Legal action over government whistle-blowing and an impending corporate takeover—it's all in a day's work for the folks at ACN.
If The Newsroom‘s final season hadn’t been truncated from its previously 10 episodes to six, “Run” would’ve made a fantastic second act in a two-hour premiere. The episode takes place in the span of one day, and it starts at most a handful of hours after Will McAvoy made his “We’re not in the middle of the third act, we just got to the end of the first” declaration. From the looks of things, characters like Will, Charlie Skinner, and Neal Sampat racked up maybe a power nap between “Boston” and “Run,” but definitely nothing more than that.
Even though it’s really Charlie who gets the story line workout this episode, performing the intricate dance of a mediator between not one, not two, but three plot points, the focus is on Will and Neal, who spend most of the day ensconced in the conference room with Atlantis World Media attorney extraordinaire Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden). Former lawyer Will and Rebecca are in the business of keeping their colleagues clients out of prison, especially when Rebecca makes no bones about Neal disregarding (unwitting or not) the law: “You committed espionage.” But self-righteous Neal, ignoring Rebecca and Will’s simple plan to keep him from having a criminal record (i.e. not running his story) wants to be the muckraking reporter who tells the world that 27,000 classified government documents leaked from the Department of Defense prove that the U.S. was responsible for spawning fatal riots in the fictional African nation of Kundu.
We’ll never know if Rebecca and Will would’ve been able to persuade Neal to drop the story in the name of avoiding jail time, but, as he’s done many times before on The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin eliminated that hope by making MacKenzie McHale the proverbial “tripwire” (to use a Rebecca term). Once again, a woman, her big quixotic dreams of bringing truth to the masses and her uncanny ability to influence her fiance (who happens to be the managing editor and anchor of News Night With Will McAvoy) hijacked the Will/Rebecca/Neal negotiations upon learning from her FBI pal that “no reporter has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.” Mac proceeds to push Will to run the story, because who cares if Neal goes to prison for, at most, six months? It’s all worth it in the name of necessary journalism, right?
Neal: “I consider [going to jail] a badge of honor.”
Will: “Well, be sure to show your badge to your roommates when you get there.”
Although, in Mac’s defense, she has a point when she says that if they don’t run the report, “the 39th person killed in Kundu is on them.”
After hours upon hours of witty Sorkin conference-room banter, Will plasters a knowing, avuncular look at Neal. The celebrity anchor motions his protégé to join him in the darkened News Night studio, not before giving his “sorority-girl” intern “Jen-NAH!” Johnson cryptic instructions about takeout menus and unidentified visitors to the Atlantis Cable News offices.
NEXT: What’s for dinner?
In an absolutely terrific scene between Jeff Daniels and Dev Patel, the seasoned, hyperaware journalist confirms his suspicions that when Neal went to the “men’s room” earlier, he was in actuality placing a phone call to the American PR firm that is responsible for planting the false news stories in Kundu newspapers that caused the deadly riots. Knowing that such a call would automatically alert the DOD that ACN, or more specifically, Neal, had a ton of classified government documents in his possession, the British blogger voluntarily sealed his fate. Neal, ever the journalistic martyr, says to Will that he wanted ACN to make a decision to run the story not based on his protection.
Well, Will is pretty damn sure he knows what’s about to happen (remember those menus?), so he advises Neal to start transcribing his notes, tell him the name of his source and to get ready for some off-the-grid living for a little while. Despite a giggle-worthy fake-out attempt on Sorkin’s part—Charlie casually drops the bombshell that ACN will most likely be liquidated unless the Lansings come up with $4 billion in cash, producer Don Keefer goes, “What was that?” and Mac says, “Don’t worry about that right now,” only to have two FBI agents show up outside the ACN conference-room door—the arrival of the navy-blue-windbreaker-clad swarms to seize ACN’s hard drives is an incredibly scary sight. And whaddaya know? One of the two FBI agents? Yep, it’s Mac’s shooting-range buddy Molly Levy, from earlier. You know, the one who assured the neurotic Mac that “nothing happens” to journalists who make contact with a government whistle-blower? To Molly’s credit, she refrains from outing Mac to her colleague, Agent Rodger Hutchinson, claiming they haven’t seen each other since Christmas (it’s April), but her arrival at the ACN studios just made the situation a whole lot more real.
In the privacy of Will’s office, Molly lays it on thick to Mac, Charlie, and Will. What Mac failed to mention in her “hypothetical” conundrum earlier was the very serious fact that Neal helped his source breach government levels of security in order to access those extra documents he requested: “He’s going to Leavenworth.” Good thing Jenna walks in just at that moment to ask Will for his “takeout order.” He hands her a menu, and shortly afterward we see Neal in front of a dumpster destroying his iPhone and setting the menu Will gave to Jenna aflame. Written on it in big letters is, “Neal. Run.” Will may be prepared to take the fall for Neal, but he’s in for a big surprise next week when he finds out that Neal made off with the flash drive holding the incriminating documents. Neal gave Will the key to the file cabinet holding the drive (at Will’s request), but in one of the final scenes of the episode, we see the cabinet has been busted open. The FBI won’t be able to find anything on the ACN hard drives, but since Neal told Will the name of his source, all of the stress falls on Will’s shoulders now. There’s that MacKenzie/Don Quixote influence again.
NEXT: Two Rich Girls
Truth be told, the hostile-takeover subplot should not be ignored this episode, but at the same time, there’s a reason it’s called “Run.” We finally meet Reese’s positively awful spoiled-brat half-siblings, Blair and Randy Lansing, and see the depths of their greed and selfishness. Kat Dennings (Blair) is a hoot as the 25-year-old-but-just-as-worthy adversary to Jane Fonda’s matriarch and AWM CEO Leona Lansing, solidifying her love-to-hate-her status with lines like, “I understand that we were born on third base, but I’m stealing home now.” But other than introducing the Lansing twins, the boardroom scenes served only two purposes: One was so Sam Waterston could say, “I wasn’t in the delivery room because, you know, boundaries!” Two was so Leona could make a grand entrance, put up a noble fight against the millennial generation—and give herself the impossible challenge of raising $4 billion in cash in 10 days to buy out Blair and Randy. It’s a humanizing moment for Leona, because sometimes there are prices even one-percenters can’t always meet.
–There is only one reason to care about Maggie’s story line this episode, and it’s not because her questionable eavesdropping tactics have landed her an exclusive interview with the deputy assistant administrator of the EPA (Hey there, Toby!) and a potential new ethics-professor boyfriend. It’s because of this superb lampshade-hanging exchange:
Jack (a.k.a. potential new boyfriend): “Can I point something out to you? You’re giving a monologue.”
Maggie: “Everyone does where I work.”
–Hallie’s mini-plotline is just a contrivance to remove her from working at ACN—and to give Charlie even more to do this episode (he fires her to get Jim out of the awkward position of canning his girlfriend). But it’s a nice commentary on how both tempting and dangerous Twitter can be—and how too much emphasis is put on the value of retweets at the cost of alienating important news sources. This little worldwide outlet may be a community of supporters ready to listen to our feelings at 2 a.m., but come morning, it can be a vicious hub of backlash. Word to the wise, if you work for a news organization, it’s usually not a good idea to tweet things like “Boston Marathon: Republicans rejoice that there’s finally a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns.” Oh, and Sorkin has a woman make this kind of job-costing faux pas because, well, of course he does.
–Sloan and Don continue to be the cutest, snarkiest couple, as they come out to their coworkers (and themselves) that they’re in a relationship. Who cares that they might end up “white-collar criminals” thanks to Sloan’s stock-market insider information? More scenes involving waffles and crab claws, please!