‘The Newsroom’ Season 2 Rage-cap: “Unintended Consequences”

The entire plot of “Unintended Consequences” can basically be boiled down to its HBO Go preview image, which shows Maggie having a Bonding Moment with a small Ugandan child. It looks like a post from that White Girls in Africa Tumblr from a few years ago, and it’s as irritating and predictable as this entire subplot. But I digress: there are flashbacks to recap!

This episode marked the return of Marcia Gay Harden as a self-described “funny lawyer,” whose idea of “funny” appears to be bragging about her Upper East Side real estate options to her terrified clients. This time, the client in question is Maggie Salander, who’s the least hysterical and most put-together she’s ever been. This is probably because the entire purpose of the interview is to prove that she’s totally put-together and not at all hysterical after witnessing a Horrible Thing on her reporting trip.

We then watch the buildup to said Horrible Thing unfold in exhausting detail, from Maggie and Gary driving to some vaguely exotic-sounding music to Gary upsetting all the kids at the orphanage with his camera, which they think is a gun in what turns out to be an extremely heavy-handed bit of foreshadowing. Maggie meets and reads to a particularly cute kid named Daniel. Long story short, some men attack the orphanage and shoot Daniel in the spine while he’s on Maggie’s back. She later finds out that the men were after Gary’s camera, quadrupling her already tremendous guilt. As Marcia Gay Harden put it: Fuck.

An obligatory self-administered-haircut-in-mirror scene brings us fully up to speed with Maggie, leaving the episode free to focus on the ever-important Season-Long Arc. We find out in Lawyer Lady’s introduction that she’s a First Amendment specialist, but she’s currently representing AWM in a wrongful termination suit, probably brought by Jerry Dantana after the Genoa story goes south. Jerry’s agitation once the Phantom Tweeter turns out to be a dead end makes it clear he’s desperate for this scoop to work out, so it’s easy to see how things might end with him lying about information from a general with an untranscribable Polish name.

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Luckily, Shelly from Occupy Wall Street (let’s call her OWShelly) tells them about a source right before she goes on the air to get pummeled by Will. Sorkin mercifully cushions the blow of a blatant plot device by having Jerry make a meta joke about how they need something to just drop into their laps. OWShelly then melts down on air, gets irrationally offended by it, and punches Neal in the stomach before she can lead him to the source. One would think a PhD student would come prepared with more articulate answers for an interview on national television, but that extra X chromosome must be weighing her down.

OWShelly demands an on-air apology from Will in exchange for the source, which leads to painful face-offs with both Sloan and Don. Both scenes read like excuses for Sorkin to take even more potshots at his (generally young, often female) critics on the left, using phrases like “persecution complex” and making OWShelly into an ever more self-righteous parody of the Offended Liberal. Her scene with Will towards the end of the episode, however, comes close to redeeming this mini-arc, with our “hero” apologizing in a rare moment of self-awareness. He admits he used the interview to seem like a moderate; she finally raises some genuine objections to Will’s view of OWS beyond “he made me seem stupid.” And that’s the story of how Will McAvoy ended up crashing an NYU anthropology class.

Did you forget about Jim’s campaign-trail adventure already? I almost did! That aside mercifully comes to a close this week when Jim goads the Romney press aide into telling him to go fuck himself. To make up for being terrible at her job, she gives him an interview with Romney, which he then grants to Hallie. This is because Jim feels sorry for her after he overhears what Sorkin thinks is a realistic example of workplace misogyny (it’s overblown, which is hilarious, because his scripts have pitch-perfect workplace misogyny in them all the time, because that’s how Aaron Sorkin actually thinks). Thanks to a Skype mishap that’s a hell of a lot more realistic than last season’s infamous email, Hallie finds out and blows up at Jim for being a naïve, condescending know-it-all. She’s right, but in the Sorkin universe Nice Guys™ like Jim carry the day, so they make out by the hotel pool before Jim goes back to New York and Maggie, initiating love triangle number two.

Much to this episode’s detriment, there basically is no story of the week except the minor controversy surrounding the name of Rick Perry’s family ranch. Will defends it because he’s not enough of an ass already; Elliott says the name on air in an attempt to be as edgy as Will. That’s pretty much it for the week, except Jerry and Mac finally getting their hands on a report written by the OWS source. It describes Pakistani villagers exhibiting symptoms similar to those induced by sarin gas. Sam Waterston gives a Troubled Stare for the ages, and Jerry Dantana is that much closer to getting fired.