Oh, right, the real world again, poking its nose into a show that has largely abandoned its conceit that it covers true events from 18 months or so ago. Yes, Maggie and Jim make a half-hearted effort to track Snowden down in a Moscow airport, before getting on a flight to Havana without him (as many journalists at the time did) and finally realizing that they were in love with each other. Finally, we have an answer to the question: What happens when the entirely stoppable force meets the totally movable object? Answer: It looks a lot like Jim and Maggie kissing. I’ll say Maggie can do a lot better, and I don’t even like her that much.
ACN fails to track down Snowden, though, and Sloan and Mac’s little insurrection brings the world crashing down around Charlie, who is clearly caught between his nasty new owner and his loyal employees. That might be an interesting dynamic to watch—but we didn’t get to see it play out at all, thanks to the time-jump. It also doesn’t help that Novak’s character is a zero-dimensional cautionary tale about Internet millionaires buying news companies. Anyway, just to ratchet up the consequences of new media a little more, Charlie drops dead of a heart attack in the ACN offices, slayed by the inextricable paradoxes of anonymous tweets not equaling real reporting, or something.
That’s when the folk song “Oh Shenandoah” kicks in, and it’s where I threw my hands up for the 10th time in an hour at Sorkin’s incredible, unearned satisfaction with himself. After an hour of lecturing, he expects me to be moved just because he killed a character off with a bolt from the blue and played a stirring American folk hymn over it? No thanks. And we haven’t even discussed the campus rape plot yet.
That’s a whole other series of lectures, delivered by two people: Don, in a quiet, even tone, and Mary (Sarah Sutherland), largely while angrily crying. Don is reporting on Mary’s website, which names alleged rapists on campus who have gone unprosecuted, including her own. Don is doing this for a peculiar and absurd reason: Pruitt, who is apparently the pole star of inhumanity, has decided he wants Mary and one of the men she says raped her to appear together on ACN for some sort of debate. Don is trying to persuade Mary against this course of action, and in doing so, articulates a case for presuming innocence in all matters, warning Mary that someone will hijack her website to ruin a young man’s life.
The presentation of the debate is all wrong—like I said, Don comes off as a stable, reasoned beacon of truth, and Mary as an understandably upset, hysterical creature of emotion, blinded from logic by her tragic circumstances. I have my objections to the debate that plays out, but it’s the presentation that’s particularly infuriating, not to mention the conclusion: Don takes it upon himself to lie to his producer and claim he never found Mary, shielding her from whatever media horrors he might imagine.