Press Recap: For The Greater Good

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 27, 2019 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
Press Season 1, Episode 4 recap: "Magic"


“Magic” exposed the ugly truth that sometimes the right thing isn’t the best thing, and Holly took matters into her own hands.

This recap of Press Season 1, Episode 4, “Magic”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Now more than ever, being political is difficult. Human beings are inherently tribalist, longing to belong to something bigger than the individual. We see it in the football teams we support, the parties we vote for, the side of the spectrum where we plant our moral flags. We want the world to be as simple as it appears from the outside of the offices of The Herald and The Post; blue and red, left and right, one against the other. Pick.

Holly (Charlotte Riley) picked The Herald. She’s left-leaning and concerned about ethics, the truth, fairness; all those things that a liberal newspaper claims to stand for. Correction: All those things that a liberal newspaper does stand for. But what we learned in the previous episode, and what she learns harshly in this one, is that upholding those values doesn’t always get the job done. The Post was able to expose Joshua West (Dominic Rowan) as a sexual predator because of their populism, their bottomless pockets, their underhanded sneakiness. These are traits Holly has always seen as reprehensible. In Press Episode 4, she begins to see them as necessary evils.

In truth Holly, despite her job role being the handling of mundane admin duties, is as much of a principled, crusading journalist as James (Al Weaver), who is vetted in “Magic” by an insufferable toff socialite to see if he’s worthy of interviewing her friend Josh West. He is, and The Herald gets the interview, and he asks the toughest possible questions about West’s affair with a girl who was only 15 at the time their relationship began. It’s a win for the paper, who need one after missing a printing altogether and then being forced to waste the next day’s front page on an apology for doing so. But it was Holly who dug up in the damning info, against the explicit instructions of Amina (Priyanga Burford), who has decided both not to resign and to continue sleeping with Peter (Brendan Cowell).

The point is that nobody is quite as moral as they claim. All that business about resigning — and Peter’s Spartacus-style offer to resign with her — was just hot air; a panicked, desperate woman flailing for a way out of a crisis. James is well-known enough within journalism circles to be headhunted for delicate one-on-ones, but he’s so attached to his ideology that he’d have been shut down by West in seconds had it not been for Holly’s sleuthing. The Herald doesn’t have the budget, the resources, or the gumption to tell the kind of stories Holly wants to. But The Post does.

Holly resigning from The Herald and pitching in with its rival doesn’t feel like a betrayal in Press Season 1, Episode 4 — it feels like a smart woman making the right decision. Duncan (Ben Chaplin) is endlessly charismatic, but it’s his pragmatism that entices Holly. She’ll never like the fluff they peddle to appease the masses, but it’s that fluff which bankrolls the important journalism that sinks sexual predators and bullies the Prime Minister. Duncan is right in what he says about tabloids literally influencing elections and having a measurable impact on the world. It isn’t always fair or ethical or tasteful, but sometimes it’s effective in a way that The Herald couldn’t ever be. Holly and Duncan are the only two characters in the show smart enough to admit the flaw in picking a team: One or the other has to lose.

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