Talk about your daddy issues. The main storyline of The Newsroom just morphed into an emotional/psychological drama hinging on the fact that the lead character, Will McAvoy, has serious unresolved issues stemming back to his childhood with an abusive, alcoholic father, something which prompts Will to go overboard, bullying others in the name of protecting people.
Combine his righteous “I must stand up for people even if they don’t want me to” vigor with his unhealthy obsession with MacKenzie and their broken relationship — about which he hasn’t and doesn’t want to get over — and it’s no wonder the guy needs sleeping pills. Seriously, a man who buys a Tiffany engagement ring on the off chance that he could pretend to his ex-girlfriend/executive producer that he’d kept that ring locked away in his desk for four years and had been ready to propose to her when she cheated on him . . . that’s big time messed up.
I found Will’s overarching thread to be fascinating this week. I enjoyed the twists and turns his story took, from screwing up on air and pressuring Sloan to go rogue on air, to needing a bodyguard (who’s delightfully snarky), to arguing that extremist forms of Islam weren’t infiltrating the United States and trying to protect a Rick Santorum advisor from Rick Santorum.
This episode had just the right blend of journalism and character development as many of Will’s antics were still linked to journalism, with the exception of the buying the ring thing. Take, for example, Will’s campaign against anonymous online commenters (“Anonymity is cowardice.”) who were allowed to post whatever they want to his show’s web site without being held accountable for it. Loved his decision to mandate that, in order to comment, people would have to use their real names. His response to Mac’s fear that this would result in stifled viewer commentary: “The result will be civility in the public square and a triumph of populism. I’m going to fix the internet.”
When Dr. Jacob Habib got Will to admit that “I was the bully” during the interview with the gay, black Santorum aide whose chief issue was fighting abortion not Santorum’s anti-gay positions, that was compelling as the scenes went backward and forward in time, from the therapist’s office to the actual interview as the tension ramped up until it was clear that while Will thought he was protecting this guy’s honor and dignity, he was actually being a cruel bully who was humiliating the man.
Sloan’s story was also illustrative as, in the end, both Will and Charlie were okay with having her lie on the air and say she made a mistake, when, in fact, what she pressed her source to admit off-the-record was correct. Lying to protect the source’s honor and Sloan’s ethics (even while unethically lying) was a curious choice for the resident noble newsman to advocate, especially after he told Sloan that allowing a lie to go unchallenged on your program is akin to distributing dangerous drugs to the viewers and the anchor is serving as the drug dealer.
For drama’s sake, I hope Will continues to see Dr. Habib because the therapeutic setting is the one place where we’re finally seeing the real Will, that’s when we’re not treated to shadowy shots of Will staring vacantly into his fridge in the middle of the night.
“You’re being hunted,” Dr. Habib observed, “in the press, on the internet and very possibly literally.”
Will he be prey, an on-air lion or a little of both?
Excellent review. I read most of the reviews of the show before it aired, and based on them, I did not expect a lot. Boy, they were sure off-base. It already is developing into one of the best shows on TV (not TV-HBO); actually, it is shows like this one that makes that theme somewhat accurate. Wouldn’t it be nice if network/cable news were truly like this? I can also understand why the reviewers knocked the show–it demonstrates what goes on behind the scenes in news rooms across this country–and if you are in the business, you don’t really want the public to look behind the curtain.