“Sir, are you feeling alright?”
No, Will McAvoy is not. Nor are many of the cast members of The Newsroom. From start to finish, “The Genoa Tip,” was amazing. It provoked real emotion, was written impeccably and further conjured interest, even though from the season premiere we know where this is all going to end. Writer and creator Aaron Sorkin has outdone himself. Working backwards, as we are now in flashback mode, is risky. We know how things will turn out, but Sorkin has enriched the plot and written razor sharp dialogue. “The Genoa Tip” had me glued to my couch.
The episode unravels the beginnings of the eventual Black Op report. Jerry, Jim’s stand-in producer, is pursuing his lead and pulling Executive Producer, MacKenzie McHale, into the fire storm. She is going willingly, sitting on the edge of a story that could rock the Presidency. The Genoa tip Jerry has been waiting for has arrived, leaving Mac uncharacteristically speechless.
As well, Will seems to be in a crisis of his own. The fallout of calling The Tea Party the American Taliban has continued as he has been pulled from the 10 year 911 coverage and is clicking on hateful websites directed toward him. Will is not himself. His image has been shaken, and so too his ego. He’s becoming insecure, playing it safe, everything down the middle. But finally, the stress overloads him, sending him into a tirade in a police station. The end result being he has to be pushed to the edge only to leap off and be himself, hate mail and all.
Surprised, “The Genoa Tip” had an incredible emotional grip on me. It started about a quarter or so through when two ACN News techies look up Will’s first broadcast as ACN anchor. It was during the 911 attack. All other news anchors couldn’t get to the building to broadcast. His delivery was humble, emotional and real. And the realness hit home for me. I’m not American. I’m Canadian. But I have a profound passion for American culture and history. I was brought back to that day, watching from a country afar, in shock and horror. Sorkin’s writing and Jeff Daniels’s delivery brought such honesty to that moment, it has stuck with me since Sunday.
Another shocker was the fact that my least favorite character coming out of last season, Maggie, has become fascinating to watch. Again, Sorkin’s writing needs to be commended, but so does Alison Pill’s acting. She has lost her franticness for a subtle yet completely realistic approach to someone beginning to lose everything. Showing a character flying-off-the-rails makes for enjoyable and sometimes humorous viewing, but it can also be the easy way. It’s much harder to develop a character conveying a multitude of emotions at once, the greatest being sadness. That is probably the deepest feeling I get from Pill. She has created true empathy for her character, although admittedly Maggie is the cause of most of her grief. Young hearts have the benefit of going for broke, but when things don’t work out, they can cause the heart to close up and wither. Of course, I want to know how Maggie ended up with a pixie haircut, but Pill has given much more than expected in her performance.
Also, Maggie’s support structure is dismantling. Jim won’t return her calls. Don has walked out. Her ex-roommate, Lisa who was dating Jim, has just seen the YouTube video. In a brilliant scene, Lisa confronts Maggie. The scene rings of truth, as it’s never over-the-top. There is never screaming or crying. Again, it’s real, a theme Sorkin has driven home during the entirety of “The Genoa Tip.”
What is our most primal response to incredible stress: fight or flight. Jim, Don and Maggie are all on the run. Jim left on assignment, Maggie has just been given the green light to cover a dangerous story in Africa and Don has immersed himself in the plight of an inmate on death row. It is much harder to face not only one’s problems, but the emotions that come from those. The three are in flight. But wherever you go, there you are. Taken from experience, you can’t escape dealing with trauma. Dealing with oneself is one of the hardest things to do, but the most necessary in moving forward. Perhaps running is the first step in understanding that.