- Will's opening rant from the pilot, where he dresses down his fellow Americans for claiming that the United States is the greatest country in the world before pleading with them to regain lost greatness. (As has been mentioned about a past show of Sorkin's, "this is like porn for speechwriters and playwrights.")
- IT'S NOT. BUT IT CAN BE. (At which point everyone who had ever watched a Sorkin show went, "Yep, there he is.")
- Right after that, he asks in a breathless voice, "What did I say out there?" Letting go years of pent up disappointment, anguish and self-loathing will do that to ya. Even he doesn't believe he did that.
- Will and the News Night team scrambling to do a complete hour-long show on the fly, especially considering few people thought the story was worth covering. Turns out it was the BP Oil Spill, and immediately after the broadcast Will checks the news alerts just in time to see it go red and confirm that their show had the scoop of the decade with explosive exposes and revealing interviews.
- Not to mention that Will does the entire hour without a prompter, meaning he's doing this blind, working out names, details and questions in his head, off the cuff sometimes, or through MacKenzie in his earpiece, and he does this without dropping the ball once. To quote Mackenzie, "Nothing on the prompter is what this man eats for breakfast."
- Also of note is the way the episode frames the story: The first 25 minutes of the episode is about the characters, setting things up, and then Jim sees the yellow news alert, and points it out...and the date shows up for the viewer: April 20, 2010. It becomes immediately clear that the show is going to focus on real news events, and that the seemingly minor news story is a lot bigger than it appears. Masterful cinematography.
- Will's mea culpa editorial after he commits to doing more responsible news, followed by a solid hour of him sticking it to the Tea Party.
- Unloaded or not Will slapped a gun out of his date's hand and into the air, caught it, and flipped it in his hand so he's pointing it at her Gangsta Style.
- Jim not getting his head wound looked at at a hospital so he can keep working is a pretty minor one, but still awesome.
- Will ripping that tabloid writer a new one after she has the gall to put herself on the same level as, not him, but rather his people.
Will: I’ve got a guy on my staff who got hit in the head with a glass door Thursday. His forehead wouldn’t stop bleeding but he wouldn’t go to a doctor ‘cause I got another guy who got beat up covering Cairo, and the first guy wouldn’t see a doctor until the second guy saw a doctor. I’ve got a producer who ran into a locked door ‘cause he felt responsible for the second guy. I’ve got an 18-year-old kid risking his life halfway around the world and the AP who sent him there hasn’t slept in three days. I’ve got 20-somethings who care about teachers in Wisconsin. I’ve got a grown woman who has to subtract with her fingers staying up all night to learn economics from a PhD who could be making 20 times the money three miles downtown. They’re journalists.
- Will and Don flatly refusing to report Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) dead before it was confirmed by a doctor, despite all other channels running reports that she had not survived the shooting. That took guts.
Don: It's a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.
- Oddly, a guest who Will badgers (he's an advisor to conservative presidential candidate Rick Santorum who is both gay and black) gets a fantastic one when he takes Will to task for reducing him to his gayness and blackness, and tells Will in a rant that while he disagrees with Santorum on LGBT equality, he is much more offended by Will's attempt to "protect" him.
- Sloan tearing a strip out of Charlie for calling her "girl". Calling out his sexism took an insane amount of courage.
- Will McAvoy does the broadcast of his life while stoned off his mind without making a single mistake. Now, he did bring it on himself, but still - that was amazing.
Mackenzie: Do it for me, Will.
Will: Good evening. From New York City, I'm Will McAvoy. ACN is now able to report and confirm that for the first time in almost three decades, the world has no reason to fear Osama bin Laden. In just a moment, in a live address to the nation, the President will announce that in a coordinated operation under the cover of darkness, US special forces tonight killed the leader of Al Qaida and the mastermind behind the deadly attack of September 11, 2001. It has been nine years, seven months, and twenty days since America's most wanted criminal took from us 2,977 American sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, friends and colleagues. We were transformed that morning into a different nation, more fearful and so of course more hostile. And while nothing, not even this victory our country has waited for for such a long time, can bring back the souls lost on that terrible morning, in New York City, in Virginia, in a field in Pennsylvania, and all across America and the world, let tonight serve as a welcome reminder that throughout our history, America's darkest days have always been followed by its finest hours. Here now, from the East Room of the White House, the President of the United States.
- The pan to a monitor showing the president and then the playing of his speech over the credits really has its own kick of awesome.
- Don ruthlessly deconstructing Nancy Grace in "Tragedy Porn". Goddamn does that man know his job!
- Sloan's "put the pin back in the grenade" speech from "Tragedy Porn".
Sloan: Unless there's a rally in the next 90 minutes, the Dow is gonna close down about 2.5%, S&P NASDAQ will close down 2.3. Let me tell you why.
Mac: I don't own a lot of stock...
Sloan: Let me tell you why.
Mac: [upset] I really can't deal with this right now—
Sloan: [raising her voice] Stop avoiding this! I just got off the phone with these guys. Listen to these quotes. These aren't from liberals. These are hardcore Wall Street guys who, whatever the world may think of them, know what they're talking about and so do I. Jamie Dimon at Chase says: "Voting against raising the debt ceiling would be a moral disaster." The Barclay's guys say "This debate is detached from reality." My Goldman source says: "If the House Republicans continue this debate, I hope they're willing to mark the end of the dollar as the Global Reserve Currency." Please notice that he didn't say: "If the House Republicans don't raise the debt ceiling." He said: "If the House Republicans continue this debate." That's all it takes. Just the uncertainty. That's why the Dow is gonna close down 230 points today. Because just the debate. Just the doubt. Just the possibility that the House Majority might commit the greatest self-inflicted damage to the country since the SECESSION OF THE SOUTH has caused billions in value to disappear.
Mac: Sloan, I understand. I swear to God I do. But you can't say the same thing in the C-block?
Sloan: Don't pretend that most people watch ten minutes of news. The first ten minutes.
Mac: The vote isn't until tomorrow night and it's only the first vote and you said yourself it was cosmetic. Why do we have to feature it tonight?
Sloan: We should've been featuring it weeks ago. We should've been leading with it every night.
Mac: Why do we have to feature it tonight?
: To give time
for the people to call their Congressman and say: "If you fuck
with the full faith and credit of the US Treasury, you're fired!" To give time
for the people to jam the phone lines of the District Offices, to give the people time
to say: "I'm a fiscal conservative, and you've gotta put the pin back in the grenade right now
." That's why.
- Don's and Sloan's responses to the RNC guy who wants to use them to host the debate in Will's place. (They're "Eat me" and "Fuck you" respectively, the latter representing nearly the only profanity coming from Sloan throughout the series to date.)
- One of the deleted scenes from Season 1 has Will get heckled outside the ACN building by an irate viewer about a story he reported on the week before. As the guy tries to run at Will he's stopped by a elbow to the gut from Lonny, who in short order pins the guy to the ground, ties his wrists, slams him against a wall and calls for the cops. All the while, Will's calmly talking to a family of tourist fans about things to do in New York.
Will: You gonna see any Broadway shows while you're in town?
[Irate viewer runs at him, gets stopped and handcuffed by Lonny while Will watches mutely.]
Will: (deadpan) Wicked's good if you can get tickets.
- "We're throwing out the rundown and leading with the debt ceiling!" Will and Mac are BACK and it is awesome!!!
- Will's triumphant recovery from depression, nearly killing himself with improper medication, and the threat of getting fired by getting off his hospital bed to the music of The Who's "Baba O'Riley".
- A small one in Real Life is HBO renewing the show for a second season by Episode 2.
- In the first episode of Season 2, Mac and the crew at the control room manage to correct a erroneous recording, on the fly, in 90 seconds, only to be immediately blindsided by a virus that glitches their monitors and threatens the broadcast. They rectify both crises so flawlessly the audience probably never noticed there was a problem to begin with.
- When Sloan's EP Zane gets mad at her for her telling viewers not to invest in a company that manufactures drone missiles, even though it's a smart investment, he gets pissed at her - and at Don for telling her she did the morally right thing. After dragging her into Don's office and getting mad at them both Sloan manages to take him down a peg.
Sloan: Zane, I’m telling people where the fucking money comes from and if you have a problem with that you should speak to the President of the News division Charlie Skinner; and if you ever lead me by the wrist through that newsroom again I’m going to take out each of your god damn knuckles with a ball-peen hammer.
- Reese Lansing of all people gets a minor one in the above episode, too, casually admitting to an indignant Will and Charlie that, yeah, he leaked that Will didn't have the flu for the 9/11 memorial to tabloids. And when they ask him why, he equally calmly reels off a list of (partially understandable) reasons, including their disdain for him, disrespect for the viewers and, oh yeah, the fact they blackmailed him. Topped off brilliantly at the end where it's revealed that Will fudged the tape recording of the Season 1 finale meeting, meaning that he and Charlie have no leverage. Reese tosses the recorder it in the trash.
Reese: I'm the President of ACN. You don't meet me halfway. You meet me all the way.
- Will interviews Shelly, the Occupy Wall Street representative with a series of pointed, reasonable questions like what are their goals, and what would signify an end to the movement. She fumbles every single one of them with vague, non-committal answers as Will calmly and methodically eviscerates her on prime time. The kicker is in the final exchange.
Shelly: Like most of the media, I don't think they're taking this seriously.
- Jim manipulates a very skilled Romney press agent (think CJ Cregg if she were a Republican and on HBO) into saying "Go fuck yourself" on the record. It may have been a lucky break but the little smile on his face right after she says it indicates that he knew she'd break.
- Sloan's rage phase.
- Leona, of all people, trying to motivate Charlie, Mac, and Will after most of them have realized the fallout from misreporting Genoa.
Charlie: We don't have the trust of the public anymore!
- Will's final words at the end of "Boston":
Will: This isn't the beginning of the third act, it's the end of the 1st.
- Also from the same episode, Maggie taking Elliot's place as a newscaster and doing such a great job that all the ACN staff are impressed, with Charlie wondering if she's grown by 10 years. She was so good that Elliot and Jim are crying at the end.
- Don finagling his way out of jury duty to go cover the Boston bombing by arguing that he's a tyrannical leader (and would take charge of the whole jury, which the prosecutor wouldn't want) and he's being served two lawsuits by the same person so he's extremely biased against the plaintiff. Also, as many things with Don, a Funny Moment.
- Will going on air, without a suit, to report that there are two, and only two, confirmed suspects of the Boston bombings, and none of them are Sunil Tripathi. The reason he's going on air without a proper suit is because they're all at the cleaners, and he doesn't want to wait a second longer because Tripathi, who was outed by unethical reporting and bad 'sleuth work' by non-professional internet denizens, has never been a suspect as confirmed by several authorities (including the Secretary of Homeland Security), is not a Muslim despite his name and ethnicity, and his sister got rape and death threats when Reddit and Twitter claimed to identify him as a suspect.
- Don and Jim get credit for blowing open the whole debacle, and Jenna gets bonus points for politely telling Will that he can't just pick any suit off the rack because he's like nine feet tall.
- Will going to jail because he outright refused to give up the source of the classified intelligence leak.
- Sloan taking down Bree on national television over the ACN new "stalker" app that he created.
- Neal also giving Bree a dressing down about he ruined ACN's digital site.
- In the finale, Maggie refusing to take a job as senior producer on News Night because she has an interview for a field producer job in D.C. and she wants to cover the White House one day — even though it means her blossoming relationship with Jim will be long-distance. Even when Jim pushes her to stay in New York, she flatly refuses, insisting that she is going to go for the D.C. job. That is a big, big change from the Maggie Jordan of season 1.
- Just the fact that Mac & Jim were embedded in war zones for 2 years. And that Jim got shot and Mac got stabbed, yet they fly back to America as if nothing happened.