What to Watch Verdict
'The Morning Show' mercifully concludes its second season, but not before another wildly misguided and poorly thought-out episode full of vanity and selfishness.
At least this season is over
Billy Crudup remains the sole bright spot among the ensemble
See the first point
The rank self-centered qualities of the main characters are too much to stomach amidst the pandemic
Many of the season-long arcs peter out in the finale, implying poor planning from the start
Julianna Margulies was both a great hire and poorly used throughout
This post contains spoilers for The Morning Show. Check out our last review here.
The second season of The Morning Show began with the portent of COVID-19 and wraps up in mid-March of 2020, when American culture went haywire. Is there an enjoyable way to capture this period? Surely, but instead The Morning Show’s second season featured a lot of self-interested ninnies flailing about in a flaccid and uninteresting way.
In an unsurprising but complexing development, the big arrival of COVID and Alex (Jennifer Aniston) learning she has it pushed Maggie Brener's (Marcia Gay Harden) tell-all book about Alex and Mitch (Steve Carell) to the back-burner last week. Why was so much based around this book if this was its fate?
Either way, this episode, titled “Fever,” shifts away from Alex to start with Bradley (Reese Witherspoon), concerned about the wellbeing of her brother Hal (Joe Tippett), who vanished after she tried sending him to rehab. Bradley is first seen handing out flyers with Hal's photo to people on the street — shame she’s not a major television personality who could talk about her plight on the air. Ahem.
Elsewhere, the aftermath of Alex's surreptitiously filmed comments at Mitch’s memorial service are enough that Daniel (Desean K. Terry) implies on air that UBA will investigate ... something.
Also in the UBA offices, Cory (Billy Crudup) is horrified board member Sybil (Holland Taylor) wants to delay UBA’s streaming service because of the pandemic. It doesn’t help when Cory compares UBA+ to Apollo 13 or by saying UBA “has Tom Hanks” for the launch event. He later finds out what we all know — Hanks and wife Rita Wilson got COVID early in the pandemic.
Amid it all, no one told the folks at UBA Alex has COVID. Alex — discharged from the hospital and returned to her condo — calls in the news after Stella (Greta Lee) dismissively tells other execs it’s statistically unlikely that she got sick. Stella’s similarly brittle with the Morning Show team when she says that “someone” has COVID. Everyone on the team knows that “someone” is Alex, and most infuriated is Daniel.
Stella gives him the plum chance to co-anchor remotely for the next few weeks, but instead of taking the gig, Daniel angrily quits as he’s tired of proving himself and more concerned about getting his grandfather to safety. Stella then clues in Cory about the big problem: the network let Alex back to work after knowing she’d been in Italy, and now Alex is very sick. Cory decides to sit on the news, even though Stella accurately points out everyone will assume Alex has COVID.
Alex’s case of COVID is rougher than expected, made clear in a scene with blurred-out backgrounds, woozy angles and a montage where Jennifer Aniston tries to communicate COVID-related suffering — AKA “Jennifer Aniston shivers in a shower.” In pain, Alex calls Chip (Mark Duplass) to primarily whine about "getting canceled.” Chip comforts her, which is baffling seeing as they had a mammoth argument not two episodes ago.
Chip ups the inexplicability factor the next morning. First, he approaches Cory with a pitch: Alex gets through COVID, live on TV. Despite initial hesitancy, Cory agrees to air the show that very night. Second, Chip visits Alex at her condo, informing her of the special and also to tell her he has COVID. ... Sure!
Elsewhere, Bradley is despondent about Hal, even ignoring a call from Laura. (Boy, this show really wasted Julianna Margulies.) Bradley tries for the umpteenth time to reach out to her brother via text. When that fails, she calls Alex to see how she’s doing, only to receive a pep talk from the ailing icon that enables the younger woman to live-stream a plea for help for Hal. Finally!
That night, Chip gets Alex ready for her streaming debut in her condo, with a script Chip writes to basically force Alex to apologize to her coworkers about exposing them to COVID. She does so as calmly as possible, before then improvising an apology directly to Chip. Chip then gets two calls during the special: one is from his fiancée, which he ignores; the other is from a nurse asking to test him, revealing he’s lied to Alex and doesn't actually have COVID. ... Sure!
At UBA, Cory is surprised to get a visitor: Paola (Valeria Golino), demanding he watch her documentary. We see just a bit more of Mitch’s interview — as defensive and self-serving in death as he was in life. Cory is moderately impressed, or cowed enough to offer Paola the chance to show her documentary on UBA before heading off to the streaming launch, which ends before it can even start following the new about Hanks and Wilson. He then sees Bradley's plea for help on Instagram, spurring him to stop by her place and offer assistance.
Alex's live special, quickly shifts from "bracing honesty and heartfelt apology" to "unhinged rant." “The legions of people who want me gone? They’re not real,” Alex declares. Legions want her gone? Really? Wasn’t the point of this special for Alex to calm viewers about COVID? No, it's time for her to air more vague grievances. “I’m meant to believe the whole world is going to be outraged about my behavior?” Alex asks incredulously. “Mind your own store,” Alex then scolds ... who?
Who is this rant for? The first season of The Morning Show climaxed with two women on national television delivering a fierce diatribe that outed sexual predators. This season climaxes with one of those women, with tons of dirty laundry, delivering a similar defiant diatribe. Except this time she's arguing that the world being complex means people should be nice to her. “Get on the Alex Levy train or stay at the station,” she says. I’ll stay at the station.
Finally, Cory and Bradley are in a shantytown of sorts searching for Hal. Cory decides to come clean. Not to reveal he outed Bradley, but to say “I really love you.” ... Sure? Crudup is this show’s bright spot, but he deserves vastly better material.
Before Bradley can even tell Cory how she feels, a nurse calls and says Hal may be at a nearby hospital. When she arrives, Bradley ignores the crowd of scared people looking for medical care and snoops among emergency-room patients to luckily find her bloodied brother. Hal swears he didn't relapse, but it doesn't matter: Bradley swears to never leave his side again. Good plan!
I’m so glad this season is done. Both seasons of The Morning Show have been fascinating disasters, but season 2 is vastly worse. Here is a show about awful people who believe they’re doing good work, but the writers don’t get how awful the characters are. Will The Morning Show return for a third season? I know I won’t.
Josh Spiegel is a freelance cultural critic who has been published in Slashfilm, SyFy, ScreenCrush, The A.V. Club, The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post and others. His favorite films include Singin’ in the Rain, The Rocketeer, Pinocchio and A Matter of Life and Death. His favorite TV shows include Ted Lasso, Only Murders in the Building, Deadwood and Lost. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, two sons and too many cats.
By Lucy Buglass