(This article contains spoilers up until episode 6; I don’t reveal plot points that occur in episode 7.)
I’ve been an Aaron Sorkin fan ever since I discovered The West Wing, which remains my favorite dramatic series. (Okay, I would not include such greats as Breaking Bad in the “drama” category… To me, it’s a crime series.) With Sorkin’s latest series, The Newsroom, I’ve fluctuated between frustration and satisfaction, especially in its first season. With too much focus on the rom-com elements of the show’s staff, the first season went into a dip, which in recovered from after a few seasons of straying from its real purpose.
The current season, which has just finished its seventh episode out of nine, has been both frustrating and satisfying, but in a different way. Many of the episodes seem to move along uneventfully, until the end, where there is a strong kicker. In episode six, after nearly an hour watching the time shifts between the staff researching the story about Operation Genoa, and the lawyers questioning the same staffers, Charlie Skinner gets the last line: “None of it was true.”
This wasn’t really a shock, since it was clear both in the way the series has been evolving, and from interviews with Sorkin describing what was going to happen in the series. But the build up in the episode was slow and gradual. It’s not dramatic; it seems more like a novel than TV. But it works.
In episode seven, something similar happens. The lead up is slow and gradual, but the payoff begins when one of the sources for the story explains his motive for giving them the information. And it culminates in a brilliant 4-minute scene that ends the episode, where Jane Fonda shows just how good an actor she is, and where Sorkin’s dramatic writing shines.
If it seems slow going, stick it out. This isn’t Breaking Bad, or even Homeland, where revelations will shock you; it’s theater on TV, where you appreciate the story when you get to the end.