Last night’s The Newsroom went from incredibly boring to completely gripping in half an hour. In “The Blackout Part 2: Mock Debate” it seems like half the episode was forgotten by the writers. Which would you prefer? A show where the first 30 minutes are great, while the second are mundane, or vice versa? And is that our only option ?

The Players:

  • Director: Alan Poul
  • Writer: Aaron Sorkin
  • Cast: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Terry Crews, Kelen Coleman, Paul Schneider, David Krumholtz, Adam Arkin, Jake McDorman

Episode Title: “The Blackout Part 2: Mock Debate”

Charlie works on the NSA sources credibility, while the News Night team stages a mock debate for officials from the Republican Party. Mac has an epiphany while Neal begins his undercover operation as an internet troll. Elsewhere, Lisa goes off script during a televised interview.

The Good:

  • Son of a Speech: Mac’s staff rousing speech was perfection, until the light came back on negating every ideal she bellowed. As everyone scurried back to cover the most hated dribble, the motive was clear: everything doesn’t work out as it should. Injecting a bit of reality into the moment was a strong move.
  • The Dream: To be clear, they were never going to get that debate. Holding political candidates accountable for the things they’ve said, forcing them to answer questions, and calling them out when they contradict facts is a fantasy. For goodness sake, only yesterday a candidate for the senate stated, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” only to claim he misspoke when later questioned. It’s doubtful the public will take their cues from a fictional TV show, but it’s nice to dream.
  • Marsha Marsha Marsha: It’s been established that watching The Newsroom  is like immersing yourself in a pop culture name dropping bonanza. The Beach Boys and Ed McMahon were mentioned, just to name a couple. The best, and most pointed, reference was when Will accidentally-on-purpose called his friend’s colleague Greg Brady. The brevity of the slight made it no less entertaining.

The Bad:

  • Balance: For about the millionth time, you simply cannot have an episode where everything engaging happens during the back end of the program. Lisa’s interview, the mock debate, the fallout from both, throwing out the rundown, and trolling upon the threat on Will’s life all happened past the thirty minute mark. While all of these things were intriguing, how many people waited around to see them? How do you expect your fans to return next season knowing they’ll have to wade through half an hour of mundane happenings to get to quality material?

The Quotable:

  • “If I was a woman I’d spend the whole day kissing other women. I don’t understand gay men or straight women.”


The Newsroom knows how to clinch a moment. That clip of the CNN Debate in which then presidential hopeful Michele Bachman was asked whether she preferred Elvis or Johnny Cash was gut wrenching because it actually happened. In the midst of the fallout from the mock debate, Mac was able to knock Paul down to size. The key to a superb episode is spacing out scenes like that out so the audience feels connected the whole story.

Rating: 7/10

The Newsroom airs Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. on HBO.

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What did you think of the episode?