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The journey has been long, arduous, and full of Suddenly Evil Guest Stars, but at long last, the second season of The Newsroom has concluded. But even as we let go the burden of making sense of The Newsroom, let us also honor the yelled-at, the mansplained, and the fallen: The many women of The Newsroom who have wandered in and out of the season at random to exhibit bewildering behaviors and receive the lectures Sorkin apparently believes to be their earthly due.
Which, if Sorkin had been a little less long-winded, we could have done last week. This is the second part of a two-part finale, and the plotlines that seemed like pointless, finale-delaying filler in the last episode comprise the pointless, finale-concluding filler in this one. Remember how Sloan was irrationally upset that somebody had forged a book inscription for charity? She’s still upset about that. Remember how Charlie really wanted to resign and was badgering the Lansings about it? He still really wants to do that, and thus continues to badger them. Remember how Will and Mac were having long, drawn-out conversations in which they re-re-re-hashed their long-ago breakup and no one actually bothered to recap them because they didn’t seem all that important?
Well: Whoops. Because the big news in this episode, it turns out — other than Charlie and Will suddenly reversing their “everyone needs to resign” decision, because of something about cynical times and terminal irony and the kids today, with their jokes and their cellular telephones — is that Will and Mac are to be wed. While we, the audience, are still struggling to ground this sudden pivot from “arguing endlessly about their breakup while flinging ‘fuck yous’ at each other and occasionally threatening physical violence” to “blissfully engaged” in anything resembling rational human behavior, The Newsroom just whisks itself out of our lives on a wave of triumphal soft rock, leaving us to deal with the fallout. And, with no strong confirmation of a third season, this may be a struggle we’re left with for the rest of our lives.
So, let’s begin the healing process now. Sometimes, we just can’t recover from a loss until we bear witness to it, and work to find some meaning within it all. For those purposes, I will now bear witness to each yelled-at crazy lady of The Newsroom, and the role they played in painting the larger picture of What Aaron Sorkin Thinks Is Wrong With The World. Join me, now, in remembering our fallen sistren of the season, sacrificed to Sorkin’s Brogressive Cause of the Week. Also, for the sake of convenience, I will be ranking them in order of the danger they pose to society, according to the respective lectures they endure.
1. Drunk Ron Paul Chick: She’s like, who’s covering Ron Paul? And her boss is like, nobody is covering Ron Paul, so she’s like, we should cover Ron Paul, and her boss is like, GO FOR IT. Proceeds to wander through a sub-plot about Jim trying to schedule sex with Hallie, yelling “RON PAUL 2012” and also “WOO-HOO.” Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Libertarians, the demon Rum, idiomatic language. Yelled At By: Neal.
2. Astorian Sex and the City Fan: Posts a video of Maggie yelling at a Sex and the City bus, thereby causing Maggie to be dumped by Don. Is adamant that her Sex and the City fan fiction is not fan fiction, but rather, experiences from her own life transposed onto the universally relatable storytelling archetypes of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and the other one. Is no doubt currently writing a piercing short story entitled “Carrie Gets Stalked Into The Damn Laundromat By Two Scary News Ladies When All She Did Was Post A YouTube Video, Jesus.” Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The Internet, Sex and the City, women who like those things. Yelled At By: Maggie, Sloan.
3. The Tweeting Women: Their leader’s account of being mistaken for a waitress by Will McAvoy summons them and their demonic spirit of vengeance. They are unseen, and they are legion. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The Internet, feminism, women who like those things. Yelled At By: Will, condescending to make his godly edicts known unto the seething proletarian Hell that is Twitter.
4. Leona Lansing: A villain in the first season but absent for much of the second, she re-emerges in the last run of episodes to re-affirm that she loves News Night and is proud of News Night and will always want to work with the crew of News Night. Not coincidentally, she is quite vocal about being stoned off her ass for each one of these discussions. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The fact that we don’t see enough of Jane Fonda. Yelled At By: Charlie.
5. Marcia Gay Harden, Attorney-At-Law: Despite a strong early showing as the woman who investigates the Genoa disaster, she later decides, along with everyone else, that no one really cares about the Genoa disaster. Sticks around to say lines like, “I look hot. Liquid sex. I just described myself as liquid sex.” Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The Genoa story. Yelled At By: Everyone involved in the Genoa story.
6. Lisa the Roommate: Formerly Jim’s girlfriend, she becomes Maggie’s nemesis when the yelling YouTube video appears. Delivers a long, long, long monologue about all of Maggie’s personal failings, with the affectless voice and glittering eyes of a serial killer. Later bumped into by Charlie while she is carrying a tray full of champagne glasses. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Maggie. Yelled At By: No one. Lisa is goddamned terrifying.
6. OWS Shelley: Dogged by Neal for many a week in the hopes of getting the scoop on this “Occupy Wall Street” business. Tells Neal, repeatedly, that she won’t speak to the mainstream media. Speaks to the mainstream media, at which point everyone yells at her and calls her an idiot. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Occupy Wall Street. Yelled At By: Neal, Will, Sloan, Don, Will again, the New York City police force.
7. Hallie: As a feminist blogger and reporter on the Romney campaign, she’s repeatedly heckled by Jim for being a sellout. Denies that the only “women’s issues” are abortion and birth control. The only “women’s issues” she is ever shown to cover are related to abortion or birth control. Dates Jim, possibly due to Stockholm Syndrome. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Not listening to Jim. Yelled at By: Jim. Dating: Jim. Is There Anything In This Woman’s Life That Is Not Primarily About: Jim. Like Does She Have Any Friends Or Anything: No.
8. Mean Romney Lady: Press spokesperson on Romney’s campaign. Initially refuses to stop the entire campaign and alter each and every one of its processes in order to satisfy Jim. Eventually gets fired from Romney campaign for suggesting they implement each and every one of Jim’s suggested changes. Heedless of the Jim-inflicted damage to her livelihood, she goes to News Night to spar ineffectually with Will McAvoy and offer Jim a job with her media consultancy firm. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The Romney campaign, political campaigns in general, Republicans who are not Will McAvoy, not listening to Jim. Yelled At By: Jim, Will.
9. Sloan: Confounding all expectation, the most consistently awesome female character on The Newsroom’s roster. When faced with the 300-word fact-vomits about tort reform that comprise “humor” in Sorkin scripts, twists them into something from which actual humor can result. Has nude pictures leaked by an ex and punishes him with swift and terrible vengeance even while being victim-blamed by Don. Not without her failings. Says the phrase “drone strike” more than is reasonable. Kisses Don. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Coming to premature conclusions about Olivia Munn’s acting talent. Yelled At By: Elliott, Don, the guy who leaked her nude pictures.
10. Maggie: Subjected to the sequential horrors of having one’s Sex and the City hate-on posted to YouTube, being dumped by Don, mourning a small African child to further her emotional arc, and Lisa. Drinks and has casual sex, which is an unmistakable expression of her despair. Gives herself a haircut, which is also an expression of her despair. Later bucks up about the whole “dead kid” thing and emerges with a renewed commitment to always making wise hair choices in consultation with an experienced stylist. Also, to journalism, or something. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: Women who have casual sex, women who drink, women who take dangerous jobs, women who take jobs, women who date, women who leave the house, women. Yelled At By: Life. Everyone else just takes shifts.
11. Mac: Certainly a compelling and complex portrait of female leadership, in that she pursued the Genoa story and relied upon the counsel of Jerry, and, even if reluctantly, must take partial responsibility for … wait. Married? To Will??? This whole time, we thought the endless “describing the breakup” scenes were just filler around the actual news-reporting stuff, but they were all a big lead-up to a marriage?! I mean, leaving aside the whole “women can’t resist a man who screams at them” thing — which we’ve seen with Jim and Hallie, and Sloan and Don, and God knows Maggie is probably going to elope with the cattle robber who shot that child at some point — this was our strong female leader, our central authority figure outside of the Old White Guy Dynamic Duo of Will and Charlie, and her big story is that she gets married. To Will! It doesn’t even make sense! They don’t even date! Or reconcile! Or stop screaming at each other about their breakup! At any point! Just a bad breakup, and yelling, and yelling, and more yelling, and then, blammo, married. Symbolizes Everything Wrong With: The fact that innocent people watched this season in search of nothing more than a decent story. There we were, expecting some kind of a satisfying ending to months full of labyrinthine storylines and Evil Jerry and Evil Jerry’s Frivolous Lawsuit Jamboree, and … this is what we get. Just, bang, married. Yelled At By: The thousands who have fallen prey to The Newsroom. And by Will. Have fun with that, Mac! Have fun being married!
12. Sorority Girl Intern: Yelled at by Will in the first season for asking why America is the greatest country in the world. Told by Will that she was the reason America is the greatest country in the world, meaning that she decided to work for the guy who yelled at her, for no pay. Disappeared into the background at some point, I don’t know, maybe there was a scene where she talked to Neal or something? Like the promise of the once-great American nation, her whereabouts are unknown.
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Jude Ellison Sady Doyle is an In These Times contributing writer. They are the author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why (Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown. You can follow them on Twitter at @sadydoyle.