Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
The Newsroom’s penultimate episode left a sour taste in the mouths of many, but was still sprinkled with moments of entertainment. From a sudden death, to talking with ghosts, “Oh Shenandoah” was chock full of preachy monologues and tired relationship drama.
Starting with the biggest shocker, Charlie, one of my personal favorites of the series, died of a heart attack. I understand the symbolism of his death, that “new media killed good journalists,” and while it wasn’t too poorly handled, it could have been less heavy-handed. At the very least the death wasn’t glazed over, as everyone rushed in panic to Charlie’s side as “Oh Shenandoah” played in the background. It’s a shame that he sold out to Pruitt before dying, though.
Sloan and Mac, in an act of rebellion against Pruitt’s new media dictatorship, decided to interview the new digital editor of ACN Digital (Neal 2.0) about his celebrity-stalking ACNgage app. This of course led to Sloan brutally destroying Neal 2.0 and his app on air. This all led to a fight involving Sloan, Mac, Charlie and Pruitt that resulted in Charlie’s death. While this part of the episode was undeniably enjoyable, I couldn’t help but think of how stupid Sloan and Mac were being. Having an embarrassing interview isn’t going to get Neal 2.0 fired, nor change anything in the minds of the public. Plus, it inadvertently killed Charlie.
The most controversial part of the episode was the conversation between Don and Mary, a college student who was accusing two other students of drugging and raping her. After being tasked with getting both Mary and one of her attackers in the studio together for an interview, Don found Mary and begged her not to come on the show, as it would only hurt her cause. This led to a painful discussion between the two about rape and the injustice of women not being believed that they had been, while also bringing up the injustice of being falsely accused of the act. Many found this part of the episode to be offensive because Don was being the “calm voice of reason” as he systematically explained why a website to accuse rapists would eventually lead to false accusations, and Mary was being the emotional victim saying that she doesn’t care as long as some justice is done. I disagree. Yes, Don was playing devil’s advocate in the discussion, but it is a complicated issue that isn’t solved simply. While many in the social justice community will find this discussion offensive, it, in my mind, was one of the most unbiased description of the issue I have yet seen on television. Neither argument was flawless, but it brought the conversation back into the public sphere again, which is a good thing in my book.
Will spent practically the entire episode in jail, where he had many “pleasant” conversations with his prejudiced woman-beating roommate. The end of the episode revealed that Will had actually been talking with his dead father the entire time. These conversations did sometimes get overly preachy, but they were most interesting in explaining some of the intricacies of Will’s character. Coming from a house of a man who beat him and his mother, Will has little patience for bullies and has a strong sense of justice. Will was then released from jail after Neal’s source shot herself on the steps of the justice department, meaning that the government was no longer interested in forcing Will to give up the name. Since we only have one episode left of the show, I will be upset if Neal doesn’t come back next week and kick Neal 2.0 to the curb. If that doesn’t happen, it will mean that Neal was only in two episodes this entire season, which is such a waste.
The least interesting part of the episode was the plane drama with Maggie and Jim. After ACN accidentally bought them the wrong tickets, Jim and Maggie needed new ones. Following the extortion by a newlywed couple, they got their much needed tickets only to get stuck on a Snowden-less flight. Up until this point this storyline had just been fun and humorous, and it is only now that the show-old romance of Jim and Maggie showed its ugly head. Jim finally confessed his feelings for Maggie. Initially she was upset, then, after realizing this was the last season, she suddenly forgave Jim for no reason at all and the two shared what just might be the most awkward kiss in the history of television. If you are wondering, “What about the ethics professor? They broke up?” so am I. I really hope that this is the last time we will see any drama about “The Relationship that Totally Couldn’t.” If, for example, next week we see the ethics professor again and Maggie has to breakup with him so she can be with Jim, I will have officially lost my mind.
This episode raised a lot of controversy, from the rape discussion, to the forced scenes with Will’s father, to the sudden death of Charlie. Unfortunately, however, the controversies did little to further the main plot lines and generally felt forced. The episode also forced old plot lines on us in the form of Jim and Maggie’s relationship, which can never seem to die.
Will you miss Charlie? What did you think of Will’s conversations with his father? Can Jim and Maggie just stop? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
55/100 – ‘Basic’
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