The Newsroom: Terrorism, Espionage, and Financial Warfare Sets The Stage

 

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoiler Alert (and Adult Language)

I cannot express how excited I am for this third and final season of The Newsroom. Season two was different to say the least, but there are a series of questions still unanswered. There is also a great deal of drama and conflict about to befall ACN. And all of this needs to be addressed, dealt with, and all tied together into a nice conclusion inside of ten episodes. So, without any further adieu, let’s get into it.

The season begins with the natural next step from the close of season 2. Will and Mack planning their wedding. To be honest I could just watch an hour of just this. Mack asking for straight answers and Will discrediting her concerns with stuff like, “If Charlie’s my best man, can’t he just keep going back and forth walking with bridesmaids?” And on a different level, are we really supposed to believe that the only men Will feels comfortable in his wedding party are the men that work at Newsnight? Will never befriended Tom Brokaw? or Brian Williams? or some average Joe he went to college with? Just a random observation.

Ironically, I just typed the above without finishing the scene. And Brian Williams’ name was mentioned. I’m either ridiculously lucky on that one, or have crossed over out of the Aaron Sorkin fandom and into the unimportant Nostradamus realm.

Less than four minutes into the episode and Mack spots an explosion at the Boston Marathon. Here. We. Go. Immediately Jim starts dividing staff into groups focusing on various agencies (FBI, Homeland, etc). A quick shot of Maggie working out intensely feels like the imagery that suggests she will spend this season rebuilding herself (metaphorically), which is something I’m not terribly concerned with at this point. I sympathize with the character, but I don’t enjoy the character. Back to the story, we all know they are watching the evidence of the Boston Marathon bombing. The beauty of this show is that generally, we know more than the characters. It’s really a wonderful device to play off of. In this case, they have images and no answers to go with the images.

Charlie Skinner: If I learn what happened by watching the news I’m going to lose my fucking mind!

The staff is undermanned in part because Don Keefer is in jury duty. Which creates a wonderful scene Don being Don moment and quite possibly is the best way to get out of jury duty I’ve ever seen. Will tries to inspire confidence in a speech about why they won’t report fast, they’ll report accurate and it fails miserably. In addition, Elliot Hirsch (the other prominent anchor on this show) wants badly to fly to Boston and be their reporter on the ground. He’s from Boston and it only makes sense. They can’t part with Jim or Don, so Jim suggests they send Maggie. If you are unfamiliar with last season, you will not fully grasp the risk of sending Maggie. However, Jim feels she is ready. That this story at this time is specifically suited to her. Will doesn’t feel as strongly. Regardless Maggie and Hirsch are en route to Boston.

Gary Cooper is the first staffer to get confirmation on anything. Two devices detonated near the finish line. FBI and Boston police confirm. Mack gets the control room ready in seconds. In the air studio Will prepares to go live. Don, Sloan, Mack and Charlie join him. Charlie jumps right in. If it was a suicide bomber there will be a body. If not this will go on for a while. A manhunt like we haven’t seen since Dallas in ’63. Then they all go their separate ways.

What follows is a cinematically intriguing montage of Will anchoring what information they do have and Mack controlling the chaos in the control room. Clearly this story is affecting all of the ACN major contributors. Despite popular opinion, Maggie is on her game getting real news confirmation.

Amidst the chaos of the bombing, Neal enters a password to decrypt a sensitive email sent to him directly. I know we alert you with “spoiler alert” but this I’m not willing to go into just yet. Suffice it to say, I know exactly where this story line is going (and I’m sure I’m not alone). It’s a story line I’m not thrilled with because I like the character Neal. And am concerned with what this will mean for him long term.

Sloan finds Reese Lansing in his office avoiding his siblings. Hold on to that one. His two younger siblings are set to become major stock holders in ACN when they turn 25. From what I know and what I can infer, there will probably be a shift in priorities once these two are introduced to a position of influence. That and Sloan is being informed of just how bad their quarter financial projections are.

Mack heads off her basic staff meeting. Everything is typical. Tips that aren’t confirmed. Eyewitnesses who don’t want to go on camera. Everything is typical. Until Mack throws it to Neal. Who is sitting calmly and matter of factually mentions the motivation of the encrypted email.

Mack: Neal, tell us what’s going on with the Nocturnal Nut Brigade.
Neal: Somebody is trying to give me classified government documents.
(Everyone stops everything and freezes)
Neal: Somebody asked for my encryption key.
Mack: That’s not uncommon is it?
Neal: No but then they asked for a higher level of encryption. Less common but not unprecedented. We use a site, cryptoheaven which is for–
Don: Nerds.
Neal: Yeah. And he told me to get an air gapped computer. It’s a computer that’s–
Mack: Never been linked to the internet.
Neal: Yes. There is literally a gap of air between the computer and the rest of the world. Once I do that, he’s going to give me a flash drive.
Mack: How’s he going to get it to you?
Neal: Look, I know you guys think I live in a world of crackpots, and I’ll grant you that there is a troubling normal to crackpot ratio in my field…
Don: How’s he going to get you the flash drive Neal?
Neal: He’s going to tape it to the inside of the tank of a toilet of a public men’s room.
Don: Bulls eye.

I transcribed the previous because through a number of reasons, I have been lead to believe that this will be the defining story line of season 3. I could very well be wrong, but if I’m right, this is major. We’ll call this the “Snowden” story line for the time being. After the meeting breaks, with most of the staff thinking this is another Twitter Troll gone crazy, Neal walks back to his desk looking dejected. Then Will pulls out his wallet, calls Neal over and tells him to buy an ‘air gapped computer’ as he extends a credit card.

Sloan has been working on an angle that some financial group is about to buy another. She has no concrete evidence, but is working to solve the ‘puzzle’. In typical Sloan fashion the financial story takes priority in her own head. This feels like something is going to get muffed down the line.

CNN had to retract their previously reported story that they had arrested a suspect. Giving a little breathing room to why ACN hasn’t reported the same as of yet. Charlie and Will tag team a quick speech about if anyone should empathize with getting knocked down by misreporting it’s ACN. Then he and Will share a subtle behind the back hi five for dodging a bullet.

Neal ventures out to the restaurant that is to be the drop for the flash drive. There’s a little speed bump, but Neal gets in. And as predicted, the flash drive is there. In the tank of the toilet. Back at ACN, Neal opens the brand new ‘air gapped’ computer and inserts the flash drive. Anyone who’s bought a new laptop knows there are some realism issues with him reading the flash drive 10 seconds after taking the computer out of the box, but I digress. Immediately, the flash drive spits out what looks like 40-50 documents. The range of topics are vast.

Elliot has unknowingly eaten walnuts, which he is seriously allergic to. His prevailing wisdom is that while his face blows up like a balloon, Maggie needs to go on camera and report the story. Maggie puts on the clothes found in Mack’s go bag. She gets ready and looks incredibly nervous. To my significant surprise, Maggie was as close to flawless as one can expect their first time on camera. And a wave of pride swept the ACN studio.

Reese invites Will and Charlie to an office balcony where he is drinking a beer and enjoying the nice night. This is where Reese says he’s proud of the job they’ve done this week as an ice breaker before he and Charlie relay the information of just how far in the ratings News Night has fallen. Reese explains that he wants Will to do the news and do it well, but they can’t do the news if the station doesn’t make money. This is where Will’s personality brings upon our first real shocker of the season.

Will: Well… … …I think it’s time for me to quit.

Neal makes his way out to the terrace and begins to tell Will and Charlie (and Reese who is close enough to hear) that he is in possession of a little over 27,000 stolen government documents. Half of which are classified.

Reese: Yeah…I’m just going to jump off this railing.

Neil tells the story of exactly how he came to be in possession of these documents. Three times. On the third time, Will hears a new detail that Neal neglected to mention. By asking for a couple documents to pass along to his bosses, he in fact is an accomplice to commit espionage.

Throughout this entire episode, I have hesitated on the Sloan Sabbath story line because it feels slow developing. Like her digging and Reese’s concern over the numbers is something that will take time to come to a head. I was right that her digging in the numbers would unearth something. I was wrong about the time table.

Sloan: What is everyone doing out he–Reese!
Reese: We’re kind of in the middle of–
Sloan: When’s their birthday? The twins?
Reese: Why don’t we meet in my office?
Sloan: The Twins! When is their birthday?
Reese: The party’s…
Sloan: Not the party. Their actual birthday. When do they turn 25?
Reese: I honestly don’t…sometime next week. The 25th or 26th.
Sloan: Get your mother on the phone. She has to call the board to an emergency session. Right now. Tonight.
Reese: What are you talking about?
Sloan: You went to Wharton Reese. Wake the fuck up. You’re in the middle of a hostile takeover.
Reese: What?!?!
Sloan: Somebody is trying to buy this company.

Just then Jim walks out with the newest development that they have one of the suspects, but he’s hiding in a boat in someone’s back yard. Then we get our Will McAvoy eruption of the episode. You may have seen this in our preview article or even on the promos aired by HBO. The culmination of which is “there’s a guy in the back of a boat in someone’s back yard. I’d like confirmation on that before I say it on the news”.

Just like that ladies and gentleman, the stage is set. Set but with inevitably more conflict and drama to come. Neil needs a lawyer because he’s in a lot of trouble. Two other financial institutions are vying to buyout ACN, presumably so that the ‘twins’ can profit off their trust fund quick enough so they don’t actually have to work. News Night is at the bottom of the relevant news shows and will need to fight their way out to stave of television death. And at the very least there is a Will McAvoy and MacKenzie McHale wedding to plan. Wrap your noodle around that, and make sure to join us again at notjustanothertvsite.com following the conclusion of each Newsroom episode. As well as all of the other top notch high quality shows we’re covering for you. Only at NJATVS.

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