The Morning Show comes down with a terminal case of COVID-19 [Apple TV+ review]

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Everybody's anxious for a reminder of the early days of COVID-19, right?
Everybody's anxious for a reminder of the early days of COVID-19, right?
Photo: Apple TV+

In The Morning Show season two finale, COVID-19 finally arrives, in case you missed that news cycle so much you needed to see it covered again on Apple TV+’s show about a news show.

If you were secretly hankering for such a thing, you’re in luck. Alex comes down with COVID-19, and Cory doesn’t want to cancel the launch of the network’s streaming app. Our interest has waned, so whatever, right? Let them do whatever they want. Just put down this sick dog of a show already.

The Morning Show review: Season 2 finale, ‘Fever’

In the episode, titled “Fever,” it’s mid-March 2020 and Alex Levy (played Jennifer Aniston) is sick. She hit her head trying to reach the letter that deceased Morning Show anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) wrote saying they hadn’t had sex, and woke up in the hospital with a positive COVID diagnosis. It hits her real hard — sweats and fever and aching and nausea.

With Alex out of commission, Stella (Greta Lee) must get everyone home to start working remotely, except Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry), who she needs to fill in for Alex and Bradley (Reese Witherspoon), who’s out looking for her addict brother, Hal (Joe Tippett), who never checked in to rehab.

Daniel says no because he needs to go get his grandfather out of a home, so he quits. (Good riddance — the writers couldn’t write for him anyway.)

Now, Cory (Billy Crudup) must deal with the fallout from letting Alex back into the studio when they knew she had just traveled to Italy (an early COVID-19 hotspot) to see Mitch (a known sexual harasser). All this and they’re about to cancel the launch of UBA’s streaming app.

Alex reaches out to Chip (Mark Duplass) as she suffers from COVID, so their will-they-won’t-they is back on just in time for the season finale. Chip suggests to Cory that they livestream her recovery, so it becomes the first original program on the UBA+ app. Nobody is subscribing, so what they have they got to lose? You know what that means? That’s right, her livestream is going to save the app.

Paola (Valeria Golino) is still in town, and she brings her final interview with Mitch to show Cory. Suddenly he’s got too much programming on his hands.

Keep your voice down

In actuality, this is a pretty satisfying finale, not overly concerned with anybody or with forgiving terrible people because they might have friends. It’s process-oriented, and The Morning Show (the series) is always at its best when focused on that.

Aniston does good work making desperate phone calls as she feels like she’s succumbing to COVID-19. Duplass is good here, too, because he’s in worker-bee mode and not in the rut of self-pitying doubt in which his character Chip is usually stuck.

Plus, the COVID-19 show they put together is pretty good TV. Aniston makes a great speech about death and perception that I wasn’t remotely expecting. Pretty savvy and emotionally honest stuff.

Karen Pittman, who plays Mia Jordan, also gets a couple of great scenes. She suddenly realizes how alone she is in the world and does a good job externally and internally showing her emotional turmoil.

In praise of Billy Crudup, acting dynamo

The Morning Show season 2 finale: Billy Crudup, who plays wily network exec Cory, stands tall in the show's second season.
Billy Crudup, who plays wily network exec Cory, stands tall in the show’s second season.
Photo: Apple TV+

And Billy Crudup is his usually terrific self. It has to be said that if The Morning Show works at all, it’s because this guy — one of the most underrated actors in the country — keeps it together. Crudup tap-dances like Billy Flynn in Chicago to keep every wall from collapsing. He’s more than this show deserves, a dynamo.

Watching The Morning Show is a frequently exhausting spectacle but it’s always a delight to watch Crudup get to swing like this, enlivening the dialogue and so-so direction with his Fred Astaire-style charisma and energy. What a performance, what an actor. I’ll miss him, if not this show, if there’s no third season of The Morning Show.

This week in bad current events

Tom Hanks gets COVID-19. Remember that? Dr. Fauci’s here! Hey, it’s the greatest hits of the pandemic all over again, exactly what America needs right now.

The Morning Show on Apple TV+

The season two finale of The Morning Show arrives November 19 on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

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.