Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2, Episode 2 of HBO's "The Newsroom," titled "The Genoa Tip."
Things that are right with "The Genoa Tip":
The Genoa tip itself.
Even though we know it's all going to fall apart, the story of the supposed American war crime in Pakistan continues to intrigue. We get to see the continuing rehabilitation of MacKenzie's character as, instead of being a kooky disaster zone, she displays the kind of sensible news chops one might see in a tough, experienced journalist. The plot seems mostly cribbed from an infamous CNN scandal from the '90s, but that's OK; it remains the most interesting portrait of actual newsgathering in the show thus far, and it's somewhat encouraging that it is the framing around which the entire season appears to be based.
Things that are wrong:
Basically everything else.
The rest of "The Genoa Tip" is "The Newsroom" at its mawkish, self-aggrandizing, insular, tone-deaf, sexist worst. Whereas the Genoa plot shows these people as real journalists trying to navigate their way through a potential minefield, elsewhere we see Journalists As Saints, the greatest people in all of human existence. What's more, everything -- every event, every crisis -- is, above all, about them: Will's 9/11 speech is nothing less than a comfort to the entire country -- never mind how many people were or weren't watching at the time; the execution of Troy Davis is really about Don's emotional pain, not a miscarriage of justice; Neal's arrest at an Occupy Wall Street march is mostly an opportunity for Will to work through his issues.
And poor Alison Pill. Maggie gets worse with each episode. The less said about her ill-fated attempt to delete the video of her bus rant, the better (though it's good to see Aaron Sorkin's distrust of women and the Internet coalesce in one stupendously condescending scene). Let's just focus on her equally doomed Africa trip. She can't figure out why the continent of Africa could be important as a story until she asks a man to help her, and then everything falls into place!
I am grateful, though, because Maggie provides the episode with its most wonderful laugh-out-loud moment. It comes just as Lisa is bawling Maggie out over the YouTube video and saying they're not friends anymore, and Maggie looks all distressed and then the camera pans down to a book about Africa, like, "I'm so distressed, but hopefully this will help people remember that I'm escaping to this random continent I couldn't find anything interesting to say about until some guy showed me the way!" I am dreading the inevitable "Maggie shows her skills in interviews with warlords/something horrible happens to Maggie/she cuts her hair" sequences that are surely coming.
As for Jim, marooned in New Hampshire: I just have one question. Is Meryl Streep's daughter stalking him? Every time he has a pained conversation with Maggie, there's Meryl Jr., hovering three feet away with a "I Am Going To Complicate Your Life" sign flashing over her head. Is it time for Jim to take out a restraining order?
"The Newsroom" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.