The Newsroom Review: “Bullies” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Olivia Munn has been given a great storyline here, a storyline that her character and her talent actually deserves. As of now she has just been the “nice pair of legs” with an economics degree. Here, she is pushed to the forefront of a battle over journalist ethics. Pushing the boundaries between useful and potentially important information can be both in the public interest but also damaging to the people who let it out. As a woman who isn’t interested in furthering her career as a news presenter, she clearly thinks this story is important, but failed to think about the consequences.

Eventually, Sloan is allowed back in on a compromise, which includes telling Charlie that she mucked up on a translation but in return, the spokesperson will admit that their conversation in the pre-interview was on the record.

For Will, this episode became more about revealing his inner turmoil as a character and how his abusive past has perhaps transformed him into the thick skinned, hard-ass he is now. In one humiliating scene, Mac digs up that Will was making plans to move to LA in 2006 to join Fox News while they were in a relationship, meaning he never had any intention to propose. In that moment, Will pulls a Tiffany ring out of his desk revealing to Mac that it was his intention after all.

I must say, this storyline up until now has been pretty reprehensible in tarnishing Mac as the show’s Hester Prynne. The woman who walks around the office with everyone knowing she cheated on Will and with the fact constantly brought up in order to embarrass her. These scenes have been written and shot in an amusing manner throughout the show as if we’re meant to find pleasure in this. But Sorkin completely turns the tables here, when Will reveals that he knew Mac would eventually find out about the Fox deal and had an agent by a Tiffany ring in order to keep Mac at bay.

We’ve known that Will has been a bully for sometime, but the fact that he will go down very Machiavellian routes to humiliate somebody who he was very close to in order to make himself feel better is a whole new level of dick behaviour. With this revelation it would be interesting to go back and see how it affects the reading of the prior five episodes.

Will’s own dark past leaks into his professional life this episode too and his treatment as a child leads him to be a bullish yet confident man. This has rubbed off professionally, becoming the bully in interviews to serve his own opinion. When interviewing a man who worked for the Santorum campaign, who is an African-American and gay, Will beats him down and essentially reduces him to those two attributes, instead of acknowledging the debate they were supposed to be having.

This is an integral scene of The Newsroom. It is the stage where News Night’s goal toward idealism has reached its tipping point, where the debate over what is right and what is wrong in the aim to be the most honest news show on television has perhaps over stepped the mark. It allows the characters to have a true realisation of where they really are professionally.

With this episode, The Newsroom has promised that we may get an impressive final few episodes, the initial growing pains the show felt at the beginning are now starting to fade. There are still some niggling aches left behind, the beleaguered and uninspired office romance still remains and the sly pop culture references stick out like a sore thumb. I know Charlie Skinner is an intelligent and well read character but do I have to hear that he is a frequent viewer of Kurosawa pictures (alongside Fellini) to truly get that? Sure it’s funny but in attempting to sound smart it ends up sounding reasonably dumb.

That said these are minor niggles in a show that so far I have considered to be fairly impressive. This may not be up there with Sorkin’s greatest work yet but it’s well on its way. The characters are finally stretching their legs and no longer seem to be just archetypes, the writing is hitting its apex and the show has earned its right to be categorised as a drama.