It's the final season of The Newsroom, and Sorkin is going for broke. We've got classified document leaks, hostile corporate takeovers, citizen journalism, even insider trading, all amid ACN's attempt to recover its reputation after the Genoa disaster of season 2. Spoilers ahead!
Classified Document Leaks
First, the main story of the season has to do with Neal Sampat and his ethical/legal/journalistic entanglements with a set of classified documents received from an anonymous source. Interestingly, they're not going the usual route of "should they report on classified documents," national security vs public interest; instead, they are pursuing the angle that Neal actually helped the leaker transmit the documents, making him complicit in what amounts to treason, legally speaking. The conflict thus resides in the fact that reporting on the information because the public needs to know it would lead to Neal's arrest and possible indictment under the espionage act. Neal wants to report on it but legal advice (from returning Marcia Gay Harden!) says to withhold the information; if they don't report on the story, no one finds out about the leaked documents.
To report the story, ACN must contact the government to verify the documents. This is the "trigger" that induces the government to conduct an investigation. Neal ultimately takes matters into his own hands and contacts the government himself, thus ending the debate; he thinks the information in the documents is that important.
Kat Dennings' face is everything.
In our second plot line of the season, someone is trying to take over Atlantis World Media, ACN's parent company. Thanks to Sloan's obsession with puzzles, we learn it's Savannah Capital, and they're attempting to buy out Reese's half-siblings' share of the company. (Featuring Kat Dennings as the heiress squeezing Leona Lansing for all she can get.) Savannah managed to buy 6% of the shares, so if they buy out the siblings' 45%, they will become majority shareholders and thus control the company. Leona Lansing puts an end to this scheme by offering to buy the siblings' shares herself; unfortunately, this means she has to come up with $4B in about 10 days.
Third, the show is exploring "citizen journalism" by pitting Hallie, champion of Twitter and social media in general as sources of news, against the rest of our News Night team. Sure, they're a little touchy after Genoa, but overall the show is advocating for official sources over social media trends as fact. (I can't say I disagree given the amount of vitriol and mob mentality exhibited in social media.) Don't underestimate the power of the Streep jawline, but sadly, Hallie gets fired after sending an ill-advised Tweet on behalf of ACN.
[Gawker had a shoutout in this week's episode, by the way. They were one of the many web news outlets that contacted Hallie about her mis-tweets.]
I love Don and Sloan. So much. Sloan actually out-Dons Don in the second episode, even after he slips her buffet crab claws and waffles and everything. I think my favorite moment was the look on Don's face when she said "I love you." (And dammit, she fooled me too, and I was excited for a second. But...was it entirely fake??)
Maggie is back to being awesome. In the first episode, she goes on air and totally NAILS IT. She reports on the Boston Marathon bombing with gravitas and Mac's emergency black pumps. In the second episode, she gets dirt on an EPA exec by overhearing his conversation on the train back from Boston. (Poor Toby, stuck in another thankless desk job.) Then, after realizing her actions were a bit underhanded, she decides not to use the information. The EPA exec decides to give her some inside information as thanks; he gives her a report on CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which gives us this funny-sad exchange:
Maggie [on Richard's fear of being overheard about CO2 levels in the atmosphere]: "It's alright, nobody's listening."
Richard: "Tell me about it."
Throughout the next few episodes (it's a short season), we'll see what happens to Neal, and how ACN covers the classified document information. We will find out how Leona, Reese, and Charlie dig up $4B in about a week, and we'll probably see more digs at the Twitterverse. We will also watch Maggie grow into a beautiful news butterfly. (Will she and Jim end up a thing? The first episode hinted at it, but the second episode, Jim was all about Hallie.) And we'll get more Don+Sloan fake/serious admissions of feeling - I hope!
Sorkin really wants to go out with a bang. They're packing a lot into this short season. I just hope they can keep a tight hold on all of the plot lines, so we get a solid resolution. The interesting thing about this show is that Sorkin doesn't leave a lot of ambiguity with regard to the issues presented in the show. He answers the questions he poses. Should they report on the information in the stolen documents? Answer: YES. It's just a question of whether or not Neal gets in trouble for them. Are social media platforms a trustworthy or useful source of information? Answer: NO. (They did hit the nail on the head with the death and rape threats of the false suspect's sister.)
Anybody else watching? What are your thoughts on where they're going with the last season?