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The Newsroom – Amen

Up until Sunday night, Aaron Sorkin’s latest foray into television has managed to spend quite a bit of time outside of the news broadcasts, for a show titled The Newsroom. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t been in the show’s interest to do just that—establishing new characters takes time and if we’re going to buy into the more dramatic news moments in the show, it’d help if we cared about the people telling it to us. That said, it was nice to finally see an episode largely dominated by on-air coverage and reporting instead of conference room meetings. “Amen” unfolded in February 2011 as the Egyptian revolution hit its stride and as Governor Scott Walker proposed the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10.

Although it wasn’t particularly a surprise with Aaron Sorkin writing the show, it was also nice to finally see News Night (which purports to cover international news stories) actually do it on screen. By now, we all know how the revolution turned out, but when it effectively resulted in a military coup at its earliest stages, the country was a pretty dangerous place to be. News Night had Elliot in the vicinity of Tahrir Square attempting to cover the protests, but with said danger ever present, nothing ground-breaking was being done. In an attempt to elevate News Night’s coverage above their competitors, Don convinced Elliot to brave the protest, resulting in him receiving a severe beating. 

With Elliot out of commission, it was time for another in a series of colossal coincidences that lead to the team putting on a great hour of television, with it being Neal’s time to shine. As it turns out, Neal was traveling via the London Underground on 7/7 with a camera phone, and was thus birthed into journalism through a traumatic event in his country. Jump forward to 2011 Egypt: Neal has a counterpart in the protesting country tweeting under the pseudonym, Amen. Amen’s anonymity makes Will skeptical about the show’s ability to use him as a source but, like I said, Neal’s perfectly analogous story allows him to convince the team to roll with it.

Personally, I haven’t taken a great issue with these backstory/personal connections leading to something that ultimately shapes the programming in a great way (Jim and Maggie had both also done exactly that for those that had forgotten), but I can see it starting to become an issue if Sorkin doesn’t find another way to allow the on- and off-air worlds to meet. Right now, it’s easy enough to just say that it’s just a couple of times and things like this do happen in the real world, but if the current rate continues, it’ll have happened a good five times by the end of a ten-episode season. Then, at that point, were it to suddenly stop come season two for the sake of bringing things back into touch with reality, it’d feel slightly awkward that the departure had been made. 

Regardless, the only outcome was that News Night got itself some great coverage. When a few things happened with the newly acquired foreign correspondent, we got a pretty emotional, albeit cheesy, close to the episode. To jump out of the news for a moment, the personal backdrop to the episode saw the AWM 2.0 fight escalate as TMI and even the morning shows on Atlantis began to attack Mackenzie. Long story short, the attacks, along with the Egypt coverage, allowed for us all to finally see Will’s loyal and caring side. The whole thing felt somewhat like the end to the show’s first major arc, fitting nicely halfway though the season, as the team finally became the cohesive unit that it needs to be on both a personal and professional front. 

Back into the news, the aforementioned 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 and the resulting protests allowed for Will, Charlie and Mac to throw a punch back AWM’s way as the involvement of the Koch brothers in Citizens United became clear. The multi-billionaires’ existence was instrumental in allowing Citizens United vs. FEC to occur and overturn provisions of the BCRA, something less than popular with the general public. Though we didn’t get to see any of the coverage put on by the show within the show, one can imagine that the ramifications of airing evidence that rich people were buying elections won’t be good if Leona has anything to do with it. An additional bonus to the episode is that this likely means that we’ll be seeing more of Jane Fonda pretty soon. 

It’d be impossible to finish talking about “Amen” without once again addressing Aaron Sorkin’s strange writing relationship with women. Throughout the episode, we continued to see two completely contradictory sides to Mac as she dealt with coverage of important news and her personal relationships. On the news front, Mac literally managed to handle three things at once (she listened to three people all talking at the same time and understood them all), but on a personal front, she’s still a bumbling mess when it comes to Will. For two people so clearly in love with each other, I really can’t figure out the real-world justification for keeping them apart. Now that her relationship is over and his life is too public to try, they’re primed for each other. 

I’m anticipating something along the lines of Matt Albie’s “we work together” argument coming in the next couple of episodes just to keep the melodrama in the show. After all, these things do run for the best part of an hour, but unless Mackenzie suddenly has a personality transplant, I’m not sure that I’m going to like something that I should like. I want the two to get together, but at the same time, I just want all non-news-related things to do with Mac to disappear. Maggie has seemingly figured herself out and appears to no longer be “in like” with Jim (although I doubt that will last) and though that meant that her roommate Lisa returned to show us all what desperate looks like, that was a small win for the women. If only Emily Mortimer’s character could do the same, we might just be onto something great.


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