Warning: Spoilers abound.
After the first episode this season, I went to bat for the Newsroom. And I’m here, the day after the finale, to go to bat for the Newsroom again. But this time I’m not limiting myself to feminism or female characters. This time I’m going to bat for the whole wonderful show.
I’ve never quite understood the criticism of the Newsroom – it’s never resonated with me. And I’ll admit that is in part because I’m a devoted Sorkin fangirl. It is also, in part, because of the way I watch television. I want to escape. I want to believe that the world is a better place, just for an hour, than I usually see. I like my fiction to be aspirational, metaphorical, while maintaining its complexity. I like poetry. I want hard choices and bitter mistakes, and at the end, I want the good guys to win.
So I recognize that if you are searching for realism, if you are searching for ambivalent endings or an (un)healthy amount of uncertainty, the Newsroom might not be your cup of tea. And I will, and have, admitted that there are plenty of flaws in the show. But I watched the finale and thought to myself – yeah, that’s a world I would like to live in.
Objectively, I also think the Newsroom is also absolutely excellent television. The arch of the season was really well constructed. By introducing the plot through the consequences, they added tension and a sense of fraught fatalism to the action. We knew how bad things were going to get and it added weight to the suspense of each consecutive episode. Finding out the truth managed to be both agonizing and cathartic. Watching Maggie fumble innocently and intelligently towards her first major news story was all the more bitter because of we’d seen its desperate, violent conclusion. Watching Will as he struggled with himself and his numbers and his trust of their methods was harder because we knew how far they’d have to fall before reaching their triumphant conclusion.
There was so much growth in this season as well, and it started in such a human place. Jim seemed unable to get his footing – in his job, in his relationships, in his stupid (and vehemently rejected) condescension towards Maggie. Maggie lost her best friend, her innocence, her chance at a relationship with someone she cared about and it seemed, for a while, as though she couldn’t get anything right. Will and Mac just hurt each other and hurt each other and then hurt each other again, and it was awful to watch because you could see in their pointed, fierce fight how much they loved each other.
And then, because the world is a dark, unfair place, we saw that despite vigilant effort, despite dogged pursuit of the truth tempered by necessary skepticism, ACN put up a new story that falsely accused a lot of people of a terrible crime. We saw them lose faith in themselves, in their mission and vision for the role of the media and the role they were going to play. We saw them flounder. We saw them hurt each other.