If “The Newsroom” was relatively leisurely about setting up its Season 2 stories in the premiere, that pace didn’t last long.
Sunday’s (July 21) episode of the HBO drama, “The Genoa Tip,” ramped up multiple stories fast in the style that is typical Aaron Sorkin. He wrote — and, by his admission, rewrote — the hour, much of which involved the subtitled topic, as ACN fiil-in producer Jerry (Hamish Linklater) brought the tip he’d received on the Genoa black-ops mission to a skeptical Mac (Emily Mortimer). She scoffed she’d be there to watch him pick up his Peabody Award for the story.
However, Jerry found a believer in Maggie (Alison Pill), who lobbied Mac to let her go to Africa on a related fact-finding mission … then learned of a deadly uprising in exactly the region she was headed for. Undeterred, Maggie decided to keep the danger a secret, so as not to have her trek canceled.
Of course, this being “The Newsroom,” that wasn’t Maggie’s sole concern: She also became determined to get her YouTube love-life confessional taken off the site, enlisting Sloan (Olivia Munn) in tracking down the person who posted it. A confrontation in a laundromat resulted — with Sloan ultimately brokering a Twitter-based deal that supposedly secured the video takedown.
But that ended up not being the outcome, with Maggie’s friend Lisa (Kelen Coleman) — who had been dating Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), the subject of the enamored Maggie’s on-camera meltdown — having seen the video, something Maggie desperately had tried to prevent. “I’m used to being humiliated by guys,” Lisa told her, effectively breaking off their connection. “I’m not used to being humiliated by my best friend.”
As for Romney-campaign-covering Jim, he had an unexpected champion in getting on the media bus, when fellow reporter Hallie (Grace Gummer, one of Meryl Streep‘s fellow-actress daughters) persuaded a troublesome aide to let him aboard. He soon learned he shouldn’t be too grateful, though, since his “Thanks” was met with her “I just want to get going.”
Jim also wasn’t impressing the aforementioned aide, since his repeated requests for “30 minutes with the candidate” got nowhere. And things went no better for Jim when he got a phone call from Maggie about the YouTube mess, which also had ended her live-in romance with producer Don (Thomas Sadoski).
Don, meanwhile, was revisiting a past story with his desire to influence a hearing for a convict sentenced for killing a police officer. He appealed to Will (freshly minted Emmy nominee Jeff Daniels) to help him advocate for the man, with Will resisting — and Don mulling whether to spread information he had on one parole-board member, professionally unethical as that would be. In the end, a heartbroken Don watched as the breaking news of the convict’s execution was reported.
With 9/11 anniversary coverage approaching, Will was resigned to being on the sidelines for it, telling others it was his decision rather than Charlie’s (Sam Waterston). “I’m not who I used to be,” Will explained, adding he was about to be “officially condemned” on the floor of the House of Representatives for his “American Taliban” remark about the Tea Party.
“Newsroom” watchers got to see how Will performed on the air on Sept. 11, 2001, anyway: Two technicians viewed video of ACN’s telecast from that night — with an emotional Will grappling for words while struggling with his own feelings about that day’s events. (Great work by Daniels in that scene, showing us Will before he was the Will we now know.)
And Neal’s (Dev Patel) efforts to break the Occupy Wall Street story met with dismissive laughter in the ACN conference room, only for him to see that it truly was developing into something when even he was giving up on it. He ended up being arrested, when a rally blew up into a confrontation with police over a 19th-century New York law declaring groups of people can’t wear masks.
Who else but Sorkin would make that the stuff of contemporary drama? Will raced to the police station and told the desk sergeant to “void the arrest,” folding in other crises of his day as only Will could do — leaving the cop as stunned as any everyday person would be by a Will rant.
The tale ended (with Willie Nelson‘s “You Were Always on My Mind” as the musical backdrop) by coming back around to Genoa, as Jerry put Mac on the phone with a military veteran who confirmed the U.S. use of sarin gas in the Genoa operation, though Mac cautioned him he was giving classified information to the press.
While ACN’s attorney (Marcia Gay Harden) wasn’t present for this chapter, you just know she’ll be back. “The Newsroom” may be two episodes into its new season, but it’s still just getting started.