The Morning Show recap: Chaos is the new cocaine
A bomb was dropped in the final moments of The Morning Show‘s second episode, and in the third, it’s time to face the fallout. For most of that fallout, we still have no idea why Alex decided to up and name Bradley as her new co-host in front of a bunch of reporters, basically forcing the network to hire her. But it’s starting to seem like Alex may just share Cory’s sentiment that, ahem, chaos is the new cocaine.
Ostensibly Alex named her own co-anchor after being told she’d never be given the privilege to do so because, as she tells her daughter, “Sometimes women can’t ask for control, so they have to take it.” But the thing about chaos is it’s not known for being a highly controllable environment. Alex throwing Bradley into the co-anchor seat was certainly a move against her oppressive network, but it also wasn’t necessarily a move in her best interests. And while everyone assures Bradley that Alex has just served her up a life-changing opportunity, Bradley is wise to consider that it might not be the good kind of change…
As is now tradition with The Morning Show, we open in media res, moments after Alex has announced Bradley as her new co-host while accepting a journalism award. She glides off stage to the dream tune of Betsy Brye’s “Sleep Walk,” looking smug as punch, only to have the camera flip around and show the much less pleased faces of the rest of the UBA crew. Fred is furious, Chip is horrified, and the other Morning Show anchors who were hoping to take Mitch’s old chair are staring daggers at its alleged new occupant…
Bradley, for her part, looks like she’s about to hurl.
Alex descends from her perch, whisks Bradley out of her seat, and directs her to smile for the camera. Before Bradley can say anything damning, Cory — seemingly the only person not completely thrown by this news — steps in front of the press and tells them, no, Bradley isn’t an obvious choice, but they’ll all see what makes her so special when she takes over the co-anchor job on Monday.
Which gives Bradley two days to learn how to be an anchor on the most-watched broadcast news program in the nation. That is…if she’s willing to take the job. Right as the vultures are descending on her for a statement, Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman), one of the Morning Show producers, kindly escorts Bradley out of the melee and into a taxi to take her to the studio. But Bradley doesn’t want to go to the studio; she wants to go to LaGuardia. Let’s not forget: Bradley lives in West Virginia, and Cory has waylaid her in New York for days — just long enough to potentially score her one of the most coveted jobs in news.
But Bradley doesn’t see it as a score. She tells Mia that none of this makes sense and she’s clearly being set up as a fall guy, and she’s not interested. And yet! Bradley winds up at the studio, where Mia tells her that if she’s at all interested in the role, she needs to let them come to her. Them, presumably meaning the network, represented by Fred, who is losing his mind over “that unhinged woman” telling a room full of reporters they were hiring “that nobody.” Cory informs Fred that those terms are a bit dismissive in that oh-so-Cory way where you can’t tell if he’s being surprisingly decent or extra awful.
Especially once he goes on to tell Fred that Alex has done them a favor; she thinks she’s won, but really, she’s just named her replacement and made it easier to fire her. Plus they’re on the tale-end of the Mitch-related ratings boost: “People are just getting too used to their favorite cuddly men turning into monsters, but watching a beloved woman’s breakdown…that’s timeless American entertainment.” Then Cory strolls into Chip’s office full of frantic producers, and after hearing that Hannah has booked one of Mitch’s accusers for Bradley’s first day on the job, smugly tells them: “We’re creating a safe space here, a feminine space … where women make the rules and give voice to the silenced.” And then he quips that he has to scoot off to “the public spanking” of one of those very women.
But, oh — there will be no public spanking, at least not of Alex. In a room full of male executives, the camera pushes slowly down the table, narrowing in on Alex’s face as she listens to Fred tell her how good this network has been to her, and how they never thought they’d be so disrespected in return, and how they have every right to fire her.
Alex takes a slow sip of water, she places her glass down firmly, narrows her gaze on Fred, and asks, “Are you done?”
“The part you guys never seem to realize is that you don’t have the power anymore,” Alex says with carefully maintained rage. “This news division is held up by my show, and the only thing keeping us afloat is me, because guess what — America loves me.” Alex doesn’t need to justify herself to this room, but she does need to educate them about how things are going to go from now on: “You all are so convinced that you’re the rightful owner of all the power that it doesn’t even occur to you that someone else could be in the driver’s seat.”
Clearly, Alex is claiming the driver’s seat and her power along with it. What’s unclear behind all the bravado and close-ups of Jennifer Aniston’s perfectly clenched jaw is whether Alex deserves that power; whether she knows what to do with it. As Mia informs her later when it’s hinted that Mia may have had a relationship with Mitch that Alex felt was inappropriate, but never stepped in to say anything about… Alex has always had power. The clarifying point is whether she’s chosen to use it well.
Alex stumbles upon Bradley wandering the set, and it’s the first time they’ve connected since Alex upended her life. Alex is surprised to hear that Bradley isn’t committed to taking the job yet, which gives Reese Witherspoon of all people the chance to chirp in her slightly lowered Bradley-voice: “I’m not a perky person!” But Alex doesn’t want Bradley to be like her, she doesn’t want to sit next to her replacement; she wants a partner. She tells Bradley to enjoy the ride and get used to waking up at 3:30 a.m.
So The Morning Show team uses Saturday and Sunday to get Bradley ready for air. There’s wardrobe, hair, and crafting who Bradley will be when sitting next to Alex. There’s bonding with Cory (Cory-imposed, of course) where he requests that she lean into her whole…single, childless, pantsuit nation thing. That’s the kind of woman his mother was, and she never saw herself represented on morning news. On The Morning Show, sometimes these moments are so well-acted that it’s not until a few scenes later when you think, Is the representation of serious business ladies really that important on…morning news?
But to Cory, it is. He says The Morning Show has the market on housewives corned, but if they want to win the ratings war, they have to get the women who don’t see themselves represented in “ice queen Alex.”
Presumably, Bradley has an opportunity to do that in a way Mitch did not. That’s Mitch who spends this episode pitching the idea of making some sort of fair and balanced documentary about the Me Too movement. “I can feel when the world needs me to articulate something, to help them understand,” Mitch exclaims to his (former agent), no doubt in the world that he is the voice America needs on this matter. But when he has the same conversation with a now publicly disgraced film director played by Martin Short, and definitely not based on Woody Allen, Mitch loses a touch of that self-assuredness that he is the most correct person to have ever graced the earth.
This director might be publicly disgraced, but in private he’s still perfectly happy to complain about “lazy lays” coming after him once they’re old and irrelevant, and praise being legally protected by statutes of limitations. But instead of realizing he frequently sounds exactly like this terrible man, Mitch just drills in on the differentiation between “the first wave of guys” like the director, and the second wave of guys like himself. The director asks Mitch the difference: “Well, you’re actually a predator…and people are going to want you to own up to that.”
Back at The Morning Show offices, Mia has been named Bradley’s producer. She wanders around Bradley’s new dressing room — Mitch’s old dressing room — looking at Bradley’s things, and then takes a moment with one hand-me-down from the Mitch days: the Matt Lauer-inspired button under his desk that shuts the door and locks out the public world with just one touch.
Perhaps it’s that button and all the things it’s seen that gets Mia to push for Bradley doing the interview with Mitch’s accuser instead of Alex. And after telling Alex that as Mitch’s former partner, she’ll never be able to get anything honest out of the interview and then she’ll get crucified for it, Alex actually concedes to push the interview to Friday so Bradley can do it.
And then she leaves to head home and plan a new segment for Monday…at the exact time she’s supposed to be doing the one and only screen test with her new co-anchor before going live the next day. Finally, Bradley has had it. She storms off set, finds Alex getting into her car, and demands to know why Alex has barely acknowledged her all weekend. Alex says she didn’t know Bradley needed her hand held, reiterating that she wants her to be a partner. And in Bradley’s best, most believable moment yet, she says dejectedly: “Well sometimes partners hold hands.”
Alex confesses that she has no clue what she’s doing. She picked Bradley on impulse during that awards speech, and now she’s just running on instinct. “But I do think I like you,” she tells Bradley, getting back into her car. “Just go sign your contract.”
The next morning, Bradley’s alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m. At the studio, Alex takes her hand before they go live together for the first time ever, and whispers some patented partner encouragement: “Don’t f— it up.”