Critics React to The Newsroom's Controversial Penultimate Episode

See reviews for Aaron Sorkin's 'Oh Shenandoah.'

by | December 8, 2014 | Comments

The penultimate episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, “Oh Shenandoah,” stirred up a lot of internet chatter this week — especially with critics.

See what the reviews have to say about Will’s cellmate, Sloan’s stalker interview, Charlie’s final stand, Jim-Mag’s kiss, and Don’s problematic interview. Caution: BIG spoilers ahead.

ATTENTION: SOME OF THE QUOTES BELOW CONTAIN SPOILERS

ON DON’S DORM ROOM INTERVIEW:

James Poniewozik, TIME Magazine:
The most baldly offensive thing in “Oh Shenandoah” was watching Don mansplain rape to a woman. But to focus only on that would be to diminish the sheer, monumental, top-to-bottom -splaininess of this episode.

Sarene Leeds, Entertainment Weekly:
In one of the most poignant scenes on The Newsroom to date, Mary and Don have a powerful back-and-forth about the subject that frustratingly remains so taboo in 2014 society: speaking out against sexual assault.

David Sims, The Atlantic:
After Don softly informs Mary of all the flaws in her arguments and nods sadly at each one of her rebuttals, he goes home having learned nothing but presuming himself all the wiser. That’s the episode in a nutshell. We haven’t learned a single thing, but Aaron Sorkin sure thinks we have.

Robert Ham, Paste Magazine:
Sorkin practically encourages women to keep their mouths shut about sexual assaults and rapes, until the gatekeepers determine that it’s okay to speak up, or there’s irrefutable evidence of such a crime.

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox:
The crux of the scene — and the thing that has people so angry — is a moment when Don tells the student that he thinks her site is, essentially, equivalent to revenge porn.

Christine Orlando, TV Fanatic:
Don was given an assignment from hell. Either put a young woman who claimed she was raped up against the man she’s accusing on live TV or lose his job. His pre-interview with the woman was devastatingly raw and honest. She was looking for justice she was probably never going to find and most certainly won’t be found on TV.

Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker:
When it comes to disconcerting timeliness, no scene from this episode stands out like the one in which the executive producer Don Keefer pre-interviews a rape victim.

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times:
The scene might infuriate some viewers, but I thought it did a pretty good job of capturing both the frustration of students who have been assaulted and the hazards of trying to seek justice outside the legal system.

Eric Thurm, Grantland:
Others will write more in-depth about the reasons this story — in which Don attempts to convince a rape victim at Princeton not to go on the air and confront her rapist — is grotesque and anti-feminist. Suffice it to say that a middle-aged white man telling a collegiate rape victim how best to go about responding to her rape, without even actually having the young woman in the room, is atrocious.

Drew Grant, New York Observer:
Rapesplain: It boggles the mind.


ON MAGGIE AND JIM’S MOSCOW MOMENT:

Ben Travers, IndieWire:
After three seasons of build-up, the two characters forced into compatibility hooked up on the long plane ride to Russia. Do we care? Not really.

Libby Hill, AV Club:
Jim is still awful. Maggie is still easily swayed by Jim, who is awful. They kiss, and the waves of revulsion, they are suffocating.

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times:
Jim and Maggie deserve each other.


ON WILL’S CELLMATE SURPRISE:

Libby Hill, AV Club:
Oh, good, Will has a ghost dad hanging out with him in jail. How fun and not at all laughable. It is definitely not a ridiculous premise made worse by being jammed in an already overstuffed episode.

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times:
The scenes are a series of uninspired, stereotypical prison conversations that somehow don’t make more sense on a second, more informed viewing (I checked).

David Sims, The Atlantic:
Sorry to spoil the twist ending in a twist-laden episode, but the reveal that Will’s prison-mate (played by Kevin Rankin) was actually a blast-from-the-past vision of his own abusive father must have sent heads into desks all around the country.


ON SLOAN’S STALKER APP TAKEDOWN:

Christine Orlando, TV Fanatic:
Sloan was the star of the show when she went after the creator of the stalker app. It’s horrendous that just because someone makes a living entertaining the public, they and their family have to be hunted down in their daily lives.

David Sims, The Atlantic:
Forget the implausibility of the idea that Pruitt has somehow, in seven weeks, hired a whole team of sniveling tech hobgoblins to hollow out the network. This whole nightmare scenario was just one Sorkin rant too far.

Sarene Leeds, Entertainment Weekly:
So, Sloan, in the epitome of the character’s awesomeness, using little more than facts and Bree’s overly inflated ego, turns the tables on Pruit’s new pet by transforming his on-camera interview into a superb takedown of both him and ACNgage. The best part is when she grills Bree on his “vetting process” for ACNgage’s “citizen journalism.”


ON CHARLIE’S UNTIMELY END:

Sarene Leeds, Entertainment Weekly:
RIP, Charlie. You were ACN.

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times:
It was a scene that probably made you either shed a tear at the pathos or groan at Mr. Sorkin?s shameless overstatement. (Full disclosure: I groaned.)

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox:
He was so frantic and over the top that his first line of dialogue might as well have been, “Hi, I’m going to die in this episode,” because he had a heart attack and did just that to close the hour out.

Eric Thurm, Grantland:
Good-bye, Charlie. I will miss your bow ties, grand moral statements, and your drunken pratfalls, and it is a shame you had to die because Sorkin couldn’t think of another way to make the end of the series emotionally resonant without cannibalizing his own filmography (R.I.P., Mrs. Landingham and Leo McGarry — you were the best of us).

Libby Hill, AV Club:
Charlie, poor Charlie. Charlie is the first person in the history of the universe that when people say, “He’s in a better place,” it’s actually true, only because he’s free of the garbage fire that is this show.


ON THE EPISODE:

Robert Ham, Paste Magazine:
I’m beginning to wonder if Aaron Sorkin is trying to destroy every ounce of goodwill that he might have accrued thanks to his sterling work on The West Wing, and his fine movie scripts. Apparently if Studio 60 wasn’t going to be the program that ruined his career in TV, he was going to use The Newsroom to do it.

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox:
“Oh Shenandoah,” last night’s episode of The Newsroom, was a disasterpiece, an episode of television so bad I was gobsmacked by what I was watching. Literally everything about it was miscalculated, with every storyline hitting some point where it became too ridiculous to take seriously at all.

Drew Grant, New York Observer:
I wish there was a German word for how tonight’s episode of The Newsroom made me feel; some combination of horror and repulsion bolstered by an angry smear of righteous satisfaction.

Eric Thurm, Grantland:
With only one episode left before the end of the series, Sorkin managed to produce an episode of The Newsroom that exemplified all of the show’s worst tendencies, to such an extreme that it may make it impossible for me to take anything he writes or has written seriously ever again.

David Sims, The Atlantic:
There’s bad episodes of The Newsroom, and then there’s last night’s “Oh Shenandoah,” the kind of down-in-flames wreck that sets the Internet to red alert.

James Poniewozik, TIME Magazine:
It added up — in a final season that began with the promise of the series becoming better and subtler in the end — as a terrible episode even by the standards of the series’ earlier, most terrible ones.

Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker:
Look, The Newsroom was never going to be my favorite series, but I didn’t expect it to make my head blow off, all over again, after all these years of peaceful hate-watching.

What did YOU think of “Oh Shenandoah?” Sound off in the comments section below!

Click here
for season three reviews of The Newsroom.

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