The episode title “5/1” refers to 5/1/11, the four-day anniversary of the so-called end of birtherism, and also the date U.S. Special Forces attacked and killed the first in a long line of major foreign antagonists, Osama bin Laden. As would be expected, the News Night crew handles the event as only it can in Aaron Sorkin’s wild and wacky world of broadcast journalism.
The episode begins at Will’s apartment, where he and his staff are celebrating the one-year-and-one-week anniversary of News Night 2.0, the hardest-hitting, highfalutinest national news hour in the land. What follows is the now-standard absurdity established in the first six episodes of the series.
Neal’s girlfriend sells Will potent pot cookies, of which he, with his media-elite judgment skills, consumes two. And a Vicodin. Neal’s girlfriend then proceeds to blindfoldedly trounce Jim in Guitar Hero, which begs a series of questions: Do people really still play Guitar Hero? Is this 2007? Did someone bring Guitar Hero to a grown-up party and expect to play it? At this point in the series, it does no good to wish away the Sorkinsanity; we can only observe it with confusion and admiration.
It should also be noted that the series has covered significantly more than a year in seven
episodes, which at the very least is interesting and very possibly unsustainable for the future. What started out two years in advance is now little more than a year ahead of present time, and the show as currently constructed is entirely dependent on noteworthy news events. It’s entirely reasonable to expect that the series might outpace reality.
Naturally, an email from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney informing the News Night staff to get to work interrupts the jubilant Sunday night festivities, and they all rush to the office to figure out what’s going on. (A small part of me wishes they’d been scattered so Will could have blown into a conch and bellowed, “News team … ASSEMBLE!”). Charlie and a reluctant Mac Mac hold back on reporting Bin Laden’s death until they get confirmation from the White House. Will ultimately receives confirmation from Joe Biden, who he is old friends with, but reports it 20 minutes late because he’s so drugged out.
All while this is happening, Elliot, Don and Sloan are trapped on a plane in which a surly flight attendant has enacted Air Law against Don’s charming endeavors to discuss the news with Sloan, who is inexplicably separated from Elliot and him. Ultimately, however, Don has the opportunity to report the news he so desperately wants to when said flight attendant beckons the pilots to Air Law Don into submission.
This is one area this episode and the show in general succeeded: journalists’ fetishiziation of journalism. It takes a lot to work long hours for bad pay in a job that most people hate, but journalists love what they do with an absurd feverishness. Mac Mac’s desire to break the news even a minute earlier than anyone else highlights the absurd pleasure hardcore journalists find in their largely unrewarding job. And for that, I commend Aaron Sorkin’s accuracy.
Even with small improvements and moments of solid insight, the series remains riddled with flaws that just seem innately Sorkinian.