There is a concept out there called the Bechdel Test. The test is applied to various works of fiction, usually movies and TV shows, and it asks whether, within that work of fiction, two women are able to have conversations that are about something other than men. Not surprisingly, a great many works of fiction fail this test.
The Newsroom is, alas, generally one of those that fails and fails hard. Even in an episode like this one, where we had women discussing 9/11, civil rights issues, Occupy Wall Street, political events in Africa and a (fictional) US military opperation where the military is accused of using nerve gas on a civilian population, well…even then the show still managed to work in conversations about men.
Now let me stress that this was a decent episode. It was fascinating to see Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) dealing with being shut out of the 9/11 anniversary coverage (and it was really neat seeing the footage of him covering it on the day), and I also liked watching his views on targeted assassinations evolving in real time. I also very much enjoyed his moral discomfort with the case of Troy Davis, a man executed by the government for killing a police officer; a man who was almost certainly innocent.
I also really liked the subplot of Don (Thomas Sadowski) getting drawn into that case, and practically begging McAvoy to cover it. Scenes of him continuing to investigate Operation Genoa were also welcome, as were scenes of Maggie (Alison Pill) trying to expand her usefulness to the team by trying to become the go-to person on all things Africa. Plus Jim’s (John Gallagher, Jr) ongoing frustrations with the Romney campaign were quite entertaining.
And so the news storylines were, as always, strong, and in this case they were easily strong enough to overcome the ongoing weaknesses of the romantic subplots. It helps that those subplots were largely relegated to the background in this episode, though the growing tension between Jim and a reporter for a rival media outlet is something I’m eyeing warily. Still, I’d like to think this mellowing-out of the romance stories is something Sorkin is doing deliberately. Perhaps he’s taken notice of the fact that in the opening credits, people are shown doing news stuff, not making out with each other.
Overall this was a solid, entertaining episode with little to drag it down. The foreshadowing of the Operation Genoa story, which we already know is going to turn out bad for the team, was nicely handled, and makes me want to continue to tune in. That’s not something I would have said for much of last season.
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