It‘s champagne and cigar time in The Newsroom. Literally. As Presidential Election Night coverage ends the staff begins celebrating that, then quickly finds there are other reasons, too. There is a cascade of surprises—and one stunner—as plot-lines come together in what amounts to a grand finale bringing the curtain down on season 2. The show has already been renewed for next season. And no wonder.
While I am not going to reveal any of the surprises—and certainly not the stunner—let me just say that only a master play, movie and television writer like Aaron Sorkin (and a superior cast) could pull off this kind of finish; and set up next season so well.
Among the highlights this week: News division president Charlie (Sam Waterston) is in an extended conversation with corporate owner Leona (Jane Fonda) about Charlie's future. The dialogue is quick, sharp, believable and moves the story narrative along. This scene is so well played that it could be used to teach acting classes. Delighted to see and hear two such good and experienced pros perform at the top of their game.
Also, when President Obama goes over the top in electoral votes, anchorman Will (Jeff Daniels) announces it with: "President Obama will be living in government housing for another 4 years." Classic Sorkin. And Daniels pulls this off convincingly; no easy task. He has done this kind of thing time after time since the first program. (Yes, I know: there are those who think the anchorman's response is too wordy, too preachy and too long. And the same folks are likely to say this is what is wrong with Sorkin's work in general and this work in particular. About this, perhaps by this time we can just agree to disagree. My opinion is: it’s good writing and good acting.)
Another standout line, said as an aside in an off-camera conversation, "There's a difference between being tough and wanting to be tough." So true. What it demonstrates is that Sorkin knows television news operations have at least their fair share (there've been times when I thought it was more) of people who don't know the difference. This is true in most walks of life, of course, but still…knowing of Sorkin to tuck it in here.
Emily Mortimer, in the role of executive producer Mac, displays another example of superior acting in this episode. She has some especially sensitive and challenging acting to do as the show builds to, and then delivers, its climax. This includes rather quickly going through—acting— a range of emotions. It's her best performance of the series so far, and she's had many good ones before. When the show first started I wondered if she was right for—would she be strong in—this leading woman role. I wonder no more. Stopped a long time ago.
Dan Rather is anchor and managing editor of Dan Rather Reports. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He will be recapping each episode of the second season of HBO's The Newsroom; older recaps can be found here, here, here, and here.