The Newsroom "Unintended Consequences" Review: Deus Ex Sorkina

By Ryan Sandoval

Aug 05, 2013

The Newsroom S02E04: "Unintended Consequences"


Is it swagger or laziness to have a character wish aloud for a "preposterous stroke of luck" concerning the introduction of information that would allow a season-long storyline to advance? The exclamation from Jerry Dantana in tonight’s "Unintended Consequences" came seconds before OWS representative/News Night guest/sacrificial lamb Shelly Wexler coincidentally stepped out into the ACN hallway with a tip related to Dantana’s pursuit of the infamous Black Ops controversy. Sure, happenstance plays a part in real life all the time. Also, to have an established media entity like ACN be dependent on a routinely dismissed group such as OWS for what would become the most watched program in broadcast history is a clever dynamic to introduce. This otherwise strong episode similarly hinged on a small, unlikely story convenience. The annoying presence of a ruptured fourth wall (made more so with Hallie’s later reference to a hotel snafu as a "predictable plot twist") kept this installment from reaching its full potential and pointed to The Newsroom's flaws of self-awareness.  


On the emotional front was Maggie, framing "Unintended Consequences" with her turn in the deposition chair. The last time Rebecca Halliday appeared to draw out a character's story and give an episode structure was in the season opener, with charmingly efficient results. Marcia Gay Harden is doing a fine job with what little screen time she gets ("Then FUCK you..."), and hopefully as the show moves forward, these legal scenes will appear more frequently. The characters on The Newsroom can come off a little larger than life, and an outsider's examination of such a sobering case reminds us that they all have, within them, toned-down personalities.  


The subject of this meeting was whether or not Maggie had enough mental health to function as a credible witness, and whether a general involved with the use of chemical weapons had stated that "it happened." So anyway, she finally went on her trip to Africa and made a connection with a child named Daniel at an orphanage, by reading to him a ton of times. During an overnight assault, gunmen shot the poor kid in his spine, effectively saving Maggie’s life, but ending the boy's. Throughout their connection, Daniel had become enamored with her blonde hair, and this memory disturbed her enough that she chopped it all off and dyed it red. It was only after she returned home that Maggie learned the cattle bandits were in pursuit of Gary Cooper’s camera, causing her to feel extremely guilty for even fighting so hard for the story in the first place. Not that the circumstances of a child’s death need to reach a certain standard to psychologically damage a person, but this particular incident seemed especially devastating.  

Such is the story of Maggie's Raggedy Ann-meets-a-weedwacker haircut. 


Back in the office, Dan and Neal had hit a wall in contacting @Hamni8 and then theorized all the many reasons as to why the Twitter handle had ceased reporting on the military assault that was discovered at the end of last week’s episode: a lack of cell phone minutes, death, and even more unlikely, a government shutdown of the internet. As they hoped out loud for something to fall into their laps, exactly just that happened, as if Sorkin himself had parted the clouds and separated the real world from the fantasy to help out the News Night mortals, as if he were some sort of Olympian god. No sooner had Dantana expressed consternation than did people's champ Shelly Wexler nonchalantly suggest that someone down at Zuccotti Park was part of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that'd experienced an organizational shutdown by the Pakistani government. Said OWS dude/campfire attendant wrote a report that U.S. troops used chemical weapons on civilians. Awesome! Just the scoop they’d been waiting for. 


Unfortunately, after a shameful interview with Will McAvoy on News Night wherein Will behaved as glibly as hell while Wexler floundered under a line of questioning related exclusively to the vague goals of her group, she was too offended to offer up her lead. Appeals by Neal brought Shelly to a compromise: She’d pony up the intel goods in exchange for an on-air apology from Will. Obviously Will wasn’t hearing it, so Mac sent Sloan, and then eventually Don, to smooth over the situation. Both encounters ended with the ACN employees insulting Wexler, and comedically highlighting McAvoy’s initial criticism of OWS. In refusing to acknowledge the current power structure, the fledgling movement faced an insurmountable first hurdle: How could they ever achieve change, in all their varied goals, if they were unwilling to support the source of power in place to effect it? 

Wexler criticized Sloan and Don’s motives, they criticized right back, and all hope for an understanding was lost. That is, until the mighty Will finally emerged from the shadowed wings of this episode and apologized on a personal level.  Ah Will, he always knows just what to say and how to say it. If only he could get over himself first! Argh! The two shared a heart-to-heart, mostly about how he was in a bad place and needed some emotional healing from his "crisis of confidence." She took the bait like all females on this show do and forgave him for being so damn charming. Oh, also the news team had already contacted the guy without her ("Leon Deet"), so her role in this episode was ultimately rendered even less important. 

Miles away from all the concerned New York looks and globe-trotting traumatic orphanage experiences, Jim faced his own failures and successes out on the road: failure in the form of a slew of setbacks following last week’s bus stunt and success in scoring a poolside smooch from Hallie. The latter came at the cost of his gig on the road, after having finally tricked his way into that much sought-after 30-minute sit-down with Romney ("Go fuck yourself..." —Taylor), at which point he handed the chance over to Hallie. Hey, her boss was a real dick! Jim’s been screwing off out there pretty much anyway, and he’s way too talented to be parroting Romneybots while Mac and the gang could really use his savvy back home.  

So all in all, an enjoyable episode! (Except for the part where characters got to wish parts of the the plot into being.)


FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:

– Is Occupy Wall Street legit?

– What was your favorite joke?

– Do you think characters joking about "Gary Cooper" is funny?

– Did Rick Perry lose because of his association with a ranch that had a racist name?

– What was your favorite storyline in this episode?

– Who is your favorite character on this show?

– What news from 2011 do you wish Sorkin would address?

– (Not a question): "Stillman's your first name?"

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  • Midearth381 Aug 23, 2013

    My only comment is not really a criticism of you but of everyone who knows Aaron Sorkin makes this show. Is there any way all of you can distance yourself from hatred/loathing/dismissing the man? The rest of your review was fine. I just get tired of everyone beating on/blaming Aaron Sorkin for every scene and every idea expressed on this show. It's similar to every comment page on every tv show on the air, in a way, though - if you are not extreme right wing you are called a retarded liberal. Most people know the most stupid backward white trash people in the world are extremist right-wing creatures. It ain't pretty, but it's right. I really like this show, and wish it were on more. It's not political, it's human, and smart, and that's rare in today's TV land. It's too long between what now passes for "seasons," though. Who knew a mere 5 years ago that 8-10-13 episodes would be accepted by the viewers as a season from the 22-24-25 they were then.

  • wudntulik2know Aug 09, 2013

    Halfway through the finale, trying to savor it, as I know that Season 2 is not as good. But............the nurse's great aunt can't vote because she doesn't have a driver's license? Huh?

    Is Tennessee different than NY? My mother doesn't have a driver's license but the DMV gives her a picture ID to use for purposes of a picture ID.

    So. Is Tennessee backwards or something, or did Sorkin get it all wrong?

    Just talking to myself here, not to worry, it's obvious no one cares about this show.

    Probably because it's light years more brilliant than Dexter.

  • Pprairie Aug 12, 2013

    http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/oct/05/marriage-certificate-required-bureaucrat-tells/

    Dorothy Cooper is 96 but she can remember only one election when she's been eligible to vote but hasn't.
    The retired domestic worker was born in a small North Georgia town before women had the right to vote. She began casting ballots in her 20s after moving to Chattanooga for work. She missed voting for John F. Kennedy in 1960 because a move to Nashville prevented her from registering in time.
    So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new state law she'd need a photo ID to vote next year, she talked with a volunteer about how to get to a state Driver Service Center to get her free ID. But when she got there Monday with an envelope full of documents, a clerk denied her request.
    That morning, Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.
    "But I didn't have my marriage certificate," Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

  • wudntulik2know Aug 09, 2013

    5/1, also a very good episode. And it took controlling all of my gag reflexes to not fast forward past Honda, Jane H., since Sam Waterston (what an actor) was in the same scenes.

    Interesting bit about the NSA, don't you think?

    But ouch, this show has routinely gotten barely 50 comments here since it began. Why do moronic shows like Dexter get more attention and tons more comments? For the same reason that Will keeps mentioning, that the American people really LIKE the Housewives consortium of ........... garbage? Poor sods in America don't like to be made to think, or, perish the thought, hear the truth about their evil (both sides) political demagogues? My guess is yes.

    I do have to admit though, now having seen the past episodes, I wish they hadn't had EyesTooClose go to Africa. Not a good direction, Sorkin.

    At any rate, if this show were on Starz, it would have been canceled by now.

  • williamgreeson7 Oct 27, 2013

    More like they are tired of hearing about it. Americans these days are generally bitter and depressed over the state of the government and thus prefer to ignore it. It's even a popular mindset to preach, South Parks infamous douchebag vs turd sandwich episode shows this off.

    It's kind of an ignorant view but sometimes I agree with it. Don't get me wrong, I love Newsroom and what it's doing, but how do you cause effective decisive change in america at this point without sparking revolution and organized revolts. They put down peaceful protests and don't even cover them on the news, they hide revolts around the world, and the amount of propaganda fed to the media is palpable.

    I believe that a fall is eminent. I don't want one, but I don't really see how it is avoidable.

  • wudntulik2know Aug 08, 2013

    Still slogging through - Olivia Munn is very pretty and a very competent actor, too bad she wasn't given the part that EyesTooClose was. And she speaks Japanese! Nice episode, Bullies.

    Good show.

  • wudntulik2know Aug 08, 2013

    Is there a technical Q&A; on TV.com? When typing, my cursor moves to first character in a post all on its own.

    Anyone else have this problem? TYIA.

  • chankson Aug 07, 2013

    Despite all the polemic.. really good episode, great show!

  • murt1987 Aug 06, 2013

    I think the scene where the kid dies was badly directed and thats why a lot of people feel a bit disappointed about how the Maggie storyline ended. It should have been a big emotional moment for the audience considering it was built up to be a life changing trip for Maggie but I was genuinley confused about what happened and how the kid was even shot. The slow-mo of Gary Cooper dropping the camera and Maggie watching, the faint gunshot as they got on the bus, Maggie reading the book for the kid and then he's just dead. Thats what killed the story for me. I had to watch it again to understand what happened. I knew something was coming but it was badly done imo.

  • loclodel Aug 18, 2013

    My thought exactly! I was so confused during that part, it didn't seem like the kid got shot at all? No yelp or pain inscribed on his face... just "again" (asking Maggie to read the book...well, yeah, again) and then suddenly lifeless on the bus floor. Initially I thought Gary got shot. So just as Maggie lied about only reading Daniel the story three times, he didn't die immediately after, but sometime during the 45th reading of the book cuddled up on the bus (making it that much more devastating for Maggie)?

  • wudntulik2know Aug 08, 2013

    Ooooph, badly directed - spot on.

    In copying (a bad homage?) M*A*S*H (anyone remember when it was done well?), those who don't remember the original get to see a bad copy.

    Enough. Get back in the newsroom and do what you do well - a soapy soap.

    Shoulda, coulda been a big emotional moment, but instead it was a yawn. I thought Gary Cooper was killed, tres confusing, badly done all around.

  • emmiegirl Aug 07, 2013

    I appreciate you putting that into words; that is a totally valid criticism from a perspective I wouldn't be able to get to on my own. I'm not very artistic or visual and only had this vague sense of incompleteness about the scenes and Maggie's recounting of the incidents.

  • tutone69 Aug 06, 2013

    It is hard for you to believable when you continue the call the network AVN when it is ACN

  • RyanSandoval Aug 06, 2013

    WHoooooooooops. fixed.

  • sluu3p18 Aug 06, 2013

    I'm excited to watch Team Genoa try to defend themselves against Team Smug. Too bad we already know what the outcome will be.

  • CarlosR628891 Aug 05, 2013

    To me, the core issues here are: a) research, and b) smugness. At the very core of every journalist's work is research, research, and research again. We have three, no four threads here: the (alleged) use of chemical weapons, the importance (or not) of OWS, questioning the Romney campaign, and the trip to Africa. All four are treated quite differently, but all touch the basics of journalism. What is the truth, how you you find it, and, importantly for a journalist, how do you treat it? How does it affect the reporter? How is the issue clouded, or not, by the journalist personally?
    Secondly, smugness. It's difficult for liberals in the US, when confronted with the pomposity, and sometimes outrageous ignorance, of the American right, NOT to respond with smugness. Never the twain shall meet. Of course, the show pokes fun at itself by being smug...

    The Wexler coincidence was just funny. "Wait, what?!?" Let it slide.

    Best joke? "I can't ignore evidence. It's not like I'm in Congress." Brilliant throwaway line.

  • emmiegirl Aug 06, 2013

    The funny thing about your statement is that Will, the smuggest of the smug, self-identifies as a conservative Republican.

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