Note: Full spoilers for The Newsroom season finale follow.
It’s rather wonderful when an entire season comes together, culminating in a powerful finale that not only satisfies on an emotional level, but also on ties up loose ends in an equally satisfying manner. This was "The Greater Fool."
Weaving the complex subplots of nine episodes worth of material into a perfectly potent finale, "The Greater Fool" also left enough room for the show to continue to grow, especially with the small, but significant twist involving Mackenzie’s choice for intern.
The romantic elements, while a touch cheesy — especially the contrived but admittedly hilarious scene with Maggie scolding and shouting at a bus of Sex and the City fans — also reached an important pivotal point. Many, including Rainn Wilson, have compared the Don-Maggie-Jim love triangle to the Jim-Pam-Roy subplot from the early days of The Office. Hell, even The Newsroom’s Jim bares a slight resemblance to John Krasinski’s Jim, not to mention the same name.
What seperates the two love triangles is how Sorkin handles the character of Don. On The Office, Roy was a brute. He drank. He played with the boys. He often treated Pam poorly. He had only a thin layer of dimension to his character. He was a foil for the relationship, nothing more. He served his purpose well — to create romantic tension between Jim and Pam. With The Newsroom, Don is not just a foil. He’s not a villain character. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. While the audience may not root for him to succeed with Maggie, his dedication to the relationship, foolish or not, makes him a tragic figure (as well all know how it will end) and adds meaning and subtext to the whole dynamic. Don’s a person, too. He deserves to find someone he truly values, and who values him as well.
A few seeds for how that love triangle will slowly unfold — including the not-so-subtle hint that the triangle is actually a square — will prove fascinating, even engaging in season two. While I’ve long moaned about the relationship fodder strewn throughout the series, it clicked for me tonight. And while I’d still prefer to see it dialed back just a bit, I find myself oddly looking forward to what will happen in future episodes with the characters.
Same goes for the Will-Mackenzie romantic subplot. The big reveal for Will that Mackenzie was actually in the room the day he had his public meltdown could have played with schmaltz and melodrama, but instead ended on a more, shall I say, Moonlighting note, with the two comically screaming at one another. It added a playful tone to their otherwise heavy-handed romance and teased at a more enjoyable future for the two. As Will admits, true love always wins. It’s a silly notion, but if that’s the direction the show wants to take, by all means. In many previous episodes, the romance felt shoehorned in — added for color, flavor, something to keep people, those who otherwise wouldn’t watch an overtly political show, watching. With "The Greater Fool," however, while still dominant, the romance felt organic, even delightful.
As for the rest of the episode, well, it was a staggering piece of television. Numerous subplots were expertly tied together. The wiretapping story collided with the Leona (Jane Fonda) subplot from early on, and reached an outstanding, and tear-jerking, conclusion. TMI’s Nina (Hope Davis) got to do the right thing (sort of). And Will, who thinks himself foolish after Brian (Paul Schneider) publishes his scathing article, comes to realize that the greater fool is what this country is built upon.
Probably the most stinging element of this episode was, of course, the absolutely brutal assault on what Will labeled, "The American Taliban." Instead of calling out the entirety of the Tea party or the Republican party, Will outlines how radical thinking has sabotaged a party he firmly believes in. This aspect of "The Greater Fool" is likely to garner a pretty volatile reaction from those who agree with many of the sentiments and statements Will criticizes here, but Sorkin’s writing is concise and confident, and "The Greater Fool" leaves you with a lot to think about, regardless of your political affiliation.
Like pretty much any scathing attack, there’s bound to be a retort of some kind, not to mention others who simply won’t believe Will’s final assessment. It’s not likely to sway anyone teetering on the edge, either. That said, Will’s final news cast of this season does set up the direction his attacks will go in future seasons. While it may leave some Republican viewers bitter (let’s be honest, this season has mostly glossed over any credible anti-Obama arguments), it’s an interesting direction for the show, and should lead to more than a few compelling episodes.
The Newsroom has been an absolute delight to watch this season. While not every episode is a masterpiece, the whole is what really counts, and Season 1 is terrific. From Will’s biting monologue that opened the series, to his equally biting final news cast, The Newsroom has been a daring, emotionally engaging TV series that rarely lets up. The characters are fascinating and the message of the show is one people need to hear. And I’m not talking about the Republican bashing. Rather, I’m speaking of the show’s real intention — to refocus what it means to be a TV news journalist. It’s not about being balanced, it’s about communicating. Sometimes, for a TV news viewer, that communication is hard to hear. And sometimes, for the journalist, it’s hard to say. But regardless, a news reporter needs to do one thing — always be honest. That’s why I love The Newsroom, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.