Halfway through Morning shows season two finale, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), co-host of the fictional morning show TMS, calls out his disgraced co-host Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), who just tested positive for COVID. Bradley worries about how Alex is holding up, but she also has her own issues: her brother, an addict, has been missing for two days after Bradley cut ties with him. She hasn’t even tweeted her photo, she admits to Alex, because she’s too ashamed.
What follows is the closest thing to a thesis that the scattered show has come up with. If you want to cut someone off, cut them off and be done, says Alex, who struggles with his own relationship with the show’s former host and longtime friend Mitch Kessler (Steve Carrell). If that’s not an option, then you have to own them. Don’t let yourself be ashamed of what other people think is ruling your life. In the final minutes of the episode, we see Bradley reuniting with his brother, choosing the mess and chaos to own the difficult parts of his life rather than cutting them off.
The idea of owning your mess instead of trying to contain it or run away from it is the only clear theme that emerges from Morning shows second season deeply uneven. There were times when the season made so little sense to jump from plot to plot while spending way too much time with Mitch after the cancellation moping around a villa on Lake Como that I wondered if the inconsistency could really be the problem. During COVID, it feels like we’ve collectively lost the plot, that neither of us really understand the story. So I admit that I found it strangely satisfying to watch a show that seemed to have no idea what it was doing either. After a three-episode arc painstakingly set the stage for Alex to return to TMS, only to see her ghost a presidential debate and disappear in Italy, my first reaction was: What the hell is happening ? My second was, Maybe this is the show we deserve right now.
Bipolar drug addict trashes office singing “The Boxer”, and that’s just the fourth craziest thing about it episode.
In the finale, Alex, who has spent the entire season fleeing the consequences of his actions, turns to face them. Bradley, who comes into a relationship with UBA anchor Laura Peterson because she’s drawn to her foolproof drama-free mantra, realizes that as much as she respects Laura’s perspective, she isn’t ready to exile his brother or deny his past. Is this the right choice? Hard to say. But he is a choice. You can own your mess or you can try to remove it from your life, but you can’t get past it.
As for Laura, played by the incomparable Julianna Margulies, she presents herself as the only voice of calm and reason, the only one to have her shit together. It’s like she’s immune to the coming chaos because she went through her own trauma years ago, when she was painfully and publicly exposed. She explains to Bradley that as an adult it’s up to you to decide how to deal with traumatic things that have happened to you, do you seek help to overcome them, or do you let them bring you down? This question especially arises when Bradley’s brother Hal, who is bipolar and struggling with drug addiction, crashes into the TMS offices, blackmailing Simon and Garfunkels The Boxer while breaking dishes. (Bearing witness to the gonzo style of the shows, it’s like the fourth craziest thing that happens in the episode.)
But nowhere is it clearer than with Alex that the more you try to contain your problems, the worse they get. Alex was stepped up to become a feminist heroine when she aired the truth about Mitch and UBA CEO Fred Micklen, who covered up Mitch’s sexual misconduct to protect the show. Problem is, she was thrown onto a pedestal without having to face the truth of her relationship with Mitch, what she knew, what she didn’t know, what she could have allowed. . And she is aware of it. She spends the whole season in damage control mode: surprise that some of her colleagues are not happy to see her; desperately trying to get a mad author to remove the claims about him and Mitch from his book; fly to Italy to get Mitch to sign a statement that they never slept together. She works so hard to contain the chaos that it explodes, of course, and ends up exposing the entire series to a deadly virus.
When we learn that Alex went to see Mitch in Italy, she also finds herself on the verge of cancellation. The first season did an interesting job around the idea of what happens when a public figure becomes an outcast for abusing their power, and how friends, family and co-workers experience the fallout. For Alex, who must instantly publicly denounce Mitch, there is no room for the kind of process Laura talks about, reckoning with painful truths, doing the personal work that keeps moving forward. It all comes to a head in the one place Alex always feels right at home on TV. Fever and weakened, she sits in front of the camera to do a special on COVID and deal with her mess, all of it.
Alex’s prime-time mea culpa ends up being another mess. Aniston does an incredible job in this role, not only because it plays on her comedic strengths, but also because of how skillfully she can switch between the Alex in front of the camera and the one behind her, the way her glow girl next door freezes. the moment the filming stops. What’s different at the end of Season 2 is that Alex is now showing both characters on TV: the sympathy and talent that made her a star, and the narcissism that contributed to a cultivation. of toxic and empowering work. The fear that she may have contracted a deadly disease makes her both vulnerable and fierce and when she hijacks an interview with an Italian medical specialist to ask him if he believes there is an existence beyond death , that makes a nice television.
As long as we’re human, the world will be a mess. As Alex tells Bradley, the reason families are fucked up (she uses a saltier word) is that they are full of people. She is not wrong. As much as I admire Laura and her chaos-avoiding worldview and want her to come and tell me what to do with my life, we can’t all escape to our ranch in Montana. Our lives are not organized that way. We can find healthier ways to cope with our entanglements, we can develop better coping mechanisms, we can do our own personal work. But the only way to be totally free is to cut the ropes that unite us to others. It would make life simple, but also deeply lonely. The morning show seems to be rooting for human connection mess, as long as you own it. It’s a scenario that I can really support.
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