Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On Studio 60 Episode Eight

Credit: NBC

Welcome back to Better Late than Never. We are back in Nevada for “Nevada Day Pt 2” a frustratingly slow exercise that feels like the back half of a really long graduation speech or something. I don’t know. The metaphor worked better when it was in my head. 

Basically, if it were up to me, this story arc wouldn’t have been a two-parter. But, I’m not a television writer and it’s Aaron Sorkin. He can get away with basically anything. Anyway, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the second part of this two-parter. As always, a mini-review will be at the end.

  1. The loyalty in this cast makes me smile. Dylan not wanting to take Simon’s chair for News 60 is something that needs to be commended. I know that sometimes there is dissension between cast members and not everything is hunky-dory, but sometimes, or, maybe, most of the time, casts get along with each other and it’s against their nature to step on anyone’s toes. This is Dylan and Simon and I love that about this group of actors. You get the sense that they really care for each other and that’s nice to see. 
  2. Danny is the executive producer of the show. He oversees Harriet’s career and, basically, her personal life far more than he does with Jordan, and yet here he is, talking to Jordan about covering her bacon. I swear, Sorkin is setting Danny and Jordan up but like Donna and Josh, he’s taking forever to get there and it’s driving me nuts. 
  3. This judge, whom I can’t remember his name, is one piece of work. I don’t exactly know what his long game is but he is driving me up the wall about as much as he’s driving Jack, Danny, and Simon up the wall as well. But I still love John Goodman, so he’s forgiven, but still. I feel like this whole arc is just taking far too long to get through. 
  4. “No, we’re not.” “But we will be.” Danny, say it with a little bit more conviction next time, will you? 
  5. I love Thomas Del Ruth’s camera work in this episode. I, actually, like his camera work in every episode, but there’s something about the circular tracking shot while Harriet goes over her News 60 lines that just makes me smile. It’s so nice to watch and gives the audience a fuller view of what’s going on behind the actors as they’re prepping. 
  6. “I don’t like network presidents vocationally.” Keep telling yourself that, Danny, because I have a feeling that something is going to happen with you and Jordan and it’s going to be obvious to everyone but yourself. 
  7. Dylan’s anxiety is giving me anxiety. It’s ridiculous, but at the same time, I totally understand the place he’s coming from. 
  8. Sometimes the business parts of this show are boring. This conversation with Jordan and Wilson is one of those times, and I don’t think it’s Ed Asner or Amanda Peet making this boring, it’s just the whole arc of this episode is strange, all parts of it. It all feels just a bit off balance. 
  9. The look on everyone’s faces when they realize just how important Tom’s brother is. Oh, man. It’s a punch in the gut. No one but Simon knew and every single actor in this scene just acts to pure perfection. Especially as Goodman starts talking about casualty counts in multiple tours. This is what Sorkin’s good at and damn, Goodman and Corddry absolutely destroy this scene. Especially Corddry. That’s perfection.
  10. Everything I said Monday about Jack, I take back. I absolutely applaud his defense of Simon, Tom, and Jordan. It was powerful and from the heart and, yeah, he was at his wit’s end for the day, but that doesn’t diminish that these are words he’s likely been wanting to say for a while and he finally got the gumption to say it. A superb piece of acting by Steven Webber. 
  11. BONUS: JESUS CHRIST. MATT, HARRIET, JUST KISS ALREADY. YOU’RE KILLING ME HERE.

I’m going to be honest and say that this two-part episode wasn’t for me. As such, I’m going to try to be succinct in my review. I thought that while Sorkin attempted to do a lot in this episode and tried to give everyone screen time, I thought the episodes were bloated and would’ve worked a lot better if the ensemble focused solely on one dangling plot thread instead of about five (and I probably missed one). Tom’s story wasn’t the most compelling, and while the pay off was worth it for the performances alone, having to spend two hours in Nevada felt like having to spend two weeks there. It dragged so much. 

The story I was more inclined to follow was Jordan’s, and since Jordan’s directly tied into the whole deal with Wilson White and Macau, I suppose that story is just as important. You can’t have one without the other, as such is the case with most of Sorkin’s writing. Jordan’s story is more appealing than Tom’s because what Jordan is being accused of is a part of every woman’s story and it’s a universal thing even now. Women who don’t want kids are seen as an anomaly, even more so since Jordan is the president of a major television network. 

What makes her story even more compelling is also the way it reaches out to people, men, like Danny and Jack. Both are polar opposites in every single way. Jack is Ivy League, rich, and, as mentioned previously, a misogynist. Danny isn’t. Danny is more street smart and understands the merits of women and what they can accomplish simply by being plucky and determined, two traits that wholeheartedly belong to Jordan. 

Jordan’s plight was surprisingly Jordan light. Why? Well, it’s an obvious complaint about Sorkin’s writing that he can’t write strong women and that’s a complaint that’s been around since The West Wing. This episode is an argument for that complaint. We’re being mansplained to by two (or three if you count Sorkin alongside Danny and Jack) totally opposite men and Jordan is not there to defend herself. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Sorkin tried to do too much with too many people. 

In the end, though, Jordan’s absence in her story led to Jack having a moment of reckoning and Webber finally gets some meat to chew on that isn’t one note or superficial. He delivers his speech about Jordan with such fire and passion and finesse, it almost makes me sad that Jordan and Jack don’t have romantic chemistry between them. Almost. Jack is still a misogynist and that’s still a problem. Also, Jordan’s shafting in her own story is a typical trope employed by many writers to bolster the men and that’s exactly what Sorkin did. Had he focused on Jordan and not Tom and the Nevada mess, he might have had a more rounded out and compelling episode. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Shelby Arnold
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