WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!
So remember how last week I was pleased by this show and what they’d done? Yeah, that’s not happening this week. Last week was a rampaging tour de force that showed what this program is capable of when it tries. This week was a low and slow, by-the-numbers, snooze-fest that did nothing to endear me to it.
This episode was an expression of just about everything I dislike about the show. It was dull, plodding and pedantic with an overwrought focus on emotional plotlines that I just don’t give a crap about. Even the (well done), news story segments weren’t good enough to hold my interest in an episode that might as well have been titled “The Blackout Part II: Cure for Insomnia.”
It’s hard to tell exactly when this episode went off the rails and landed in craptown. No, actually, I take that back. It’s hard to tell when it was ON the rails heading anywhere good. From the start where McKenzie (Emily Mortimer) made some weird, vaguely spiritual comments about the power outage to the end where Don (Thomas Sadowski) thinks that Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.), has finally decided to make his move on Maggie (Allison Pill), this was one badly-written exercise in television.
It had such potential, too. The first part of this story was great, and remains so, not dragged down by this one, which is no small accomplishment. Last week I enjoyed seeing the team go all out and compromise their vision of what the news should be in return for ratings that might have given them a chance to have a proper Republican debate, and it must be said that one of the very few elements of tonight’s show that I liked, and the only reason it gets as many stars as I am giving it (and believe me, making “stars” plural was an effort), was because of the mock debate, and where it could have led. I even really liked the fact that they didn’t wind up getting the debate in the end.
But, man, the relationship stories. Oh, dear lord. Did we really need yet another relationship-based meltdown from McKenzie? Did we need McKenzie attempting to distribute relationship advice? Did we really need Jim and Maggie being extremely assholish while at Lisa’s work? Hell, the only thing I’ll say in favor of that segment was that at least it led to a great scene later with Lisa on the air.
I know, I know. Every week I go on about how horrible the writing (and the acting), is when it comes to the relationship plotlines, but to be fair, that’s only because I don’t think Sorkin could write a good romantic story if someone was holding his mother hostage and making him. Yet despite this apparent inability he has some sort of horrible blind spot that makes him think he can write these sorts of things, and he…just…CAN’T!
Next week is the season finale, and I have to say that I’m really on the fence about whether or not I shall return for the second season. I really do want to, because when the show is working right, it works VERY right. But if Sorkin continues to try and cram a relationship plotline down our throats without having someone else, pretty much ANYONE else (E. L. James could write a better relationship story), then I don’t know if I’m going to want to continue.