“What Kind of Day Has It Been,” the episode that serves as The Newsroom’s farewell, can best be described in a Stefon-inspired rundown: “This series finale has everything: Flashbacks, funerals, the naval hymn from “Titanic,” a jam sesh featuring Jeff Daniels and John Gallagher Jr.” Thing is, most of it was completely unnecessary. In actuality, The Newsroom ended last week: Charlie Skinner died, Will McAvoy got out of jail, Jim and Maggie got together—and Aaron Sorkin permanently alienated whatever audience he had left by featuring a controversial college-campus-rape story line.
Sure, there were a couple of loose ends to tie up: Neal Sampat returning to the U.S. from his exile in Venezuela; figuring out the journalistic future of ACN with a new-media guru like Lucas Pruit at the helm without it descending into a version of Access Hollywood. But those relatively important elements of the narrative were swallowed up by a distended, heavily padded 60-minute-plus episode that, when it finally ended, had us going, “Thank God that’s over.”
Since no one wanted even one Newsroom episode without Sam Waterston’s Charlie, Sorkin provided us with a harsh trade-off: We got plenty of Waterston, but in the form of tiresome flashbacks that documented how Charlie—along with a bit of MacKenzie McHale’s added muscle—masterminded News Night 2.0 three years earlier. The big “reveal” was that Charlie had been planning a News Night overhaul well before Will had his cathartic breakdown at Northwestern—a breakdown, it’s subtly suggested, that Charlie was kinda-sorta the puppeteer on. Charlie sought out Mac during her weekly 11am-on-a-Monday drunken bowling workout (hey, she was wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt), and offered her the executive producer gig with choice flattery like the fact that she brings out the best in Will.
Next thing we know, Mac’s heading into the auditorium at Northwestern and promising to show Jenna Johnson (a.k.a. “Sorority Girl”) how to be first in line at the microphone. And, because we know Sorkin couldn’t bear the idea of a woman being the brains behind News Night‘s quixotic quest to “reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession,” he threw in a scene where a jacked-up Mac implores her pal Jim Harper to join her in New York as senior producer. What’s behind this sudden motivation? Well, Mac’s just read this amazing book by Miguel de Cervantes that was a gift from, who else? Charlie Skinner.
Back in 2013, the ACN crew is officially mourning Charlie—first at his funeral, then at a gathering at the Skinner home in Westchester—but in reality, they’d all moved on to their own issues before rigor mortis even set in, because, first-world problems. Mac’s pregnant! Maggie Jordan’s got a shot at a field-producing job in Washington, D.C., which immediately puts her relationship with Jim Harper in peril! (file that one under: Who Cares?) Don Keefer and Sloan Sabbith think they killed Charlie with their insubordination! Hey, has anyone even mentioned Neal?
NEXT: Jane Fonda Saves the Day