(Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault)
(Spoiler alert for The Morning Show)
Most shows that deal with “heavy” topics often give you a character to root for, a good Samaritan, someone whose shoulders can bolster your utopian idea of justice and consequences but The Morning Show 2 doesn’t. And I will be the first to admit, I am guilty of looking for that good Samaritan, even after watching the first season beginning to end, but I was glad I found none. The Morning Show doesn’t intend to give you heroes and villains because there are none, and that’s what makes the show honest.
When Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) looked into the camera during the first season of The Morning Show and said, “But there are consequences in life. As a woman, I can say that there aren't enough of them,” the show set a tone for itself then. She had, of course, just revealed that her co-host for 15 years, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) had been accused of sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement is a major plot point for the show, even in season 2.
The second season of The Morning Show picks up right where the show left off, in the direct aftermath of ‘The Morning Show’ co-hosts Alex Levy and Bradley Jackson’s (Reese Witherspoon) exposé of the culture at the network UBA. Tensions are high, people are rushing, while Alex sits down to take a breather.
The Morning Show 2 retains its drive to tell these stories—of sexism, of workplace harassment, sexual abuse, of trauma—and add to that mix, a more cogent look into the culture of racism which was hinted at earlier.
The Morning Show is backed by a stellar cast and they deliver every emotion, one-liner, and monologue assigned to them. Jennifer Aniston as Alex is struggling with the fact that a person she has known for 15 years is a sexual abuser while also running from her own guilt. Witherspoon as the admittedly hot-headed “truth-teller” is comfortably relatable. Billy Crudup as Cory Ellison could sell me thin air.
Julianna Margulies as Laura Peterson and Marcia Gay Harden as Maggie Brener both bring power-packed performances that keep you glued to the screen whenever they're on.
The show's handling of the coronavirus is commendable. Not only does it show us how the network handles it, it shows us how people handled it, including the callous disregard.
A Reckoning at the UBA
The Morning Show 2 gets brownie points for dealing with subjects of race and sexuality in an honest and nuanced manner. Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman), who is dealing with the moral dilemma of a consensual relationship with Mitch, Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry) as a Black man who feels overlooked and understandably blames the predominantly white management at UBA, and Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell) as a Cuban man wildly passionate about weather all represent the issues people of colour face every day.
After all, the show is set in Trump’s America, more specifically at the time of his impeachment proceedings. Greta Lee joins the cast, and the network, as Stella Bak, a Korean woman who not only works at a network where she knows she will be underestimated, but lives in an America grappling with the coronavirus and blaming all Asians for it.
These are issues that need to be talked about, over and over again, because things have barely gotten better. Listening to Mitch and Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin) constantly justify behaviour like sexual abuse as “imperfections” or “the real world” is as terrifying as it is frustrating. And that is why, the one major problem I have with the show is the very thing UBA has been trying to manage since the first season: optics.
The Morning Show 2 Could've Done Better
When a show chooses to touch upon topics like sexual assault, rape, misogyny, racism, and sexuality, you expect it to give these issues the screen time they deserve and they could’ve afforded to if an uncomfortable amount of time wasn’t spent trying to humanise Mitch Kessler. I have always advocated for nuance and yes, Alex Levy’s problematic relationship with Mitch needs to be explored but no amount of good music can white-wash Mitch.
And if I truly reach, maybe The Morning Show 2 intended to show us why America loved Mitch so much but it spent too long doing so. It doesn’t absolve him of his past, the show is better than that; but this screen time could’ve been given to the conversation around race which seems to slip in and out of the script as if added in as an afterthought every time a person of colour shows up on screen.
Where Was it Going?
The Morning Show 2 struggles with something many big-budget shows do. While the writing is delicate and hard-hitting, clichés included, and the direction is concise and fitting, the show seems to get muddled up in its own conversations. It seems to lead nowhere.
It is empowered with a magnificent budget and a beautiful production but it felt like I was at a party watching two people fight but my mother picked me up too early. The Morning Show 2 is a show that deserves an audience but assumes that everyone can read between the (very blurry) lines.