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The Newsroom recap: 'Oh Shenandoah'

While Will remains incarcerated for contempt, ACN becomes a shell of its former self, with dire consequences for everyone involved.

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The Newsroom
Melissa Moseley/HBO

The Newsroom

TV Show
Current Status:
On Hiatus
run date:

In honor of the late, great newsman and onetime U.S. Marine Charles Skinner, let’s all raise a glass, preferably containing a good, stiff drink—because we’re going to need it heading into next week’s Newsroom finale. First off, talk about some really bizarre timing with the story lines of “Oh Shenandoah”: If this had been any other weekend, only the last few minutes of the series’ penultimate episode would have been permanently seared into our brains, and it would have been enough. Sam Waterston’s beloved news director suffers a heart attack on the Atlantis Cable Network’s newsroom floor and dies a few hours later—placing the final nail in the coffin on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama. (Because as good as these last episodes have been, no one wants a Newsroom without the perpetually inebriated Charlie Skinner.)

But instead of being the episode where everyone’s going to be talking about how we all ugly-cried over Waterston’s big death scene (oh, you know you did, don’t deny it), “Oh Shenandoah” will now be remembered as the episode with the eerily timely college-campus-rape subplot that aired two days after Rolling Stone magazine posted this note with regards to its own disturbing college-campus-rape feature.

There are other important things that happen in this episode too, but Sorkin has crammed way too much into each hour block (a six-episode season is really failing him here). Plus, the magnitude of the two above-mentioned plot developments makes it impossible to devote any amount of energy to Will McAvoy’s 52 days in prison, or real space in this recap. In short, Jeff Daniels spends all but one scene this episode in tan prison scrubs straight from Orange Is the New Black Couture’s spring line and still refuses to give up the name of the person who provided Neal Sampat with the 27,000 classified documents—even though source Lilly Hart put a bullet in her head on the steps of the Justice Building—preferring to do battle with his bigoted, drunken cellmate who likes to beat his wife in his spare time.

But guess what? That “cellmate” was just Will’s mind playing tricks on him after 52 days in solitary. Didn’t those cues of “drinker” and “beats his wife” give you any indication that Will was just having a long, overdue cathartic fight with his deceased father? Don’t feel badly if you were fooled—I was too, but it was worth it for the clever reveal when Will was packing up to go home (he proved his point after close to two months of voluntary incarceration and the government eventually got fed up with his quixotic resolve): As he took down a childhood photo of him and his dad, we see that Papa McAvoy has the same face as Will’s antagonistic cellmate.

The way “Oh Shenandoah” is set up, other than a brief prologue with Will being brought into his prison cell, we then skip ahead to “52 Days Later.” New ACN owner Lucas Pruit’s mission to turn the network into a journalistically tone-deaf digital-media empire has been a huge success, at the expense of Charlie’s physical and mental health.

NEXT: Meet Don “Quixote” Keefer