The Newsroom’s penultimate episode, “Oh Shenandoah” was full of fan wish-fulfillment, with Will being released from jail after 52 days in solitary and Maggie and Jim finally coming to their senses and getting together.
It’s been 52 days and Will (Jeff Daniels) is still in his cell after being found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal the source that leaked classified government documents to ACN’s Neal Sampat. At first, Will was alone in his cell, but has recently found himself with a roommate serving time for domestic battery – his third offense. The episode frequently cuts back to scenes between Will and his challenging cellmate, who presses him about his status as an ‘intellectual elite’ in one scene and states his dislike for the Jews in another. In the end, it’s revealed that the man wasn’t a cellmate at all, but Will’s dead father.
On this storyline, I have two thoughts: 1) This was unnecessary. 2) This was extremely unnecessary. Luckily, we didn’t have to watch Will interact with his phantom father for too long, as it was discovered that the source, Lily, killed herself in front of the DOJ and the FBI agreed to let Will go, even after he continued to refuse to reveal his source.
So, while Will is sharing a cell with a domestic abuser/savant, Mac (Emily Mortimer) is still rebelling against ACN’s new crowdsourcing of the news. Pruit (BJ Novak) is planning to shop the network on Twitter, using the hashtag ‘#uracn’ – “It looks like ‘urine,’” Don (Thomas Sadoski) says. It’s all part of the plan to democratize the news and attract more young viewers to ACN. Mac is, of course, disgusted by the idea, and she wants Charlie (Sam Waterston) to fight against it with her, but he refuses. He wants to play nice with Pruitt for some undisclosed reason.
In other news, Maggie (Alison Pill) and Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) are in Russia desperately trying to get on a flight to Cuba in the hopes of spotting Edward Snowden. After trading what looks like all of his worldly possessions, Jim and Maggie get two tickets from a honeymooning couple and end up on the flight…sans Snowden. On the up side, the uneventful 13-hour flight provides the star-crossed lovers to finally admit they like each other! While waiting at the airport, a staffer tells Maggie that she thinks Maggie is Jim’s destiny, which she relates to Jim while explaining to him why ACN failed to book tickets on the flight to Cuba. She then tries to get Jim to make a grand romantic gesture to win Hallie (Grace Gummer) back, even though it’s been over a month and he’s apologized via-text without response. When Jim goes to make the call, he suddenly realizes that Maggie is the girl for him, something he tells her once they’ve boarded the flight. There’s no turning back now, and Maggie ends up kissing him.
All I wanted going into The Newsroom’s third and final season was for Maggie and Jim to get together, but Jim’s shockingly fast demise from awkward sweetie to full on condescending asshole (exhibit A: Hallie) has made this oddly unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thrilled and, despite my anger towards Jim, I would have been even more disappointed if the two had not ended up together. In any event, it was a sweet moment, made even sweeter by the fact that Jim was dressed head to toe in baby blue, Sochi Olympic pajamas that made him look like Linus from the Peanuts.
Meanwhile, Don is struggling to deal with how to report on a sexual assault story. Princeton student, Mary, has created a website where women who claim were raped can publicly accuse their alleged rapists online anonymously, using the accused’s full names and detailing the alleged assaults. In an effort to create a viral, must see piece of television news, Pruitt demands that Don convince both Mary and Jeff, one of the men she has accused of raping her, to appear together in the studio and participate in an on-air debate/death match. Don doesn’t want to do it. Charlie tells him he’ll do it or get fired.
Don heads to Princeton, tracks down Mary and conducts a pre-interview in her dorm room. He tells her about Pruitt’s idea, and then reveals the real reason he came to see her: he wants to beg her not to do the story. Mary tells Don about her rape: she went to a party, drank too much, took too many drugs, and was raped by two men. The next morning, she called the police, campus police and the school Dean before promptly going to a hospital and getting a rape kit. It should have been the easies arrest they’d ever make, she says, but nothing happened. So, she took her fight online, exposing her accused rapists, which apparently resulted in one’s admission to Stanford medical school to be revoked, and may have cost the other recruitment to play professional sports. Don doesn’t believe in internet “vigilantism,” and, though he is clearly conflicted, and is inclined to believe Mary’s story, he tells her he can’t believe her. Why? He feels it would be immoral to believe that the two men are guilty of rape when they have not been convicted in a court of law, despite the fact that Mary’s case never went to trial. Mary will never get her day in court, and Don acknowledges the unfairness of the situation, but he believes in the law, and so he sides with the courts. If she agrees to go on the air with ACN, she might be sentencing her alleged attacker without due process and set a dangerous precedent where the court of public opinion and online accusations trump any court, paving the way for what could only be called revenge rape accusations (aka false allegations). Furthermore, Don warns, she will be slut shammed and bashed and humiliated…He leaves her with his card, but when he returns to ACN, he tells Charlie that he couldn’t find the girl. (Read more on this here.)
Finally, when Sloane (Olivia Munn) tears into ACN’s web editor for launching an ACN app that allows users to track celebrities based on crowdsourcing Tweets – a sort of live action map of the stars – Charlie appears prepared to fire Sloane, and Pruit certainly wants him too. In fact, Pruitt storms into the newsroom following the broadcast and demands both Sloane and Mac be removed from the premise. Charlie is furious, but he appears to decide to finally fight Pruit before he collapses of a heart attack, hits his head on a table, and dies.
RIP Charlie Skinner.