If you’re a fan of closure, then, boy, was the season one finale of The Newsroom for you. Using Sorkin Magic, every character was able to resolve every significant storyline that cropped up this season. This isn’t a flaw, of course, unless you wanted a compelling reason to watch The Newsroom’s second season if you were on fence. The episode left no such motivators.
“The Greater Fool” opens, after a brief snippet of what turns out to be Will’s return broadcast, with Mackenzie, Charlie Skinner and Hale Caesar from The Expendables searching Will’s darkened apartment for any sign of its owner (or perhaps lessee—it’s not specified). Using some tracking skills he picked up from Sly, the Expendable spots droplets of blood leading to the bathroom. Will did not commit suicide, and if he attempted it, he was rather non-committal. He develops a bleeding ulcer from overuse of anti-depressants, painkillers and bourbon, a fact the ER doctor willingly reveals to the search party after a too-short battery of tests.
If The Newsroom has taught us anything, it’s that we do not want to be visited by Mackenzie MacHale in the hospital. Not only does she accidentally disconnect one of Will’s medicine drips, she beats him up with a pillow. Allow me to repeat: she forcefully attacks a man in a hospital bed with a pillow. SorkinDome! While bedridden, Will explains that the reason for his depression, the New York magazine article about his foolhardy endeavor with News Night 2.0, has had such an effect on him because it’s all true. He then proceeds to spout a flood of criticisms that have no doubt been showered on Aaron Sorkin himself. However, after a few days convalescing, Will is reinvigorated by the story of his nurse’s great aunt who is no longer legally allowed to vote in Tennessee as a result of restrictive Voter ID laws and makes his valiant return to News Night.
Detailing Prezbo and Lester from The Wire, Will’s staffers set up a bulletin board chock full of anti-Tea Party logic bombs that prove both that the founding fathers did not establish the United States as a Christian nation and also that Wee-Bey is the Koch Brothers’ top lieutenant. Will and company are only able to unleash these attacks on air after successfully blackmailing (by bluffing, no less!) Reese Lansing and wrangling his mother, Jane Fonda, to join their merry brigade. She tells Will not to miss when aiming at the Tea Party. He responds by describing the group as “The American Taliban,” which seems like a pretty significant overthrow. The sentiment is accurate, but given that they have yet to directly kill thousands of Americans, the statement rings more of absurdity than truth.
Elsewhere in the newsroom, Sloan plots her escape after realizing that the American populace is composed entirely of idiots who are unmoved by her riveting economic analysis. Before she can slip away stealthily, Don confronts her to ask a question about whether he should ask Maggie to move in. Sloan then puts on her Rashida Jones pants and delivers the “You’re not a bad guy” speech from The Social Network, after which she unloads the (largely insignificant) bombshell that she’s single because Don never asked her out. Feminism! The love rhombus is now a love pentagon.
Meanwhile, through a series of supposed-to-be-hilarious miscommunications, Jim almost breaks up with Lisa to date Maggie, who is about to break up with Don. But then Don woos Maggie with hundreds of candles on loan from Skinemax, and Jim digs himself in deeper with Lisa.
With all that said, The Newsroom team should be commended on creating a well- constructed episode. It’s difficult to coherently wrap as many storylines as they did, even if it required one-and-a-half suicides and several dozen death threats. Unfortunately, the two romantic relationships are literally the only unfinished storylines from the first season, but they have such a formulaic feel that it’s abundantly clear the couples will shake out as the audience wishes. Even if they don’t, though, they’re not compelling enough to maintain an audience’s excitement over the cold, dreary months before next year’s season of The Newsroom.