'The Newsroom' Season 2 premiere recap: ACN's staff goes on private trial

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Now that "The Newsroom" is open again, it's business as usual ... meaning relatively little is usual business.

The point was reinforced abundantly by creator Aaron Sorkin's script (from a story he devised with Ian Reichbach) for "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers," Sunday's (July 14) Season 2 premiere of the HBO drama. Though set a year after Season 1, it still was about two years behind real time, being August 2011 on the "Newsroom" calendar.

One of those lawyers is destined to stick around, and new cast member Marcia Gay Harden was evident right from the first new scene as an attorney for Atlantis Cable News, deposing staff members about the network's report alleging the U.S. government used nerve gas during a black-ops mission code-named "Genoa."

Her work was cut out for her from the get-go, since her first interviewee was ever-obstinate ACN senior anchor Will McAvoy ( Jeff Daniels, who starred opposite Harden in her Tony Award-winning "God of Carnage" performance). And it barely took one minute for her to throw up her hands in frustration and shout an expletive across the room.

Frustration with "The Newsroom" may be felt elsewhere this season, but the rules remain as basic as they are with any Sorkin piece: You always have to look, and you always have to listen. The fast-moving dialogue, sometimes reaching back to last season's first moments, demands it.

A special Season 2-starting shout-out goes to a scene reminiscent of one in the 1987 movie "Broadcast News," in which a story was revised seconds before it hit the air. Executive producer Mackenzie "Mac" McHale ( Emily Mortimer) oversaw the frantic redubbing, by a reporter nowhere close to headquarters, of a critical line of an inaccurate report ... which was followed by a technical meltdown that Will, singing to himself in the studio, was blissfully unaware of.

Not that Will stayed that amiable, especially when he was removed from 10th-anniversary coverage of 9/11 to avoid an outcry that news chief Charlie Skinner ( Sam Waterston) knew would come otherwise, thanks to the build-up over Will's outspokenness. Especially his much-cited "American Taliban" remark about the Tea Party.

"You'll get the flu around the 9th or 10th," Charlie explained. A clearly disappointed Will appeared to accept that as "the price of business," though he later sat silent during an on-air debate on the deployment of drones, despite Mac's urging him in his earpiece to "get in." Among the results were the forceful push she gave him into a wall, and his later dissection of "You Better You Bet," the Who song used over the episode's closing credits.

Also back on "Newsroom" duty: financial expert Sloan Sabbith ( Olivia Munn), who gleefully -- and accurately -- reminded Charlie, "I make nerds look good"; and blogger Neal Sampat ( Dev Patel), who was granted his request to probe the roots of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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Someone else was eager to bolt from the newsroom, for reasons as personal as professional, if not more. Producer Jim Harper ( John Gallagher Jr.) demanded that Mac dispatch him to cover Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in New Hampshire. Or, he told her, "Fire me."

Apart from any journalistic interests, he wanted to get away from Maggie Jordan ( Alison Pill), the associate producer for whom he has feelings ... and who has been living with another ACN producer, Don Keefer ( Thomas Sadoski), whom Sloan still has designs on. Maggie was doing her best to stay friends with Jim, but it was evident he can't handle it. At least not now.

Back home, problems surfaced for Maggie, stirred by a YouTube video Don saw of her in-the-street, yelling-at-strangers meltdown last year -- in which she professed her affection for Jim. "Take it easy, Maggie" was Don's apparent coda to their relationship as he left their apartment to stay in a hotel.

Clearly, there's more to come on all of these "Newsroom" developments, and also on the subplot ultimately leading to the lawyer's presence. Jim's temporary replacement, Jerry Dantana ( Hamish Linklater), was presented the chance to act on what Will fretted was his "go-getter initiative" when a source promised the sort of tip that "makes careers and ends presidencies." Cue the Genoa inquiry.

"If 17 different things hadn't conspired in just the right order," said Will, "we wouldn't be sitting here." But there is much to keep viewers seated in front of -- and intrigued by -- "The Newsroom" for the rest of the summer.
Photo/Video credit: HBO
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