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The Newsroom Review: Bribery and Valentines in ‘Amen’

By on July 23, 2012
Dev Patel as Neal Sampat in The Newsroom. Photo: John P. Johnson © HBO

Dev Patel as Neal Sampat in The Newsroom. Photo: John P. Johnson © HBO

The Newsroom has received some pretty mixed reviews and people seem to either love it or hate it. However, if you’re one of those people still sitting on the fence, this week’s episode ‘Amen’ is further proof that the show is only getting better. While focusing less on the office relationships and more on the actual new stories this week, the show still strikes a good balance between the two.

We begin with coverage of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, after Hosni Mubarak unexpectedly chose not to resign. Elliot, the show’s correspondent, is stuck inside his hotel room due to the danger outside. The impatient Don finds this unacceptable and urges Elliot to do more, an action he regrets when Elliot ventures outside and is beaten. Elliot ends up returning home safely, though a little worse for wear.

Meanwhile, Neal manages to find a young man in Cairo who is willing to risk his life and work for them. They discuss the details over web cam and require that the man, Khalid Salim, work for them without anonymity. If Khalid were to hide under his fake name, Amen, they would not be able to use the footage and information. Despite being understandably reluctant, Khalid agrees. Things are going well until Neal loses contact with Khalid and discovers he has been captured by the military. The network is unwilling to pay the expensive ransom because they do not want to be held liable for any problems. It is good to see the show utilizing the talented Dev Patel (Neal), as he has had a minor role up to this point. Neal’s outrage at the network’s lack of support and his determination to do something for Khalid is very moving.

Not to worry, though. Will quietly steps in and pays the money, shrugging it off when MacKenzie inquires about the generous action. In a touching scene, various staff members contribute small donations to Will to thank him for his effort. Earlier in the episode, Will spoke of his love for the movie Rudy. When the staff thank him, they quote the movie and stand to clap. Even Will looks a bit teary-eyed at the gesture, one that he knows was initiated by MacKenzie. Their Valentines Day hug may have added an additional ‘aw’ factor to the scene.

 

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy. Photo: © HBO

Nina Howard, the pesky gossip columnist scorned by Will, continues to be a nuisance. Will ignores all of the petty articles and jabs made in his direction until he hears that MacKenzie is the next target. When Nina says she will not run the spiteful story as long as Will makes a hefty ‘donation’ to her future restaurant, Will very nearly agrees. It is only when Nina remarks that they are both journalists that Will cannot bring himself to do it. He passionately describes all of the people he knows who are facing grave danger and working incredibly hard to be actual journalists. Instead of giving her the money, Will warns her that he will rededicate his life to ruining her if she goes after his staff. She does not seem too threatened by his words, though it seems like she should be.

Apart from Jim accidentally standing up Maggie’s roommate, and Maggie accidentally hitting Jim with a glass door (twice), there is little development in that relationship. In fact, it is Don who stands out as an actually likeable character, particularly when he apologizes to Elliot. It is a very human moment. This is great progress because previously it seemed irrational for Maggie to stay with Don and ignore the charming Jim. Making Don an interesting and maybe even nice guy complicates matters. The love triangle is no longer an irritatingly unrealistic one.

MacKenzie has a rough time as she deals with her guilt over cheating on Will several years earlier. Her smug new boyfriend, Wade, is also a source of grief when she finds out he has been using her position to raise his profile in his run for congress. After MacKenzie confronts him on this, Wade admits that he tried to get what he could out of their relationship. MacKenzie’s stinging reply to his comments seems quite appropriate. We only wish she had made him wait outside in the cold for her a little bit longer.

There is plenty of lighthearted banter between the news staff and we gain some entertaining details about some of them. For example, who would have expected that Will took tap dancing lessons as a child? We learn that MacKenzie has been pretending to understand basic economics as she enlists Sloan to give her a condensed history on the subject. It is also very endearing when MacKenzie sheepishly uses her fingers to count out some numbers.

The Newsroom is gaining momentum and soon even the critics of the show may have to come around. To watch Will and his team fight the good fight, tune in July 29 on HBO.