‘The Newsroom’ Series Finale Recap: “What Kind of Day Has It Been”

Last week’s “Oh Shenandoah” will likely be remembered as the real finale of The Newsroom, a perfect summary of the show’s issues with mansplanation and the 21st century before it goes off the air. There’s almost no point to “What Kind of Day Has It Been,” because at this point, there’s nothing this finale could do to change the reputation “Oh Shenandoah” sealed for the TV ages. At the very least, it’s a more likable sendoff to a show that’s not especially likable, centering on one of The Newsroom‘s most inoffensive characters: Charlie Skinner.

“What Kind of Day Has It Been,” a title recycled from Sports Night and The West Wing, alternates between Charlie’s funeral in the present day and the News Night team’s origins three years ago. During the memorial service in Westchester, Mac learns from her doctor that she’s pregnant; three years ago, Charlie sagely tells Will that being a father lives up to the hype. There’s no real ground covered in the flashbacks that hadn’t already been revealed in the pilot—Will’s a spineless ratings hound, Charlie wants to do real news, Mackenzie’s back from Afghanistan—and we haven’t been with the News Night team long enough to get misty-eyed at all the “remember when?” moments, but the loop’s gotta close somehow.

While Will agitates about staying alive long enough to actually see his future child through to adulthood, Don and Sloan blame themselves for Charlie’s heart attack. Don’s concerns are quickly assuaged by Charlie’s widow, who lets him know that Charlie didn’t want to do that Princeton rape story either, and gives him a ceremonial tie. Sadly, it’s not a bow tie. In the flashback, we find out Sloan was a little bit into Don even before he split up with Maggie, which comes off like a retroactive effort to make the show’s only tolerable couple its main one.

Speaking of tolerable couples, which Jim and Maggie are not, Jim proves himself once again incapable of properly supporting a girlfriend’s upward career mobility. Maggie’s up for a field producer job in DC, which Jim recommended her for, so instead of weirdly negging her new gig, he doesn’t even mention the fact that it’s 300 miles away. And then he throws a weird tantrum about how she didn’t think it’s a big enough deal that it’s 300 miles away. Then they agree to have an LDR, which will hopefully peter out and leave Jim once again teaching himself how to crappily play the guitar on his apartment floor and Maggie free to hook up with Hot Ethicist again.

By far the most interesting part of “What Kind of Day Has It Been,” though, is its weirdly meta ass-covering re: both the Internet and women. First off, Neal’s back from Venezuela, showing off his Hacking Skillz and lecturing the Gawker Stalker guy on how he’s ruined the years of work Neal’s put into convincing Will that websites can, in fact, have integrity. He dramatically shuts down a clickbait brainstorm session (Avatar may have been overrated, dude, but don’t touch The Hurt Locker if you know what’s good for you) from his phone, then offers a slightly tweaked version of Sorkin’s Internet-phobia. It’s not inherently bad, you see, it’s just user-dependent—so as long as it’s one of Sorkin’s motormouthed, hyper-educated heroes at the helm and not some sad, desperate loser like Bree or the Laundromat Lady, we’re good.

Then there’s Sorkin’s take on Silicon Valley sexism, which is both frighteningly accurate and appallingly hypocritical. Dumb startup names and hired models are exactly the kind of Internet-industry satire the world actually needs, but no matter how realistic the plot line is or how well B.J. Novak sells it, there’s no way Leona’s verbal tongue-lashing would land right after the Princeton incident. Anyway, Leona—moment of appreciation for Jane Fonda, who has thankfully already moved onto bigger and better things in the form of a Netflix buddy comedy with Lily Tomlin—browbeats him into promoting Mac to president of ACN so he’ll seem like slightly less of a pig. But don’t worry, he ruins it by telling her via her husband. Feminism!

With that, the dominoes quickly fall into place. Jeff Daniels leads a musical number; Jim’s promoted to executive producer; Will’s horrible “mission to civilize” is echoed in his praise of Charlie’s (literally) quixotic quest to “save the world from incivility.” And in the final shot of the series, everyone looks on adoringly as Will begins another broadcast. Fin.