The Newsroom series finale “What Kind Of Day Has It Been?” wrapped up the sometimes controversial and consistently preachy Aaron Sorkin series, giving viewers somewhat of a mental break after last week’s, some might say rage-inducing, episode.
It opened with Charlie’s funeral – and the revelation that Mac (Emily Mortimer) is pregnant! Mac has, for some reason, decided to call her doctor in the middle of the funeral, and immediately tells Will the news when she returns inside the church.
We flashback to three years earlier, before Mac arrived at ACN and Will (Jeff Daniels) embarked on his “mission to civilize” – in other words, back to when Will didn’t know Maggie’s (Alison Pill) name. Will of three years ago doesn’t care about the integrity of the news, as evidenced by his angrily asking Don (Thomas Sadoski) for a block to talk about record flooding in Rhode Island instead of a pair of suicide bombers in Russia – “weather rates,” he says – and him screaming at Neal (Dev Patel) to sacrifice the integrity of his website to do some amateur polling on Obamacare, which has yet to launch. After the show, a disappointed Charlie (Sam Waterston) gives Will a lecture about the quality of his show, telling him he could be so much better than ratings.
The flashback is a somewhat traditional (read: boring) narrative device used in various series finales, but The Newsroom is nothing if not sentimental, so I’ll give it a pass, though I really don’t think the flashbacks added anything to the series that we didn’t already know, other than the fact that both Jim and Mac (mostly Mac) seemed WAY more interesting than they were shown in the pilot. (Seriously, where was the emotionally defeated, drunk at 11 a.m. Mac at the beginning of the show? That’s a woman I want to see on screen.)
After the funeral, Will is, for lack of a better term, freaking out about impending fatherhood, but, on the bright side, he once again declares himself “in charge of morale” so, it seems Mac has a tough seven months in front of her. Lucky for Mac, she is taken away by Leona (Jane Fonda), who knocks on Pruit’s (BJ Novak) limo door and declares that he is giving them a ride to the cemetery.
“Lucas Pruit thinks women are less than men.” A story has exposed pay inequity at a company owned by Pruit, KWENCH, a company that “makes personalized soft drinks,” whatever that means.
“How do you know we’re not overpaying the men?” Pruit responds. (Which, in case you fellas were wondering, is the perfect thing to tell a girl if you want to make sure she doesn’t sleep with you.)
In addition to Pruit’s salary scandal, another report suggests that Pruit hired hookers to attend a party. “The women weren’t hired for sex, they were hired to be living art,” Pruit insists. While Leona seems to be a woman on a mission, Mac has no idea why she is there to witness her listing Pruit’s PR problems.
Three years earlier, Charlie tracks Mac down and finds her at a bowling alley. Fresh from the war, and suffering from what appears to be some form of PTSD from getting shot, Mac is getting drunk at 11 in the morning. Charlie, using his idealistic Charlie charm, offers her a job: Executive Producer of News Night. He’s hoping that her fire to make the news “real” news again coupled with their romantic past will give Will enough motivation to reform his show.
After going to see the college Q&A that kicked off the show, Mac goes to visit Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and invite him to come to ACN with her. (Side note: Jim playing guitar in an empty apartment is quite possibly my favorite thing ever.) Of course, from then on we know how things worked out. Mac came to News Night and fought with Will until they became what they are now.
At Charlie’s wake, it’s revealed that Leona is pitching promoting Mac as Charlie’s replacement. She’ll fight with Pruit, something Leona says he should look for in a news division head, and promoting a woman would do wonders for Pruit’s damage control. Of course, Mac fails to realize this is happening until Will announces it triumphantly during a speech at Charlie’s wake.
Before his triumphant address, Will also let slip that MacKenzie was pregnant when he begged some female staffers to slap him if they ever see him holding a cigarette. He then held a short jam session with Jim and Charlie’s grandson (for some odd reason) and it was announced that Neal had safely returned to the US (but unfortunately did not get more screen time).
Don and Sloane (Olivia Munn), meanwhile, struggle with their guilt over Charlie’s death, and Don even goes so far as to admit his guilt to Charlie’s widow, Nancy. Nancy immediately dismisses Don’s feelings, telling him that Charlie had been miserable caving into Pruit’s demands. In fact, Charlie had been praying that Don would fight him on the Princeton story. And then she gave Don one of Charlie’s bowties AND MY HEART EXPLOADED. Later, Don gives the bowtie to Sloane when she admits she misses Charlie. (An act so simple and sweet it immediately redeemed Don of any wrongdoing in the past three seasons – or, at least, reaffirmed my desire to ship Sloane and Don.)
It seems everyone who fought with Charlie while Will was in prison feels responsible for his death. Of course, as Will says in his speech, the idea is ridiculous, not only because, as he jokes, they all know Sloane is responsible, but also because Charlie was counting on them to fight. Charlie wanted them all to fight to be better than who they are, to be honorable and decent human beings, a la Don Quixote.
The Evolution of Maggie Jordan
Perhaps my favorite part of the series finale was the wrapping up of the Jim/Maggie saga, in which Jim, once again proving his complete cluelessness in relationships, recommended Maggie for a job as a field producer in Washington DC. Maggie appreciates the job interview that his recommendation gets her, but she’s not sure how she’s supposed to feel about the fact that her new undefined-man-friend-with-benefits seems eager to ship her off to DC when he has no intention of moving there. Moreover, Jim doesn’t even mention the fact that the job would take Maggie from New York, nor does he express any sort of sadness at the prospect. Maggie tells Sloane this, who then tells Jim, who then tries, and fails, to make things better. Maggie is convinced that Jim is being awkward because he thinks that she is taking their relationship more seriously than he is – they’ve only been sleeping together for three days, ever since they got off the plane to Havana. “I’m not delusional. I don’t think this is more than it is, don’t panic,” she tells him before walking away.
It isn’t until later, when Mac asks Jim to take over as executive producer of News Night (Don is staying at 10 p.m. with Elliot), that Jim goes to Maggie and declares that he wants her to stay in New York, because they are serious, and the relationship does mean more to him than a few nights. But, in a shockingly independent and self-confident move, turns down Jim’s offer to be his senior producer and stay in New York. She wants to be a field reporter, so she’s going to go after the job in DC.
I love that Maggie has become strong enough to leave New York City and a boyfriend behind. Not only is she sure in her decision to go after her dream job, she’s also strong enough to lay out her feelings and tell Jim that, despite everything he means to her, she still wants to move to DC. When we first met Maggie, she was desperately hanging on to her relationship with Don, clinging to the idea of having a boyfriend. Yes, she was also trying to make a career for herself in journalism, but, unlike essentially every other character on the show, her defining characteristic wasn’t her ambition, it was her heart. By the end of the series finale, Maggie can be defined by both her journalistic ambitions and her love life (Maggie + Jim Forever).
My other favorite scene came courtesy of Neal, who finally returned from his stint as a criminal on the run. Though we don’t get to see Neal reunite with his News Night buddies, we do get to see him school the web editors on how he wants the website to be run and shuts it down (like a boss) before ordering them to rebuild the site completely, under his leadership. The scene was short and sweet – and, yes, a tad preachy – but, it was worth it because Neal appeared looking like this:
Farewell, The Newsroom
Finally, the episode closed with the team getting ready for another episode of News Night, and Will McAvoy starting the show. And thus, The Newsroom ends its three-season run with an somewhat unsatisfying episode. Honestly, I was hoping for a bit more of a punch to conclude the series. The problem with The Newsroom‘s final episode is that it resembles the previous few episodes too closely. One can forgive a series finale for being overly preachy because of the nature of a final episode, but it’s harder to let slide after a string of moral-heavy episodes. The Newsroom has already told us, quite explicitly, what it wants us to take away from the series – a sense of honor, a desire to seek out information ethically, to expect more from our news sources, to challenge the growing trend of crowd-sourcing the news, etc. The Newsroom has already laid out its moral lessons clearly for the viewer, making a bulk of the finale little more than repetitive, yet eloquently written, dialogue that left me feeling like this:
Then again I’m never one to turn down a happy ending. And, save for Charlie’s death, this was probably the happiest ending one could wish for. So, goodbye The Newsroom. I’ll miss you…kind of.