Note: don't read if you haven't seen "Election Night, Part 2," unless you don't mind spoilers, in which case, read on!
If you believe Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom" is coming back for a third season. Whether that's a good thing or not is, of course, debatable. But it also raises questions about why the finale of the show's second season was the way it was.
"Election Night, Part II" feels incredibly like a series finale, as if Aaron Sorkin thought the show wasn't coming back when he wrote it. You get that feeling as you watch one, and then another, and then another lingering storyline get neatly and happily wrapped up. There's a distinct lack of drama in the episode--no cliffhangers, no sudden new crises, none of the things that usually serve to propel viewers to the next season. That's relatively atypical for a season finale, but very typical for a series ending, where the focus is mostly on giving patient viewers a resolution to the stories they've been invested in.
So it is that we see Sloan and Don finally acknowledge their feelings for each other, and Reese surprisingly-but-really-not-surprisingly declare that he, too, is against letting the "Newsnight" crew resign, and, especially, Will and MacKenzie moving on from their interminable romantic feud and get engaged. It took about 5 million episodes for Josh to finally do the right thing with Donna, but Will and Mac got there in just 19.
And, since "The Newsroom" can't go one episode without having a man show a misguided woman that, no, really, she's good, and he sees how she's good, and he's helping to heal her, we get Jim, the ultimate sensitive mansplainer, doing this to Maggie AND to Lisa, so vast are his powers, and even their strained relationship is given another chance.
All of this transpires at a very low boil. Last week's episode was quite limp, but I figured Sorkin was saving the big guns for the final round. He wasn't, I guess, and a season that will be noted more for its general dull competence than for anything especially awful or inspiring--save for the Africa episode, which was inspiring in its awfulness--ended on a dull, competent note.
With the hour walking calmly along, I was left to focus on the weird little details. Why don't Jim and Hallie use headphones when they Skype? Why couldn't Neal just look up a list of presidents of the Cambridge Union on the Internet, that thing he's supposed to know so much about? Why is cutting one's own hair suddenly a sign of such intense emotional distress?
Oh -- and why wasn't Jane Fonda in every scene? Maybe, instead of doing a third season, Sorkin can do a spinoff for her.
I can see it now: "The Leona Network."