit the UK last year. If this is where The Newsroom is going, then we could see the show hitting its stride again. For now though, consider this week’s episode to be a minor stumble in an otherwise entertaining show.