And we’re back. It’s been almost two years since the finale of The Morning Show’s debut season, and it feels like the world is a wholly different place than it was in December 2019 — and you better believe The Morning Show is capitalizing on that. If you’re here for a bit of escape from what we’ve all been living through, you should probably turn around. It’s pretty clear the show won’t be shying away from the real-world news, and based on that quick trip around the empty streets of Manhattan after the March lockdown before sending us back three months to December 30, 2019, it’s safe to assume this season will be hyperfocused on the lead-up to those early days of the pandemic. A time, as you might recall, full of confusion and fear. So this should be fun!
Within the show, of course, they have no idea what’s coming for them. As usual, the folks at UBA have enough self-inflicted drama to focus on anyway. Before we get a glimpse of New York on lockdown and before the show drops us just as we’re about to ring in 2020, The Morning Show kicks off season two by showing us the immediate aftermath of the finale. It’s hard to forget, but in case you need a little reminder: Alex and Bradley took to the airwaves to expose the fact that UBA CEO Fred Mickland was silencing women and that many powerful people at the network, including Alex Levy herself, had helped foster a pervasive culture of silence and fear as sexual misconduct ran rampant. The season ended with the UBA feed getting cut off, and now we see what was going on in the studio at that time, which is, not surprisingly, the most chaos.
Alex is whisked out of the building by her team, Bradley wants Alex to promise that they’ll stick together on this before being left all alone. Cory Ellison, director of news with a touch of crazy, is brought before the executive board and fired for his attempt at mutiny. At the same time, Fred Mickland is merely placed on administrative leave until the board can determine the truth behind these allegations. If that last bit really grinds your gears, as it should, don’t worry: Our One True Drama King Cory dresses down the board with a speech that starts by calling them out of touch, includes a bit about broadcast content being “cave paintings” watched by “the last remaining savages” (Apple TV+ is really going after it, huh??), and ends with Cory declaring that “this is a battle for the soul of the universe.” I didn’t realize how much I missed Cory until this very moment.
When we arrive at UBA the day before New Year’s Eve, eight months after Alex and Bradley’s big moment, things appear much different than you might have guessed. Bradley is in the middle of an NYE-themed song-and-dance number with her new TMS co-anchor Eric (a very game Hasan Minhaj), which is miles from Kelly Clarkson’s Truth-Teller Bradley Jackson and not even in the same universe as I’M EXHAUSTED Bradley Jackson. Meanwhile, Fred Mickland has been fired, and somehow Cory has become the new CEO of the network. He’s selected Stella Bak (Greta Lee, welcome!) to replace him as director of news at UBA, while Mia has become the new TMS executive producer. Oh, and Alex Levy is exactly nowhere to be found and hasn’t spoken to Bradley since she left the show. But most important: R.I.P. to that ridiculous brown wig that plagued Reese Witherspoon’s head last season; Bradley is a blonde now. What a world!
As she explains to her producer, the reason for this new and perky Bradley is because she was told that if she played the game a little and did what TMS asked of her, she’d have more freedom to be herself. It doesn’t at all seem like what someone who repeatedly said she was tired of the bullshit would do, especially after everything that happened with Hannah, but you know what? Bradley Jackson made no sense as a character last season, and it seems we’re sticking with that. Now, on the other hand, Bradley still very much would rather be doing hard-hitting news than light morning-show fodder (so she says), so when Marcus Ray, the anchor of UBA’s evening-news show, gets ousted for emotionally abusing his staff (UBA truly is a rotten tree), she wants to be considered for the job.
Bradley decides to go see her old pal Cory to ask him about it. The exchange is awkward. On Bradley’s end, she seems to hint that the two friends haven’t seen each other much since everything went down. She misses him, she says. He’s very cagey in his response. So this could be part of the reason this whole conversation feels superficial. Bradley also takes time to remind Cory that according to her, she’s the one who got him un-fired and he kind of, sort of, owes her for that. The look on Cory’s face makes me believe that Bradley doesn’t have all the facts of that story. This tracks, of course, because we know why Cory is so weird during this conversation. First, obviously, because Cory is weird. It’s why we love him. Second, because Cory already knows that they’re replacing Marcus with Eric from TMS. In fact, everyone except for Bradley knows this is happening. You’d think Bradley would be able to sense that something’s going on here, but, no, apparently Bradley trusts everyone at their word now even though her entire time at UBA has been full of lies and betrayal.
It’s not until the New Year’s Eve in Times Square broadcast that Bradley learns the truth. It’s a real shame because this little country bumpkin is having the time of her life! But Eric feels so guilty lying to her face repeatedly that he delivers the news. When Bradley finds Cory, she lets him have it. She calls him a “weasel” and throws a whole bunch of fucks in his direction before officially ending their friendship or something. It’s not really convincing. Cory wishes she would just trust that he has her best interest at heart.
Oh, wow, you guys, how is Bradley ever going to be able to do that once she finds out who Cory wants to bring in to replace Eric and join Bradley at TMS? Cory loves messy drama — don’t ever believe anything else. Cory wants to bring Alex back. Of course, he does! While the bigwigs discuss Eric’s move to the evening news, people get honest about Bradley. She’s not doing great. As per usual, Cory is the only person really sticking up for her, but he’s overruled. Stella would get rid of her completely. Mia points out that Bradley only works with someone more poised and seasoned sitting next to her, like Alex. That’s when inspiration hits. Literally not one other person in the room thinks this is a good idea, but Cory doesn’t care; he’s going to convince Alex to return to The Morning Show.
It will have to take some convincing, although maybe not as much as one would think. Alex blew up UBA and became a sort of feminist icon, but mostly she’s been hiding out in a gorgeous cabin in Maine writing her memoir, chopping wood, and getting the point of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories wrong. She seems sad. And the news from her lit agent that she thinks her book needs more Mitch stuff in it — especially an explanation of the true nature of their relationship — only pisses her off. When Cory arrives at her snowy doorstep telling her everything she wants to hear, how she was all UBA needed in the first place and only she can save the network, and if she comes back it’ll be on the heels of an insane new deal that gives her a ton of power, she hesitates a bit. Even if she wanted to go back, she says, she can’t. And sure, she eventually tells Cory that she “would rather die than go back there,” but by that point, you know she’s just putting on a good show.
It’s exactly why Cory doesn’t give up on his little TMS dream. He leaves Alex a voice-mail in which he tells her that she is destined for greatness and that what she’s done thus far ain’t it. “You’ve yet to do your greatest work,” he says. Alex doesn’t listen to the voice-mail until that NYE ball is dropping. She’s just beelined out of a party after a psychic played by Kathy Najimy tells her that she’s running away from something (what in the world is this scene?). She’s upset, and she knows the psychic (!!) is right, and when she hears his voice-mail, she’s in tears. Leaving now means that her whole story is about Mitch and the sins she admitted to committing, and she clearly wants more than that. It doesn’t hurt that Cory frames it as Alex simply filling in at the anchor desk for a year until she launches her own prime-time show. She doesn’t officially accept the job, but things are looking up for ol’ Cory Ellison.
That is, until, amid the confetti and belting of “Auld Lang Syne,” he gets a look at a news chyron in Times Square and learns that Hannah’s family is suing UBA for wrongful death. Ah, yes, that UBA ship continues to sink.
This Just In!
• Yanko is the saddest weatherman. Despite Yanko and Claire reuniting at the end of season one, we learn that after everything with Hannah and UBA, Claire left New York and is starting over back home. Yanko seems heartbroken and also a little angry — it’s why we get this great response when someone on the street asks him for a weather forecast: “The Earth’s gonna crash into the sun, but tomorrow night you’ll need a fucking sweater.”
• Last we saw Chip, he was punching Mitch’s face on an apartment lobby floor before leaving Alex a voice-mail in which he confessed to leaking the Mitch investigation to the New York Times to save her job because he’s always been in love with her. Clearly, things didn’t work out the way Chip hoped because we find him working at a local news station and proposing to his Very Nice Girlfriend. He seems sort of happy? Drama free? This cannot last for long.
• The Morning Show is really taking glee in hammering home that no one was prepared for the awfulness that 2020 had in store for us. From Mia’s “Jesus, 2019 sucked” after hearing a list of things that could be included in their end-of-year packet, to her passing over a small news story about a strange contagious disease in China without a second thought, and that very ominous zoom in on 2020 in bright lights in Times Square, it all stings. Prepare to relive the horror, friends.
• I’m already obsessed with Holland Taylor on the UBA executive board and the promise of many more showdowns with Billy Crudup’s Cory Ellison. The pairing I never knew I needed!
• One item looming over everyone that will surely come into play later is Maggie Brener’s tell-all book about what went down at UBA and The Morning Show before it imploded. No one knows what’s in it, but everyone is scared.
• Please, no one ever use the phrase “Baby New Year is starting to crown” ever again, for the love of all things holy.