We’re suddenly halfway into The Morning Show’s first season, and the series is leaning in hard on the dysfunctional family aspect of its show-within-a-show. Family are generally the people in your life you’re most vulnerable to, the ones who know you best and can use that knowledge to comfort you — or hurt you — like no one else can. But the weird thing about this new Morning Show family is that they’ve been forced into that vulnerability before they even really know each other. And this week, they’re going on a good old-fashioned family road trip, where good will goes to die.
I wouldn’t dare assign familial labels to each main character, however, because I don’t know what that would mean for Bradley waking up in the same hotel room as Cory following her big drunken night out. Luckily, Cory proves himself to be the weirdo we always knew him to be, while not necessarily the creep his general demeanor has alluded to. Cory tells Bradley that he slept on the couch in the other room merely to make sure she didn’t choke on her own vomit, and that he’s glad he could be there for her. When Bradley accuses Cory of actually being a nice person, he assures her that he’s not… he just happens to like her.
And then he tells her she has to shake her hangover because she’s flying to Los Angeles in an hour. The Malibu wildfires that were mentioned in the last episode have spread, and Fred wants Bradley and Alex there right away to report on the disaster while conveniently pivoting the show’s narrative away from #MeToo. Bradley is also eager for the opportunity because, according to her, “boots on the ground” is what she’s good at — and isn’t that just the most Bradley thing ever?
And the most Alex thing ever is to fuss at Chip that she won’t deign to cover this fire (“It’s not like it’s 9/11 or something”)… and then when her husband storms in to tell her that this sham marriage “with a charming a narcissist” is killing him, and he wants them to tell their daughter tonight that they’re getting a divorce, our girl conveniently pivots to saying he just has to wait a few days because she has to get to L.A. stat: “Please, Jason, people’s homes are being burned to the ground… this is important.”
My most oft-repeated note from this episode is: “Oh, Alex.”
When Alex boards the plane with the rest of the Morning Show crew, she makes it clear that her disdain for Bradley following the Ashley interview still stands, and things don’t get much better when they begin planning their coverage for the next day. Already on the agenda are children who survived the fires in a swimming pool, a climate change expert, and a good Samaritan who rescued a bunch of dogs. Bradley deems ending on the dogs “a little soft,” and Alex snaps, “Well, maybe one of the dogs had an abortion.” ALEX!!!
Moving right along, Bradley latches onto a story that Claire found about wealthy Malibu dwellers hiring private firefighters to protect their homes, and when Chip suggests that denigrating firefighters might not be the right tone for The Morning Show, Bradley says — and you’re not gonna believe this — that as a news program, their tone should be the Truth, even when it’s ugly.
“OH MY GOD,” Alex yells form the other side of the room. “Are you going to do this every day?” And I have to admit, while Alex is very much being a jerk to Bradley simply for daring to ask her if she was aware of Mitch’s misconduct, which we found out last week, Alex very much was.
The times I engage most with these characters are when they’re making fun of how obnoxious one another are. Because they are obnoxious. Bradley is a sanctimonious know-it-all, and Alex is so focused on success that she often chooses it over integrity. And the gag is: Together, they would be a pretty well-balanced duo. But neither one seems willing to budge enough to meet in the middle. Bradley says they have an incredible platform to open people’s eyes to the truth, “instead of force-feeding them a bunch of glossy garbage that sedates them into thinking their lives are great because they saved some dogs.”
“You cannot begrudge people for wanting to feel better!” Alex yells. “It’s part of the job, truth-teller, like it or not.” Again I say: Might these two have something to learn from each other? (Narrator voice: stay tuned to find out!)
Luckily, the next generation of Morning Show women are playing much nicer. Claire drives Hannah around as she chases down a fire survivor she wants to book for the show, and marvels over how good Hannah is at talking to people in times of trauma. In return, Hannah offers Claire an Adderall since they’re likely to be working for the next 32 hours, and also advises her that remote shoots are “a good opportunity to impress the higher-ups.” That ultimately proves true when Claire’s scouting of interesting stories impresses Bradley, and she asks Claire to be her executive assistant, but it’s also a little concerning given all the close-ups Hannah has gotten during scenes discussing Mitch’s misconduct, and what we know about his proclivity for taking advantage of remote locations.
Plus, when Hannah spots Claire going into Yanko’s hotel room later, she retires to her own room to down some mystery pills with a tumbler full of tequila, standing next to a tray of cocaine. So, definitely keep your eye on Hannah, who is very good at her job, and super not doing well.
Los Angeles is just bringing out the most extra version of everyone, it seems. Even Chip is out here extending olive branches — or mafia deals, however you want to look at it. Chip tells Cory that he knows he’ll be the first to go if things go south for the network, and he needs some protection. He wonders if it’s crossed Cory’s mind that if Fred were to be the one targeted for being culpable in Mitch’s misconduct, that Cory could quickly find himself taking over the reins. “It’s crossed my mind,” Cory says, giving nothing away. Chip says that once these ideas get floated, they have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and given his journalistic clout, perhaps Chip could do some floating in exchange for protection.
Cory says it’s intriguing, but he doesn’t see Fred being taken down unless something specific comes out about him. “Like what?” Chip asks. “I don’t know, like what?” Cory counters with an eyebrow raise. Someone will have to crack first, and it’s probably not going to be the guy who frequently exits rooms saying things like “Chaos — it’s the new cocaine!”
And now, to do what these people are conceivably in L.A. to do: the morning news. As Bradley and Alex prepare to go live from the sight of the fires, Bradley apologizes for asking Alex if she knew about Mitch, but her “journalistic instinct” told her she needed to ask the question at the time. “Your curiosity just thrills me,” Alex replies. “I am in awe of your instincts.” She tells Bradley that they are in this mess together now, but doing their job well only requires them to act like they like each other for two hours a day. “The rest of the time, we just have to be professional adults who can tolerate being in the same room,” Alex says, making sure to specify that she knows she can handle those boundaries: “We’ll see about you.”
But, as usual, Alex is just a little too confident about her handle on a given situation. This time, the situation being… herself.
When Bradley and Alex start rolling on that feel-good dog segment, and the sweet man who rescued all the dogs starts talking about needing to keep family together, and Alex starts thinking about having to tell her daughter about the divorce, she starts… dry-sobbing… live on air. Which soon turns to loud wet-sobbing while cuddling a dog, as Chip hisses from the production tent to cut Alex’s mic and keep the camera off her. Bradley handles the remainder of the segment, closing with a joke about people needing to hop on the website before Alex adopts all the dogs herself, and once Alex storms off to her trailer and won’t come out, Bradley handles that too.
I mean, sort of. Alex does not want to see Bradley, which Bradely seems shocked by, but she tells Chip that she has plenty of experience dealing with people in crisis and just heads right in. Indeed, Alex is having a full-on panic attack, so Bradley holds her hair back while she vomits, and then hugs her and tells her to breathe until she’s had enough time to calm down. But once Alex does start breathing again, and realizes who it is that’s helping her, she begs Bradley to get out and leave her alone.
Alex thinks Bradley will revel in seeing her that vulnerable, but Alex’s brief moment of transparency winds up going in the other familial direction: Everyone gets a little more honest with each other, and gains a little more empathy.
Chip asks Bradley to come talk to him because he’s gotten a call from Fred, and turns out, he’s one of the rich people hiring private firefighters to protect his Malibu home. Chip is apologetic, saying that it was a good story, but it’s out of his hands — they have to cut the story. And straight out of Mean Girls, Bradley informs Chip that she’s a pusher. She wants to be clear that she’s not apologizing, she’s just explaining that pushing is in her nature, and she’s realized she can’t change it, she just has to lean into it.
Chip says he gets it;, he used to be a pusher too: “But now I’m in this position where I can’t push anymore because I have to hold the middle from being pulled to the other side, and keep the whole f—ing thing from falling down the mountain.” And suddenly, Chip just decides to jump off that mountain: “Hey, Bradley, what if we said ‘f— Fred’ and ran the story anyway?”
The next morning, they do just that. The story doesn’t make any big statement, or condemn the rich, or save the poor — it’s just the news. Maybe Bradley can be good for this show, especially if she’s able to work in conjunction with Alex. And that future gets a little brighter when Alex shows up at Bradley’s door to tell her that she lost her s— earlier because she’s getting a divorce, and she knows her daughter is going to blame her and this job, and she can’t stand the idea of her daughter hating her. So Bradley tells Alex that her dad was a terrible drunk and he killed a kid while drinking and driving. She was furious with him, and she pushed him out of her life, but she never stopped loving him: “That’s just how it is with parents and kids.”
It’s starting to seem like that just might be how it is with this Morning Show family too. “I want you to know that you can trust me, you can tell me things, you can be vulnerable,” Bradley tells Alex. And Alex genuinely seems grateful to hear that…
Which is why Mitch just has to come in and do his whole ruining thing. Right before Bradley goes to bed, she gets an email from the former Morning Show co-anchor. “I’d like to meet with you,” Mitch writes. “I think I have some information you might be interested in.” Whatever could that be about?