Last night’s episode of The Newsroom was the season finale, a bittersweet close to a freshman season marked by serious highs and serious lows. We learn from Sloan Sabbith near the end of the episode that “The Greater Fool,” the episode’s title, is an economic theory that explains why some people strive to succeed where so many others have failed. The not-too-subtle metaphor is clearly a reference to Will McAvoy and his mission to civilize the country.
Taken literally, though, “the greater fool” would be a perfect description of Aaron Sorkin and the opportunity he has squandered with The Newsroom. For me, Sorkin’s style of television is almost identical to The Daily Show, a once-great resource of information and entertainment that has devolved into willing blindness and pathetic pandering to its prime audience. Sorkin, as I’ve said before, is a genius when it comes to dialogue, story sculpting and pacing. He wastes his talents, though, injecting his personal politics ad nauseum, which ultimately detracts from the show’s overall impact.
The first season’s final episode culminates in a flurry of activity, tying up many of the myriad plot lines Sorkin has developed thus far. Once again employing non-linear, jump-back-and-forth-in-time storytelling, we glimpse possibly the most absurdly didactic episode of “News Night” yet, in which Will attacks every echelon of the Republican party. He attacks them for voter ID laws that disenfranchise innocent, legal voters who (inexcusably) do not have any government-issued proof of identity. He attacks the GOP for their “re-writing” of history. He attacks the Tea Party for incorrectly claiming that the United States was founded as a Christian nation (this last point is the only one Will gets right).
But what is the real story of “The Greater Fool”? Well, it opens with Mackenzie and Lonny finding Will unconscious in his apartment, having vomited up blood. At the emergency room, they find out he tried to overdose on his prescription anti-depressants, assumedly a result of the “hatchet job” Brian (Mackenzie’s ex) wrote for New York magazine. In the hospital, Will says he’s not coming back to “News Night,” but Mackenzie tries to convince him otherwise.
Meanwhile, Sloan is offered a job in the private sector and plans to take it, letting slip that she has been interested in Don for some time. Don decides to ask Maggie to move in with him. Lisa finds out Jim came to see Maggie that night at their apartment. Jim and Maggie finally kiss. And Maggie accepts Don’s offer to move in together. The now all-too-familiar round and round between these characters is just too tiring to write about in detail.
Sadly, Charlie’s NSA informant, Solomon Hancock, kills himself by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge after Charlie tells him that he is a “disreputable source” due to his inappropriate past. However, Solomon is also the key that allows Charlie, Will and Mackenzie to confront Leona and Reese about TMI’s phone hacking practices. Mackenzie finds out that Nina Howard has a source telling her that Will was high the night he broadcast the death of Osama bin Laden.
Leona plans to use this to justify firing Will, but the Triumphant Trio points out that since the only person Will told about being high was Mackenzie via a voicemail message, the only way Reese, via Nina, could have known was by hacking Mackenzie’s phone. Will is allowed to proceed with the night’s broadcast, Leona doing an uncharacteristic about face and telling him not to “shoot and miss” when he goes on the attack that night.
The episode ends with possibly the most unnecessarily touchy feely moment yet: Will hires as an intern the girl from Northwestern University who asked, in the first episode, “Why is America the greatest country in the world?” Really, Sorkin? That’s how you’re going to go out?
The Newsroom is already scheduled for a second season which will, no doubt, be based almost entirely around the Republican race for the 2012 presidential nomination. I can only hope that the show is renewed for a third season, after Obama is re-elected and when there is a significant reduction in well-known Republican punching bags for Sorkin to rely on for his material.