‘The Newsroom’ Season 3 Episode 2 Recap: “Run”

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No wonder Aaron Sorkin is quitting TV! The first five minutes of “Run” gives us the most perfect distillation of the Sorkin sensibility we’re ever likely to get, straight from the man of himself. “I’m a douche on the side of the angels!” Chris Messina hollers across the table at an unimpressed Kat Dennings. Game over, mic dropped. Well-meaning self-righteousness, explained by a middle-aged man to a young woman: we’ve reached Peak Sorkin, and the guy’s understandably chosen to quit (for screenwriting) while he’s ahead.

Anyway, Kat Dennings is here because she’s one of the twins who’s trying to take over AWM and flip it like a townhouse in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Chris Messina doesn’t want this to happen because a) it’s his mom who put up the starter cash for the company, goddammit and b) sometime last season he became a person who not only doesn’t despise the news division, but cares about the news division so much that it’s the one part of a massive media conglomerate he bothers to mention by name in the middle of a hostile takeover.

Speaking of that news division, I love Kat Dennings and it’s great to see her outside of Two Broke Girls, but all the guest star love this episode goes to Marcia Gay Harden. She’s back! She confirms Neal is totally guilty of espionage! She has sick burns at the ready for when Will crosses the line from endearingly smug to unbearably smug! “And now when you go to work, you put on makeup every day. Just like me” isn’t quite “Yeah, and it’s the bathrobes that’s outrageous,” but we take what we can get here at The Newsroom.

So Marcia Gay Harden tells Will and Mac not to run the story because Neal will probably end up in jail, but Neal wants to run the story so he tips off the FBI anyway, forcing News Night‘s hand. This puts some strain on Mac’s relationship with an FBI agent, which judging by the shooting range scene is already at reality TV levels of frenemy. There is talk of a “loser’s table” that sets Mac’s character development back by a few decades and a climactic FBI raid on the ACN offices, but not before Neal and Will get the necessary boss-mentor heart to heart. “Ha ha, you used to call me a racist nickname!” Neal says, kind of. “I know!” says Will, and he asks Neal to tell him the source’s name because they trust each other now.

So Neal is on the run, and it looks like the Snowden subplot is going to turn into a debate on the merits of whistleblowers and transparency versus national security. That is an interesting, topical question for a show about journalism to explore! The subplot is even fictional, removing the lecture-y quality of last week’s Boston Marathon episode.

The same cannot be said of the Grace Gummer Twitter gaffe. Seriously: what the fuck is going on here?! Forget the cranky get-off-my-lawn-ness of shitting on social media and what it’s doing to Kids These Days—the premise of the “scandal” doesn’t make any sense. First off, take a look at the Twitter feeds of any major network; the posts consist of headlines, links to articles, and that’s it. At no point is someone posting Daily Show-esque punchlines about the partisan implications of the Boston Marathon bombings, let alone some random blogger who isn’t even allowed to sit with the “real” News Night team. Besides, doesn’t Neal handle their Twitter feed? Isn’t that his thing?

And if this tweet was only up for a half an hour in the middle of the night, why did the conservative media get their hands on it, like, twelve hours later? Don’t get me wrong, Breitbart would totally have a field day over something like this, but…that tweet would be aggregated and archived about thirty seconds after it went live, because that is how the Internet works. Twelve hours later, the conservative media would’ve already moved on to 14 Reasons Why You Won’t Believe Net Neutrality Is the Obamacare of the Benghazi of the Internet, or whatever.

All of which is to say that if you’re going to complain about the way Twitter et al capitalize on our need for quantified approval—a stance I can argue with, but is at least a stance—at least know what you’re complaining about. As it stands, fewer TV lines have (unintentionally) made me laugh harder than Gummer’s ashamed, whispered “…retweets.”

Finally, Maggie’s latest love interest (poor guy, she has only five episodes with him before she inevitably goes for Jim in the finale) is…hacker guy from House of Cards! It’s weird to see him without that furry chinchilla thing on his lap, but he’s a dreamy law school professor who just ran a marathon, and he’s super into Maggie’s decision not to leak an EPA administrator’s embarrassing phone call on moral grounds. Blah blah blah cynical opportunism is no substitute for reporter-source relationships built on mutual trust blah blah blah, Maggie might get the functional relationship she so richly deserves!

Until next week’s FBI standoff, folks.