Friday, December 12, 2014

The Newsroom #305 "Oh Shenandoah" 12/07/14

by Catherine Giordano

Sam Waterson as Charlie Skinner
Sam Waterson as Charlie Skinner
“Til Death Do Us Part”

As HBO’s The Newsroom heads for that big newsroom in the sky, death is stalking the halls of ACN as the penultimate show, episode 5 of season 3, plays out. I don’t see any reason for the name of this episode except to remind us of the haunting words and music of the song by the same name. “Oh Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you.” It’s a song of loss and pain.

Will McAvoy has lost 52 days of his life in his solitary jail cell, confined because he has refused to name the source who stole classified documents. Will is all alone except for a wise-ass wife-beater cellmate with very politically incorrect opinions. It turns out, the cellmate was just a hallucination of Will’s; a hallucination impersonating his father. It’s all the more spooky when the cellmate threatens Will with bodily harm, and Will stands up to him and points out he’s taller and stronger and not a woman who you can push around. This harkens back to a scene early in Season 1: Will’s father has died and Will doesn’t want to go to the funeral. So it’s a father-son reunion in that jail cell as Will deals with his dead father.

Will gets released from prison since the judge has become convinced that Will won't reveal the source. It turns out the source, Lily Hart, is dead. She committed suicide in a dramatic and public way on the steps of the capitol to prove something or other. I’m not really sure, but I think she died for the sake of the plot. Despite the source being dead neither Will nor Mac (and presumably Neal who is still in Venezuela) will give up her name. So noble! But also, they are off the hook for protecting the identity of a terrorist who might be a threat to America.

The leaking of secret documents in the fictional show plays off the actions of the real-life leaker of documents, Edward Snowden. Jim and Maggie are in a Russian airport trying to get on the plane that everyone believes will take Snowden to Cuba. They finagle their way on to the plane, only to learn that they are going to Cuba and Snowden is not. Maggie makes Jim change his seat because she can’t bear to sit with him, but the boring monotony of the long plane ride has a weird effect on her. She decides she loves him after all. They may well follow Will and Mac down the aisle to “until-death-do-us-part” land. The plotline is nicely tied up. 

Meanwhile back at the newsroom, Don has been ordered to find the identity of a co-ed who claims to have been raped by a BMOC. She can’t get justice, so she has started a website where women who have been raped can name their accusers. Pruitt wants Don to find the woman and convince her to go on air with the man she has accused for a bit of a slug fest. It will be great TV, and the woman wants to do it. She thinks she can bring down the rapist. Don tries to talk her out of it saying this will ruin her life. She will be slut-shamed and worse. The woman still wants to do it to bring attention to the issue of women being raped on college campuses. Don refuses and goes back to the newsroom and says he couldn’t find her. Another close brush with reality since this episode aired soon after the Rolling Stone magazine covered a similar story in real life.  

Sensationalism is rampart at ACN since the new owner, Pruitt, took over. He is turning the network into the on-air counterpart of a tabloid newspaper. There is even stalkerati. An obnoxious young man, Bree, is running the website in Nel's absence, and he has started a feature called ACNgage. It’s citizen journalism for celebrities. People can call in “sightings,” and they are reported, but never fact-checked. Sloan is very unhappy about this, so she uses the young man’s smug vanity to get him to agree to an interview. He’s on air live, and Sloan slaughters him. (Metaphorically, of course.) He looks like a fool.
Sloan and Don are both dead at ACN. (Metaphorically, of course.) Pruitt fires them. 

And then the episode ends with a real death. Charlie, mid-rant, has a heart attack right there in the newsroom. He dies.  

What next for the newsroom? What next for “The Newsroom.” It all wraps up on Sunday December 14th, the series finale.
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