Warning: Spoiler Alert
As NJATVS’ residential Aaron Sorkin enthusiast and unapologetic fanboy, it is my duty and privilege to cover and in this case preview “Newsroom Season 3”. Before you consider the theory that I’m just some windbag critic riding the coat tails of Sorkin’s success as of late with Newsroom, Moneyball, and Social Network, consider the following. I have seen 8900 West Wing episodes (22 x 7 x 58 times). I’ve seen A Few Good Men more times than I should admit. I even came very close to paying for a copy of the stage play on principle. Sports Night is easily the best sitcom involving the sports world to date. And I will debate anyone willing to do so that Studio 60: Live on the Sunset Strip is the best comedic series prematurely ended of all time.
The first and most important detail of which is to inform those not already in the loop that season 3 will indeed be the final season. I know, take a moment to reflect and compose yourself. The first season, like most Sorkin projects, adjusted the bar. Reassessed how we define good television. That may sound lofty, but if you really watch season 1 with open, objective eyes you’ll see just how good it was. Sorkin is a master of characters and it shows throughout that season. We don’t have the time for me to break down each element of season 1 that made it so intensely good. However, rest assured that when the series has concluded and I have time to go back through and break it down properly, I will. If for no other reason than for me to properly place it in its rightful place in television history.
Not all is rosy. I would love to tell you that Season 2 was every bit as good as Season 1. I’d love to be able to say that. A couple of things to bring up first. Will and Mackenzie’s relationship arrives at a crescendo that is satisfying to any viewer by the conclusion of season 2. Jim, Don, Neal and Sloan all go through a series of ups and downs. Jim’s feel more pronounced, but those four do experience a great deal in season 2. One of those has yet to see the depth of his or her journey, but that we’ll save for the actual preview portion. Charlie is great and continues to be maybe my favorite character that is not considered part of the ‘essential’ cast. I would argue that Charlie is indeed essential. Even guys like Gary Cooper (a videographer, not the cowboy) and Reese Lansing made real contributions.
The problem one discovers with season 2 is the departure from the previously held blueprint. Look, it’s not my place to say right, wrong or otherwise. Here’s my take though. The series debuted in 2012. The news stories they would chase because a shade under two years before that. Now the show runners get to pick and choose which stories to chase. The fact that they could pick and choose and didn’t follow a real-time projection was both good and eventually problematic. The problem is that eventually the Newsroom stories were going to catch up to the real life stories. Correct or not, it felt like Season 2 was an attempt to buy time for more desirable story lines later. Instead of following the original blueprint, Season 2 was a complete departure. We were taken on a ride that focused as much if not more on one internal story as opposed to a series of news stories.
Season 2 was not explicitly bad. Let me be clear. I would still put Newsroom Season 2 up against 90% of the television on that year. It’s Newsroom, it’s Aaron Sorkin, it’s HBO. It was going to be good no matter what. There were significant high pressure, high emotional big time moments in Season 2. It was just a different ride. Season 2 was bigger, even though I believe Season 1 was better. For anyone who has not seen Newsroom yet (what’s wrong with you first off), if you’re waiting for the conclusion of the series in order to binge watch it, I’m not going to stop you. For clarity sake, assume that Season 2 is every bit deserving of the accolades, just know that it feels different.
If you are on the fence for some indescribable reason, there are two scenes in Season 1 that should sell. The first one is the opening scene of the series. Will McAvoy is speaking on a panel at a college. It’s a long scene and worth every second you invest in it. This clip can be found easily on YouTube. The other is a scene from the Gabby Gifford’s episode where Will refuses to announce her dead just because all of the other news outlets are. Remember, they don’t do good television, they do the news.
Season 3 is a bit of an enigma. On one hand you have Season 1, measured, steady, and running off a blueprint. Chasing news stories from the perspective of what that would look like from the people doing the chasing. Then Season 2 is a completely different approach. Whether to buy time or just adding drama, we may never know.
The question is, which method will Season 3 follow? With a gun to my head, I’m guessing somewhere between the two versions. Clearly, it seems, we are headed back to an episodic rundown that will include real, actual news stories. The first of which may be the Boston Marathon bombing. Which would mark the first Newsroom response to an act of terror. We saw what happened the night ‘we got Bin Laden’, but we have never seen the team’s reaction in real-time when an act of terror is executed in the moment.
Another major development, the development that I believe will take the show out of the Season 1 model and more into the Season 2 model is the Edward Snowden story line (whether that is the actual story or just a parallel, we’ll have to wait and see). There is a story that deals with a person leaking a massive amount of national secrets. When that happens it will create a convergence of two different while somewhat related entities. On one side you have the leak which is very much newsworthy and the idea that Neal aided in the story coming forward by way of social media. In the Season 3 promo released by HBO, Neal very clearly states, “social media is going to solve this crime”. On the administrative side, Will, Mack and Charlie are all fighting to keep the network from falling into the control of those more interested in social media numbers than that of journalistic integrity.
While the above story lines may seem intriguing enough, the bigger picture is…well the bigger picture. Season 3 will come down to the team’s (Will, Mack, Charlie, etc) ability to not only stave off attacks against their ideals. News doesn’t have to be entertaining to be news. An informed electorate. And everything they stand for. A news show responsibly delivering the news whether its trending on twitter or not. Defending that ideal will be paramount. In addition to that, amidst the pressures to compete in social media, the social media guy (Neal) will be facing some real world trouble. If the leaks were aided in any way, that person could be tried as an accomplice to espionage. All indications are that the one that may have unintentionally committed treason is Neal. And the larger theme that will rule the entire season seems to be the integrity of a news outlet protecting it’s source at all costs.
Will McAvoy: If you have our back, then we’re not going to let you get shot in yours.
There is no question that Season 3 has been written with the series coming to a close in mind. It is my opinion, that Sorkin and the people at HBO must have looked at both seasons and created a dynamic that takes the best of both to create as final season that will not only be satisfying, but exceptional. Sorkin has a beautiful knack of building the moment, the line, the story in such a way that it’s conclusion is ideal. That is when he is given the opportunity to write to a close. This may only be a 3 season run, but I am holding out hope that in three seasons we will feel like we’ve seen every bit of the story. Beginning, middle, and end.
Do yourselves a favor. Set your DVR now. For my money, anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with is great. In some cases we will say “check out ____________, it might prove worth your time”. The worst Newsroom episode made is still without question, worth your time. Set your DVR. Schedule your life around Newsroom. And make sure to check back to NJATVS every Sunday going forward as we will no doubt be on top of this show until we reach its conclusion. And then we’ll probably still write about it in a future retrospective piece.