Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2, Episode 6 of HBO's "The Newsroom," titled "One Step Too Many."
Is it just me, or is Will McAvoy becoming a supporting player on his own show? In "One Step Too Many," he's given a minuscule storyline -- his head's still out of the game and he's still dating Hope Davis, though he breaks up with her because she told him to go on a morning show, except maybe he's just being his typically caustic self and that wasn't real. And there's no mention of his father just having died, which was weird -- while everyone else gets to deal with the bigger stuff.
Well, except for the continuing horrors of the Maggie-Jim-Meryl-Jr. saga, which is not so much "bigger" as it is "torturous, yet again."
I knew there was going to be a problem when I heard the words, "She works for MTVU." Uh-oh. Aaron Sorkin has shared his views of young women enough for it to be clear that he doesn't think much of them, and, sure enough, Aubrey is a drunk idiot who keeps pushing Ron Paul on everybody. We're probably supposed to think it's great when Neal starts dressing her down, but it just felt like more of the dreaded mansplaining to me. But since large chunks of "The Newsroom" are basically one long mansplain anyway, I suppose we can't be too surprised.
Luckily, most of "One Step Too Many" was spent on the better stuff: Genoa. If the next episode could be all Genoa, then we'd be getting somewhere!
There were a bunch of good things and one very bad thing about the Genoa plot this week. On the good side, we got to see Stephen Root (who is always enjoyable, and made me think of how much better "Newsradio" is than "The Newsroom") as a conflicted former general who gets right up to the edge of confirming Genoa, then won't do it when he gets on camera. The moment when he starts hedging is the first inkling we've had that something is not quite right, and it's properly tense and well-played.
Also good is the chilly editorial meeting that starts the show off, which proves, yet again, that the show is best when it sticks to the nuts and bolts of doing journalism.
Now for the bad, which comes entirely in the shape of Jerry Dantana. What's gripping about Genoa is the way that good journalists evidently thought they had a great story and got something dreadfully wrong. But suddenly, Jerry transforms from a passionate but ethical journalist into a ranting caricature of a man, and, with his editing of the general's words, a dishonest reporter to boot. Sorkin has apparently claimed that this is based on a real incident from CNN's Operation Tailwind scandal, but an independent report into Tailwind found "no credible evidence at all of any falsification of an intentional nature at any point in the journalistic process."
Other reviewers have expressed their concern that Dantana was being set up as an easy villain who came in from the outside, and this angle would appear to confirm that. It all feels too simple to me, and I hope that the plot can right itself.
"The Newsroom" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.