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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Greater Fool rules The Newsroom

HBO's The Newsroom presented a season finale this week entitled "The Greater Fool." This episode is so layered, and jammed with so many references, that it's surely worth watching repeatedly to catch everything. The gist of the plot: Will (Jeff Daniels) loses hope, Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) tries and fails to cheer him up, Charlie (Sam Waterston) saves the day in more ways than one, Neal (Dev Patel) oversteps and makes things worse, the Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) / Don (Thomas Sadoski) / Maggie (Alison Pill) love triangle comes to a head in an unexpected way, and News Night finds its voice. So, basically, another fantastic episode, written amazingly, visually pleasing, and with wonderful acting that sells the piece.

As "The Greater Fool" begins, we learn Will is in the hospital and wanting to quit the program. Interspersed are flash forwards showing him in a tour de force tear down of RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) on the air. At first, I want to gripe that The Newsroom kills the suspense of the drama they're trying to build up. But upon reflection, every viewer tuning in knows that Will will get back on television. This in of itself ruins any suspense. So why treat the audience like they're dumb? Fans know Will will rally and this episode will show what it takes for him to do so, so there's no reason to pretend at anything else. The Newsroom knows its viewers are smart, and acts accordingly.

One of the awesome things about "The Greater Fool" is all of the callback to the first episode of the series. The Don Quixote comparison returns in a big way, Will finally realizes that Mackenzie was actually at his college speech, and the girl who asked the dumb question that day is hired as an intern. Nearly a year and a half after it began, there's a pleasing symmetry that ties this freshman run up in a neat bow.

Of course, there are some things left hanging. Can Will admit that he still loves Mackenzie, as we're pretty sure the voice mail says, when he's not high? Is someone really going to try to kill Will? These are questions left for season two, which I cannot wait for!

People who regularly tune in to The Newsroom often do it to be inspired. It paints a picture of what reality could be, if we're lucky. There are naysayers, of course. Charlie and company's effort to turn Leona (Jane Fonda) around to their way of thinking, breaking through her cynicism, speaks to that nicely. In "The Greater Fool," we get to see Leona begin to give her blessing through a combination of blackmail and canoodling. Are the methods worth the outcome? Absolutely. Good has beaten evil, and News Night 2.0 will be allowed to go on. Talk about inspiring!

I like that The Newsroom does not feel confined to play by all the rules of the traditional television love triangle. In any other show, Maggie would wake up to Jim's interest in the season finale, finally ditching Don, who is an inferior mate. But that's not the way it plays out in "The Greater Fool." Sure, there's the terrific Sex and the City scene, where Maggie and Jim find each other. But as Sloan (Olivia Munn) points out, Don is not a bad guy. And when he makes a grand romantic gesture, Maggie stays with him, as most girls would. Jim's decision to keep things going with Lisa (Kelen Coleman), whom he likes but doesn't love, much as we've seen in Don with Maggie, makes Jim no better than Don. Though Don chooses to commit himself to Maggie in a real way, perhaps making him just a little bit man than Jim. For now.

These are merely the highlights of "The Greater Fool." It would be easy to go on for page after page about this episode, the meaning of the title, all of the supporting characters, breaking down each action or word for meaning. The Newsroom is designed to be chock full of substance. But who has time to do that? And even if I did, aren't I just robbing you of the joy of figuring these things out? So in keeping with the show's theme of knowing your audience is smart, I'll leave it here for now. Feel free to comment on the article, or tweet me @JeromeWetzelTV and I'll be happy to discuss any element further.

The Newsroom, my favorite show of the summer, will return to HBO in 2013.

Article first posted on TheTVKing

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