‘The Morning Show’ Season 2 Ends With Emotional Reckonings Under the Shadow of Covid
When Apple TV’s “The Morning Show” first premiered back in 2019, it was daring in how it directly tackled the #MeToo cultural moment. To openly design its characters on the Matt Lauer scandal was risky indeed. Now its second season closes jumping head-on into another defining moment in our lives, the pandemic. Some will say it’s too soon or it hits too close to home. Yet Jennifer Aniston brings emotional power to her character being stricken by Covid-19, turning it into more than just some convenient plot gimmick. One gets the sense the story being told has also reached its high point. There is a sense of closure whatever happens next with this show.
Titled “Fever,” the finale finds Alex Levy (Aniston) back from Italy, at home suffering from the symptoms of Covid. Disgraced former Morning Show host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) has already died from the disease. The fact that she was in Italy with Mitch already makes the situation even more of a blow to the UBA network, who scramble to make sure no one else has been infected. Meanwhile Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) is scouring the city looking for her brother Hal, who has fled from rehab. The viral crisis shaking the world is also spreading at the wrong time for news operations head Cory (Billy Crudup), who is preparing to launch the new streaming service UBA+. Network head honchos wonder if it’s a good idea to postpone but Cory stands firm. Chip (Mark Duplass) still cares for Alex to the point of visiting her in her apartment and suggesting she do a broadcast to inform and warn viewers of Covid’s effects. He even pitches the idea to Cory.
It’s a roll of dice in giving a major character, especially one played by Jennifer Aniston, Covid to end a season. There are intense scenes of Alex enduring the symptoms and beginning to lose her sense of reality. This is one part of how “The Morning Show” will endure as a time capsule of TV interpreting those terrifying, early days of the pandemic when being near people suddenly became a source of danger. It’s easy to imagine countless real office moments as when Stella (Greta Lee) interrupts a meeting to hand Cory a note confirming Alex’s conditions. Those early days of the pandemic saw plans suddenly overturned by quick developments, as Cory soon learns when he has to cancel the UBA+ launch event after Tom Hanks gets diagnosed with Covid. Daniel (Desean Terry), who has been fighting to move up the ladder all season, decides what matters is getting to California to be with his grandfather, who lives in a facility with a nurse who might be coming down with the illness. Out of all the characters in the finale, Daniel is one of the most moral in his final decisions. Stella finally offers him the chance to anchor the Morning Show solo, from home of course. Daniel turns it down. He wanted to earn his position, not be handed it after Stella had no choice.
Following all the scandals and drama of this last season, for the other characters of “The Morning Show,” closure comes with rough moments of personal clarity. Alex seems to finally make peace with her once great rival Bradley by calling her while enduring the illness, thanking her for protecting her reputation. Then the conversation turns to the issue of Bradley’s missing brother and Alex very bluntly telling her you basically own the people you refuse to take out of your life. So Bradley moves onto a more logical stage in this cyber age and asks for help to find Hal on social media. There was always romance in “The Morning Show,” but of a kind almost made subtly twisted by the environment of fame and media. Consider Chip, who risks his own health by going to Alex’s place and even shares a bed with her. He goes so far as to lie and claim he has tested negative. One isn’t sure if we’re meant to sigh and smile at these scenes, or shake our heads in pity for Chip. Inspired by Bradley’s post, Cory makes his own dash to her aid and confesses his love, in his own awkward, brisk way. As tends to happen on TV, this leads to one of those plot twists where a nurse who saw Bradley’s post calls and informs her of a hospital where she can find Hal. A fitting tearful reunion follows.
“Fever” belongs truly to Jennifer Aniston, who takes a seat in front of the camera as a virus-stricken Alex and describes the hell of having Covid, takes on cancel culture and adds flourishes of dark humor. Her final moment on screen is also the last few seconds of the episode, where Alex speaks directly to us from behind the camera, as someone reflecting on her and a world going through transition. The great question that remains is if this is the end of “The Morning Show” itself. Cryptic statements from the showrunners and Aniston don’t offer concrete answers, only a sense that the series has signed off for now. Whatever happens, this is one of Apple TV’s first strong dramas which provoked discussion in how it tackled two recent, important transitional phases culturally. It began facing the abuses of power within a corporate newsroom, and ended dramatizing our ongoing global health crisis. Even its detractors would be wrong in claiming this series didn’t have guts.
“The Morning Show” season two finale streams Nov. 19 on Apple TV+.