Another season and another review that’s going to largely come down to “I really wish this show was just a little bit better”. I just re-read my season 1 review and recommend you do the same as I actually surprised myself at how good a job it does of describing my feelings about some of the key difficulties with the show as it goes on. Interesting and important issues drifting from eloquent challenge into intellectual bullying, characters being improbably stupid just for the purposes of driving plots, and endlessly circling relationships with minimal chemistry.
Season 2 is the year of Operation Genoa. The season as a whole tells the story of an investigation into a military operation, ranging from the first time a reporter hears about it, through the year long process of assembling, verifying and breaking the news story and then on through the fallout. It’s a very good plot, it gives a credible account of how slow, frustrating and luck based investigative journalism really is (at least as I imagine it), it shows the characters being good at their jobs, but it also shows that the characters are human and make understandable mistakes which have far reaching consequences. There were a final couple of reveals of how the whole thing came about which came a bit out of nowhere (to keep things vague – the motivations of a source in particular), but overall it was a very well put together season long story.
I’m not quite so sure about the way the story was told, which was with a very complicated bouncing back and forth in time. From the very start of the season we know that the story is not true and that there are going to be extremely serious ramifications (unsurprisingly) of broadcasting a completely untrue story. So we go back and forth gradually finding out how the team came to be so wrong. It’s creative and interesting, knowing how the plot starts and ends but only gradually filling in the steps in between. But it did also add a sense of doom to the proceedings which I could potentially have lived without. Also I’m still a little uncertain as to when certain events chronologically took place and how they all fit together.
The biggest problems however remain with the various relationships in the show. I still just don’t buy Mac and Will as a couple, long standing friends and colleagues yes, but a romantic couple – not so much. And even if I did like them together in that way, I was over the endless argument about betrayals and blame and forgiveness within about 10 minutes of the first time it was brought up. 19 episodes later and it’s beyond tedious. As for the various connections between Maggie, Jim, Don, Lisa and god knows who else… good grief! The only good thing to come out of the whole mess is Don and Sloane, two characters who bring the whole series to life, both together and apart. The two of them steal the show with the funniest lines, the most heartfelt emotions and the most passionate speeches. Together or apart, I love these two.
Once again, I have to give Newsroom a “could do better” grade. When it’s good it’s the kind of television that makes you want to stand up and cheer, to rewind to catch the details, to share with friends and to quote in arguments with enemies. But in between those moments of absolute brilliance is some really mediocre material – clumsy characterisation, story-lines that go nowhere (Occupy Wall Street) and high minded morales at the expense of realism. The show is blessed and cursed to be the younger sibling of The West Wing, in any other family it would be the star, but in this one, it’s just never going to live up to high expectations.