'The Newsroom' 2.1: You better, you better, you bet

This is his good side.

By Adam Khan

Aaand, rolling!

Season 2 of HBO’s The Newsroom premiered Sunday, and holy mother of Edward R. Murrow was I excited.

The episode, entitled “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers” (a solid piece of advice, although I’m not sure my immigration lawyer brother would appreciate his untimely demise), kicked off with a brand new title sequence. The opening theme has been stripped down to a brisk staccato piano performance, with minimalist string accompaniment. It’s a bit downsized from the grandiose string arrangement of season 1. The visuals have changed, too, removing the images of the newsroom Gods us interns so revere (Murrow, Walter Cronkite, etc.). Instead we see a more modest montage of newsroom set images. All in all, it felt more grounded, and I’m not sure I liked it.

After all, I am an intern.

The season opened with a quick back-and-forth between News Night anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and an unnamed lawyer played by Marcia Gay Harden. It appears the meeting is the result of a faulty story that News Night ran and was forced to retract, and is currently being sued over. Maggie (Alison Pill), a producer, walks into the room for a moment with a new clipped hairdo and an anxious face. After a light interrogation, it is revealed that Maggie suffered some type of horrific incident while reporting in Africa, a clear nod to the dangers that many real female reporters have faced while in dangerous areas (Tahrir square, for example). Will reveals that a perfect storm-series of events led to the faulty broadcast identified by the word “Genoa.”

This perfect storm appears to be the running plot of season 2, with each subsequent episode providing more detail as to how the News Night team found themselves in the middle of a career-ending lawsuit. Not a bad narrative device, I’ll say. Hey, it worked for (500) Days of Summer.

We actually get a decent amount of background in episode 1: An unseen Atlantic Cable News political reporter drunkenly jumps into a pool while covering the 2011 Republican primaries, breaking his ankle on a concrete ledge. Senior News Night producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.), angered by watching office crush Maggie fawn over fellow producer Don (Thomas Sadoski), volunteers to follow then-trailing GOP candidate Mitt Romney for two weeks. To replace Jim, executive producer Makenzie (Emily Mortimer) turns to a Washington producer, Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater), who is eager to make his mark. In an attempt to stand out, Dantana requests a new military panelist for a roundtable discussion on drones. After the show, which doesn’t go well, the panelist tips Jerry off to the biggest story of his career—something called “Operation Genoa.”

These tipping dominoes start off the story arc of season 2. The rest of the episode, while not crucial to the overall plot, was still a joy to watch. Highlights included the comical imploding of Maggie and Don’s fitful relationship over a leaked YouTube video, the fledgling days of Occupy Wall Street (with a rather snarky portrayal of the pseudo-intellectual hippies that fueled it) and ACN’s struggle to retain political favor after Will’s remark that the Tea Party is the “American Taliban.” (Watch season 1 for more details).

Overall, the premier sparkled. Moral standards, impossibly fast dialogue that you don’t understand all the way but feel smart listening to, references to the Who—it was an intern’s dream. The story arc is just what season 2 needs to maintain interest without boring the public with recent history (as if learning about current events is so bad), and the new streamlined, sexy approach comes off without too much preachiness.

Grade: A-

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