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The Newsroom Review: Popularity and Power Struggles

By on July 2, 2012

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom. Photo: Melissa Moseley © HBO

This week’s Newsroom episode reveals some character history and focuses on the battle of reporting worthy news verses getting good ratings. Perhaps a better way to describe that battle would be a balancing act – one that both sides of the argument are determined to weigh in their favour. We are also shown a more humorous side to the show, with several laugh-out-loud moments.

At the beginning of the episode, Will approaches MacKenzie about the history of their romantic relationship. He makes it very clear that he does not want anyone to know anything about why they are not together anymore. While MacKenzie seems fine with this, she is later distressed to hear people bad-mouthing Will about it. Everyone appears to believe that Will cheated on MacKenzie, which we learn is untrue. Since MacKenzie is unfamiliar with the office’s new email system, she accidentally sends her email for Will to the entire staff. The email makes it clear that it was actually MacKenzie that cheated. Her efforts to stop everyone from checking their email are amusing, but unsuccessful. When one man’s cell beeps, she swats it out of his hand, stomps on it and throws coffee on it. He stares at his trashed Blackberry and says with surprising restraint, “That was unusual.”

Naturally Will is angry when he realizes what has happened. His outrage sparks a heated discussion with MacKenzie about their relationship. She explains that she was upset people were judging Will for something he didn’t do. She wants to take ‘98%’ of the blame for their break-up. When Will admits he would have preferred she never told him about her cheating on him, she’s quite troubled. This tense back-and-forth creates a bit of an awkward environment for the show they are putting together.

Emily Mortimer looking contemplative as MacKenzie McHale. Photo: Melissa Moseley © HBO

Even without that tension, the show is doomed before it begins. Maggie messes up an interview, resulting in the loss of an important guest for the show. As a result, the three replacements for the show are a complete disaster. Will struggles to carry the interview with the inept guests, carrying on even after MacKenzie urges him to shut it down. Though Jim attempts to take the fall for Maggie, she confesses her failure to Will and offers to resign. In an unexpected reaction, Will says he hopes she doesn’t do that. Of course he is still very irritated about the situation, something he makes clear before the show when he tells MacKenzie, “Make sure everyone knows this is what blowing it looks like.”

Last week’s episode made it somewhat challenging to understand how Will could have the reputation of being a nice guy. Or, as MacKenzie would say, a guy with a heart the size of a Range Rover. This week he makes a few advancements in that area, defending MacKenzie’s journalism and focusing more attentively on his staff. He even manages to learn the name of each employee (unfortunately for him, some of those employees have already left his show). When the show ends up being a catastrophe, he personally apologizes to Charlie, the boss, and does not try to pass the blame. It doesn’t hurt that Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer do a great job of creating a believable relationship. That is no easy feat when the audience has not seen the back story and must buy into the romance right away.

The other romance of the show is a love triangle, though not a terribly painful one. So far it is unclear why Maggie is in a relationship with Don, the previous EP for Will’s show. That becomes more blatantly obvious when she drunkenly tells him she wants to break up. While she does appear to immediately regret that decision, the cute chemistry between her and Jim is much more intriguing. It seems likely that we will see that relationship develop sometime soon.

Far from falling into an easy rhythm, the new version of Will’s show suffers from a power struggle. MacKenzie is determined to make the show about integrity, forming the best possible arguments and keeping the historical context. While Will does not disagree with that, he is worried about remaining popular. Near the end of the episode, MacKenzie demands that Will say whether he is in or out. Though his response is not immediate, Will does agrees to be ‘in’. It will be interesting to watch and see what exactly that means for this bustling, fast-paced newsroom.

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