Just when I was getting excited to watch The Newsroom every Sunday night, Aaron Sorkin brings the show to a grinding halt. Last night’s episode, “5/1,” should have been the most engaging and fist pump-inducing installment yet, considering the topic, but instead it was flat, long and anticlimactic. The dialogue was excellent as usual and the characters’ banter was as good as ever, but the action and story couldn’t have been less enthralling, which is sad because the episode’s real life news inspiration was the death of Osama bin Laden.
The only interesting part of the episode is Charlie getting an anonymous phone call from someone telling him that in less than an hour he will receive an email instructing him to go to his office because a huge story is about to break. The person on the other end of the phone turns out to be right but we aren’t going to find out who that person is until next week’s episode. We do know that he works for the National Security Administration and that AWM may be involved in some illegal or immoral activities.
Otherwise, the story is pretty boring, an unfortunate way to look back on one of the most important moments in the United States’ history. If that wasn’t bad enough, Sorkin sinks to a new low, adding the superfluous plot point that Will has eaten a lot of pot brownies and is stoned out of his mind. At least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe. Jeff Daniels is not a very convincing stoner. Regardless of the amount or strength of the marijuana, Will is still able to deliver a perfect broadcast only a few hours later.
The only high point of the show is watching Don, Sloan and Elliot being stuck on the LaGuardia runway and being unable to do anything about the bin Laden story. Don enters a Battle of Wills with a flight attendant and Sloan is trying to rebuff the amorous advances of a young passenger. As they struggle to keep their sanity, knowing that they are missing the biggest story of their careers, the three begin to spook the other passengers who start to suspect the “story” they are discussing (not too quietly) is in reference to a recent or future terrorist attack.
The back and forth with Jim and Maggie also reaches a new level of “Who cares?” Jim has been dating Maggie’s roommate, Lisa, and his feelings aren’t as strong as hers. Maggie inserts herself into his business because she’s clearly in love with him and he’s clearly in love with her but neither will say it because they’re both attached to other people. Sorkin is better than this and hopefully in Season Two he will ditch this story altogether.
“5/1” is the weakest episode so far in the series and, hopefully, not a harbinger of things to come. What should have been the most powerful and emotional episode of the young show turned out to be as lifeless as a corpse and less entertaining than every Adam Sandler movie since Happy Gilmore.