Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2, Episode 3 of HBO's "The Newsroom," titled "Willie Pete."
I'm beginning to doubt the wisdom of starting this season of "The Newsroom" having already given away that the Genoa stuff isn't real. It saps the hunt for the story of some crucial dramatic tension. "Willie Pete" ends on a supposedly grim note, as the team finally sees what they think are tweets confirming that something horrible happened in Pakistan. But since we know it's all going to go wrong, it's not much of a moment. We're just thinking, "When is the part where it's all fake going to happen?" That's not the most thrilling way to move forward.
Aaron Sorkin also clearly feels he's figured out a way to get around some of his characters' more tiresome qualities. His strategy is to have people constantly telling them how annoying and stupid they are, thus presumably diluting their annoying stupidity. So we get a bunch of (legitimately funny) stuff between Will and Charlie, where Charlie says things like, "Nothing about that idea is good," "Kill me," and "I really thought we were done with the mission to civilize." So did I, Charlie. So did I. PS: You're the best part of the show and never change! But here comes Nina Howard to put up another roadblock between Will, MacKenzie and true love. Sigh. Also, of course Will would compare his desire for a gossip column not to be written to the American Revolution. Of course.
I will say, to Sorkin's credit, that his gift for banter is coming back to him in places. When Nina walks into the empty company dining room to meet Will, her delivery of, "Am I about to be murdered" works very well.
We then get Meryl Streep Jr. telling Jim that he's being a tired, pompous jerk for constantly peppering the Romney folks with questions -- which he definitely is. Of course, just as Will is ultimately triumphant in his Nina Howard mission, so too does Jim win Meryl Jr. over with his brave bucking of the talking points. See, everyone on "The Newsroom" is only annoying because they care so much and know so much better than everyone around them, which means they're actually inspiring figures we should all strive to emulate. Sorkin's done a much better job this season of curbing his portrait of these cable news employees as The Last Great Force In Journalism, but apparently, he couldn't resist informing political reporters how terrible they are at some interminable length. It's one of those moments that boosters of the show will love and people who just want to watch a decent plot unfold will not love so much.
Though I'm not a huge fan of any of the romantic stuff on this show, the Sloan and Don stuff is certainly better than the weekly trauma of the Jim-Maggie stuff. I like their weird, herky-jerky chemistry, and Don does a chair-mishap gag about as well as it can be done.
Oh, and in "Maggie is an idiot" news: Maggie didn't read the side effects on her malaria pills, because ha ha she is an idiot! She also says the words, "I had this thing! I had Africa!" Maybe I should just write, "Poor Alison Pill" every week and be done with it?
"The Newsroom" Season 2 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.