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'The Newsroom' review: What kind of finale has it been?

Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston in "The Newsroom" season

Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston in "The Newsroom" season 3, episode 1. Credit: HBO / Melissa Moseley

If any "Newsroom" fan actually expected "The Newsroom" to end ...without Mac learning she was pregnant (and ACN president)... or without Will singing Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis" ...or Jim Harper declaring his undying love for Maggie Jordan... or Neal Sampat defenestrating those Buzzfeed wannabes...or Sloan and Don essentially deciding they didn't kill Charlie after all... or Charlie Skinner -- who died in last week's episode -- picking up a doorstop (“Don Quixote”) for journalistic inspiration during the flashback scenes.…

....or most of all, without Aaron Sorkin deploying every last melodramatic tear-pulling heart-tugging gimmick from here to eternity -- in fact, along with a few gimmicks from "Here to Eternity" I would imagine...

....than they were emphatically set straight by Sunday’s series finale, "What Kind of Day Has It Been."

 (Even after all that, I was still left with one essentially basic question that wasn't really answered: If Charlie was so beloved, then why not a single tear at his high church send-off?)

Whatever: We take what we can get with an Aaron Sorkin drama, and what we essentially got Sunday was every last lumpen love-conquers-all moral without which half of all MGM musicals from 1935 through 1953 would essentially have never even been made.

But I did like that quiet ending...a tick of the clock, a quiet last survey of the newsroom, one more glance at that sturdy professional gaggle of upstanding professional journalist decisions-makers, and Will's Great Man head filling the screen one last time, with just two words: "Good evening."


 The flashbacks: Some of those were good too, and a full circling back to how this all began and why, which was helpful if not entirely necessary or fully illuminating, for while we did learn why Will was forcibly set on the high road to quality journalism, we never entirely learned why he took the low road in the first place or what lead to Charlie's initial epiphany either. 

 But all in all, I was still disappointed with the finale: It felt like a series wrap for a series that was essentially told to hurry up...and wrap, nor to bother too much with complexities or nuance, because that would just get in the way of the romantic grace notes and corny circle of life stuff (a call from the OB-GYN to Mac at the funeral to tell her she was pregnant).

The third and final season was -- I think -- Sorkin's recapitulation of a theme that has energized this series from the start, about the importance of journalism, television journalism in this case, and how human and corporate fallibility have led to its slow motion demolition.

But I also think he set up a straw man argument to do the work of that recapitulation in the 3rd -- that "citizen journalists," armed with their keyboards and social media gimmickry, had seduced the professionals, and that they  -- like some choir of Sirens trying to lure Odysseus and his men onto the rocks -- needed to be ignored or diminished.

The tragedy was supposed to be that Charlie, in his dotage, finally succumbed to them, along with a new craven corporate overseer, Lucas Pruit (who is exactly what Ryan Howard would have become -- given enough time and distance from Scranton).

(It's easy to hate the Internet, Mr. Sorkin, but sometimes -- in fact, oftentimes -- it does some good things, and plenty of good things in journalism too).

Nevertheless, this fascinating ride is over. While the end disappointed, I loved "The Newsroom," for its passion and beauty and heart. And that seems to me the best note to end on. 

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