The Morning Show gets ready for the triumphant return of Alex Levy, even as current events spiral and everyone sweats bullets. Can Cory keep the newscast together long enough for it to return?
As the Apple TV+ drama grapples with COVID-19 in its second season, the intra-office drama intensifies.
The Morning Show review: Season 2, episode 2, ‘It’s Like the Flu’
In this week’s episode, former anchor Mitch Kessler (played by Steve Carell) pulls himself out of his exiled depression long enough to read about the wrongful-death suit being brought against UBA by the family of his accuser, Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). He’s having a hard time keeping a low profile because wherever he goes, people recognize him.
News division head Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) has two battles to fight now: One against the lawsuit, and one against his impending firing from the board of directors. His solution, to bring back former anchor Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), has current anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) up in arms. She doesn’t want to have to fight Alex for attention anymore.
And attention there is. When Alex takes a spin around the office with her manager, Doug (Will Arnett), people thank her left and right for taking a stand against Mitch and the culture of silence and abuse at UBA. But Cory wants to hide her from sight until they officially announce her homecoming — especially because he knows Bradley doesn’t want Alex around. Bringing her back is still something of a high-risk idea.
Of course, the second she’s left alone, she makes a huge (poorly directed) scene and confronts current anchor Eric (Hasan Minhaj).
Meanwhile, Bradley calls Chip (Mark Duplass) for advice on how to handle Alex. Despite their brief work history at the anchor desk, Bradley doesn’t feel like she knows Alex at all. And it scares her to think about going back to work with her.
She has a bigger problem on her hands, though: She’s been on a hiatus since discovering the plans for the show — and the network wants to fire her because of it. If she doesn’t straighten up and fly right, she’s gonna need a new job.
Keep your voice down
The worst scene in this week’s episode serves as a microcosm of the series’ bigger problems. Mitch is eating gelato when two women approach him. One hates him and wants him to leave because of his history of sexual abuse. The other (played by Valeria Golino, so you know this character will be back) defends him.
It’s too embarrassing to summarize, but suffice it to say the former woman says: “It’s called feminism, look it up!” She’s meant to be a caricature of fair-weather liberalism. Unfortunately, The Morning Show isn’t smart enough to be able to draw her as such, so she reads like the show scolding women who are concerned about sexual assault.
I understand that you have to keep up with current events when you’re making a show about the news (hello, COVID-19 plotline!). But if you aren’t equipped to comment on a trend, merely paying aggressive, obnoxious lip service to it isn’t enough. It just makes your writers look like dilettantes — exactly the kind of bourgeoise know-nothings the show exists to critique.
Speaking of out of touch … why is a 20-year-old Beck song playing at the set piece cocktail party where all parties converge at the end of the episode? What is up with this show’s Apple commercial opening credits? What do they have to do with running a news network? Why does it sound unconvincing when anyone on this show swears? Why does Bradley always respond to every thinly veiled threat with a pointed sarcastic question like, “Is this you trying to do X?! Because you failed.”
A show that’s meant to shoulder the weight of the Apple TV+ brand really ought not to be sweating and straining to fill the runtime quite so visibly.
This week in bad current events
On top of the COVID-19 coverage, there’s a joke about the impeachment hearings (remember those?). Weatherman Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell) says he thinks they’re a charade, and president of news Stella (Greta Lee) is aghast.
Neither of those is cringeworthy enough to top the horrifying feminism conversation at the gelato shop, though. Last week, The Morning Show went one whole episode without pitifully invoking 2020 news items. I wish they’d kept up with that.
The Morning Show on Apple TV+
New episodes of The Morning Show arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.