TV REVIEW: The Newsroom - Amen

Apologies for the extreme lateness of this review; life, the universe and everything has been conspiring against me and ensuring that I have no free time for anything. And in terms of The Newsroom, this is a shame because Amen is the best episode yet.

Following the Egyptian ousting of President Mubarak and the teachers' protests in Wisconsin, Amen sees the News Night team scrambling to find someone 'on the ground' in Egypt to report on the protests giving Neal a chance to shine while the ramifications of presenting the news takes on a much more physical danger.

Not one but four members of The Newsroom family find themselves on the wrong end of violence this week, whether that be at the hand of Maggie and a door (Jim), just a particularly sturdy door (Don), punching the face of Rush Limbaugh on a screen (Neal - I actually cheered at this point, who hasn't wanted to do that?) or, more seriously, at the hands of Egyptian protestors (Elliot). While the underlying metaphor of this isn't all that subtle - these people literally bleed for the news - it did allow some keen character development that had previously been lacking for the supporting characters. It also gave us another Sorkin-esque speech when Will resumes his battle with Hope Davis' bitchy journalist, whose name I forget... but that's ok, she's not supposed to be a fully-dimensional character, just someone we hate. But back to the News Night team.

Elliot's a bit of a bumbling fool, more of a figurehead than a driving force behind the 10 o'clock show that Don runs, but his willingness to face danger in order to help out his EP and his assurances that he was always going to do so demonstrate that, whilst he might not be able to say anything insightful about the US electoral system, he still cares a lot about what he was reporting. It also allowed Sorkin to present another side to Don who was fast becoming labelled 'Irritating Douchebag' in my mental assignments of characters. While I still find it unfathomable that someone as lovely as Maggie would be dating him, the guilt he demonstrated after Elliot's attack and his rather admirable battle with a solid oak door let us see the side of Don that got him hired in the first place. As Will memorably put it in an earlier episode, he's a news man, and Sorkin let us see that for the first time with props to Thomas Sandoski for brilliantly layered performance.

This episode belonged to Dev Patel though, finally promoted from bromance-with-Jim comic relief to a central player in the News Night team. It was released in the character biography that Neal had been a victim of one of the 7/7 train bombings and this was brought out here, in a (mostly) well-judged scene that gave him a well-deserved background. Will's Rudy reference was more than a little distasteful but it did lead to the best closing moment of the series so far, in which each character presented a cheque to Will to help pay the ransom of their Egyptian contact. Neal's arc over the episode was great to watch, showing him develop from the idealistic blogger who finally gets his moment to the guilt he feels when he realises his actions may have just got a young man killed. Though thankfully the story has a happy ending, the drama of the situation really did have me thinking Sorkin could have gone very dark.

Amen was fantastic precisely because, for the most part, it focused on the workplace drama and the situations arising from having to get the best news story, rather than the melodramatic happenstances of the staffers. The comic subplot of Valentine's Day felt forced with Maggie attempting to make Jim take Lisa out on a date because, oddly for a chronically single girl, it was her favourite holiday of the year. As a fellow chronically single girl, I found Lisa's apparent enthusiasm for the most couple-y day ever a little strange but hey, her takedown of Jim in the office was actually rather amusing. However, it did jar with the rest of the episode and while I think Sorkin is becoming better at reconciling these two halves of the show, I still think the inclusion of the staff's personal lives a little unnecessary. After all, The West Wing only ever brought in relationship storylines when they were key to the overall developing plot, examples being any time Abbey Bartlett was brought out to rein Jed back in or the escalating fight between Amy and Josh over an upcoming policy. Do that Sorkin, and you'll have me completely hooked.

Just when I was on the verge of giving up on this show, Sorkin gave me this - a soaring, dramatic and tension-filled episode that allowed each character to shine without resorting to too much melodrama along the way (though naturally, there was still a healthy dose of that). That and a Rudy reference was all it took to ensure I'd be back next week.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of previous episode here.

Follow Becky on Twitter @beckygracelea or find her tweeting for @AssortedBuffery

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