Man, Aaron Sorkin sure does love to pop that idealism balloon the second after he inflates it, huh? Because tonight's episode of The Newsroom, titled "Unintended Consequences" showed us that the real killer of dreams, stories, potential, and the like has been capital-I idealism all along. Not because of timing (oy, but will we ever get over that 9/11 first-day bullshit? Signs point to no), but because idealism kills potential (cough cough Occupy Wall Street) when it's taken without foresight. It also just so happens to kill one's spirit, potential, stories (on HBO or otherwise: zing!), and sometimes — in the most fucked up of circumstances — small children. But let's not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.
So what sort of idealism reared its ugly head and killed the unwitting masses? Well, lots. Because in Aaron Sorkin's world, the only people who win are the consummate idealists. Thankfully, such stuff is also the heroic flaw in this Greek tragedy. So who's an idealist? Well, everyone. (Yeah, I know.) The government is an idealist about their contributions to the world — look all the good our troops are doing in Africa! Pay no mind to all that other stuff. So, too, are the liberal-masquerading-as-Republican-news-anchors. Will McAvoy and his will-he-ever-stop-talking-about Don Quixote delusions of grandeur have him convinced that people will accept his actions for the face value reason given, no questions asked. It's no wonder he found a kindred spirit in Shelly, the Occupy Wall Street not-leader-leader whom he offended during his first class flight to egotown in the name of tempered moderation.
But it didn't all come from a selfish place: Maggie was an idealist about, well I mean, what isn't Maggie an idealist about in one way or another? But Sunday night brought a bit of heart (and much-needed exposition) onto the goings-ons in and around Maggie's skull. Namely, her hacksaw haircut and far-too-coppery gingerdom. Sure, everything in Maggie's world comes from a place of rainbows and hope that only ladder-climbing, career-oriented twentysomethings can muster, but her desire to be the "Africa Expert" was endearing nonetheless. Which is nice until you've got a small child on your back in the middle of Africa and raiders are shooting at you because of the camera Gary CooperNotThatOne is holding in his hands. Woops! Turns out: idealism can be deadly. Suddenly, Pastor Moses' off-handed commentary about blonde hair (Trouble!) is a catalyst for shame, guilt, and one of the worst haircuts on television. Boom.
All in the name of valiance above all else!, is probably what they're thinking. Unfortunately, such intended efforts don't always exact themselves as such, and so we're left with a lot of very smart people, faffing about with reckless abandon, hoping something will stick. Just look at poor Jerry Dantana and the whole Genoa thing. The slowest-moving story in news because, oh gosh, it's clearly the big clincher of the season and needs build into a slow burn before it fucks everyone in the end. Aww shucks, Willie Pete, ya brute! Which is not to say that the news isn't important — quite the opposite — but when it becomes so important that it is easier to blame someone's mental state (weak-willed women! They're everywhere and ruining everything unless you're Jim Harper in which case, get in awwwwwwhn!) than admit that maybe it was your own idealism and hope for justice that killed the story in the end? Not cool, bro. Even idealism has duality.
See, guys? Sorkin's a two-sided coin kinda guy. In that he likes to remind you that idealism rules except for when it doesn't. And sometimes idealism in a show lends itself to smugness. How 'bout that for unintended consequences?