The Morning Show as a melodrama with swelling strings, operatic slow-motion explosions, countless choked-out monologues, and tracking shots of the planning of a TV takeover heist? Yes… more of that, please.
And if the upward trajectory of The Morning Show’s storytelling over the course of season 1 is anything to go by, then we will be getting more of that in season 2. Because, sure, there are a lot of things about The Morning Show that still don’t totally make sense… but all the those silly things matter a lot less when the show surrounding it feels like it’s being intentional with its exaggeration in order to drive home an important narrative, as opposed to self-righteously talking about the Truth all the time. And hey, maybe The Morning Show always knew where it was headed and wasn’t quite as sanctimonious as it seemed in the beginning. But its characters certainly were, and when you’re still getting to know a series, that can amount to kind of the same thing.
Admittedly, I worried in the beginning that the series’ sometimes forced inclusion of Mitch meant he would have some sort of predator’s redemption arc, which is really not the side of the #MeToo story that needs a louder voice. But the voice that ultimately revealed itself throughout the back half of the series to be both necessary and nuanced was Hannah’s, as probably the most tragic — but still just one of many untold stories — victim of Mitch’s sexual misconduct.
And the arc that ultimately revealed itself to be the much more welcome redemptive tale was, surprisingly, Alex’s.
Surprisingly because at the start of The Morning Show, it seemed like Alex was our hero: staring down the man, demanding her due! But Alex’s motivations were most often selfish, even if they had a familiar ring of empowerment. She certainly wasn’t wrong when she stared down a boardroom table full of men while wearing a fabulous red coat and informed them that they weren’t the ones in charge anymore. What Alex didn’t realize was that just because she guerrilla-hired Bradley didn’t mean she could create some systemic change all by herself. Alex thought she could force UBA’s hand and create some sort of a change for herself because she had enough power to do so…
But she didn’t. And about the time she started begging Fred for a little piece of his power in Friday’s finale, and then heard about the tragedy of Hannah that happened right under her nose, Alex started to realize that no woman would ever stand to have any real power under UBA rule unless all the people who have been ignoring injustices and silencing their frustrations just to keep their heads above water come together to do something more than survive.
Enter Bradley, Chip and Corey, the three horsemen of the UBA-pocalypse, who are seen strutting toward Mitch’s apartment after one of those classic unexplainable-but-still-enjoyable Morning Show scenes where Yanko, apropos of nothing, explains the cause of El Niño to a highly uninterested bartender: “This thing that seems so insignificant… is this harbinger of something that throws everything out of whack,” he says. “But there’s nothing you can do to stop the wind from blowing… You just keep on moving and brace yourself for the s—storm.”
The Morning Show winds are blowing toward change, and Bradley, Cory, and Mitch are going to follow them, even if Mitch is their terrible, selfish, narcissistic sail in the storm. They all agree that their secret plot to sneak Mitch into The Morning Show, where Bradley will interview him about how Fred silenced Mitch’s victims, needs to happen as soon as possible. Because at this very moment, Alex is meeting with Marlon, Chip’s executive producer replacement, and Maggie Brenner is telling Fred she’s chasing a story on UBA’s involvement with Mitch’s behavior, and she’s not content to just take his word for it that the internal investigation found Chip to be the sole keeper of Mitch’s sins. “History’s already been written,” she tells him as either a warning or an assurance, depending on his role in said history. “All that’s left is to commit it to the page.”
Or to the screen, if you’re Bradley & Co.
But going through with the Mitch interview hinges on Hannah corroborating his story about Fred, and Bradley knows that needs to be handled delicately. There’s a series of fantastically tense tracking shots through the Morning Show set as everyone goes about their delicate dealings in backstabbing and takeovers. Alex and Mitch awkwardly pass each other in the hall knowing they’re each trying to throw one another under the bus for varying degrees of the greater good; Chip looks sadly at Hannah, knowing what he knows now about why Fred pushed him to promote her; Bradley is short with Daniel because she’s mad at Alex, who in turn has to assure Daniel that Bradley doesn’t know he’s taking her co-anchor chair, but she will soon. And then Bradley and Alex sit down to report the news together.
It’s chaos — delicious chaos — and I feel like Cory as I revel in it. But the grounding force of this melodramatic finale is Hannah, whose pain is all too real.
Bradley asks Hannah to come to her dressing room, and when faced with the idea that all her superiors have been talking about her behind her back, she’s entirely overwhelmed. Not only is Bradley plotting an interview revolving around her with Mitch, but Maggie Brenner has been trying to contact her for some reason, and a different UBA news show just randomly reached out to offer her a much higher position in L.A. And while Hannah would love to take that job and leave New York, she recognizes that none of the people swirling around her are looking out for her. Even Bradley, who tells her that she has the opportunity to change things at UBA. “That’s not my f—ing job,” Hannah finally explodes. “My life is not a tool to service your agenda on your schedule.”
And isn’t that what’s happened to Hannah over and over? She’s been asked to grease the wheel — for the good of Mitch’s mental state, for the good of the show, for the good of all womankind — no matter what it means to her own well-being. Bradley does at least take no for an answer, but soon Hannah changes her mind all on her own. When Bradley arrives at her apartment for an interview, it seems like Bradley might be the first person Hannah has told this full story to. She tried to tell Fred, and he shut her up with a promotion, and she learned her lesson pretty quick.
Watching Gugu Mbatha-Raw travel from numb to re-traumatized to panic-stricken is completely heartbreaking. And given that it’s done almost entirely in monologue, with very little input from Bradley, it’s also a masterful showcase of emotion that brought more than one heaving sob to this recapper while watching.
Bradley asks Hannah to talk about her experience with Mitch and the aftermath, and Hannah lets it all tumble out of her, unwilling and unable to stop. She talks about how hard it was to be in the midst of the Las Vegas tragedy, and how Mitch was a comforting presence; how he cheered her up and distracted her; how special she felt; how she got upset all over again in Mitch’s room thinking about her mom’s death, and how it felt like a hug from a parent when Mitch comforted her, something she hadn’t felt in a long time; and then how he put his hand between her legs; and how she froze. “I didn’t know what to say,” Hannah tells Bradley. “I figured I’d just do it — it didn’t kill me.” Those words hurt then; they hurt even more now.
She tells Bradley that something came over her when Mitch wouldn’t even acknowledge her back at UBA; she burst into Fred’s office, told him what happened… and he offered her a promotion. “He said I’d been doing a great job; he had no idea who I was.”
Once the facts are on the table, Bradley wants to know how this all affected Hannah, and if she’s getting any help, but that’s not a story Hannah is willing to explore. She finally explodes outwardly, saying that “f—ed-up s— happens to people all day, every day that they don’t know how to deal with,” so why does Bradley want to dwell on it?
Bradley tells her to take a breath when it sounds like she’s entering a full panic attack, and Hannah screams back that everyone keeps telling her what to do, and she wonders what she has to say to get Bradley to leave: “That I was violated? I was scared, I was powerless? That I think about it every day, hundreds of times a day? That this is what has defined me, how I got a promotion, who I am? How it feels to have someone you love and respect and look up to on top of you, using you, using your body… and then living with that eternal noise in your head for the rest of your life? The noise that says you’re dirty, you caused this, this is your fault. To see people lose their jobs and world’s fall apart all because you couldn’t find the words to say no?”
Hannah’s story isn’t the news, and it isn’t a means to save Chip’s job, or to change The Morning Show culture, or even to create a better world. Hannah’s story is her life, and she has to live it any way that she can. Bradley recognizes from this outburst that the way she’s living it probably isn’t great right now, and tells her that they don’t have to go through with this. But Hannah says they do because this is important. When Bradley tries to reassure Hannah on the way out that none of this is her fault, Hannah simply says: “With all due respect, Bradley, take your rhetoric and just f— off.”
While all this turmoil is happening, Fred is in his office explaining evenly to Alex that “Chip made his bed, and Mitch f—ed the whole office in it, while we obliviously stood outside the bedroom door.”
It really takes — to quote Alex and Bradley later — a special kind of a—hole to not just be in denial about their complicity in harming women, but to be very aware of it and choose to outright lie over and over again. “We have to show that there are consequences for our actions,” he says with a straight face while telling Alex that Chip has to be fired. “You said it so eloquently yourself: ‘As a woman, there often aren’t enough of them.’”
By leeching off Fred’s powers of protection, in this moment, Alex is no better than Mitch. And when Chip passes her on the opposite escalator, on his way to be fired by Fred for Fred’s crimes, and she can’t even look at him… she knows it. But it won’t be until the next morning that she does anything about it. It won’t be until something happens that’s so terrible she can no longer squeeze her eyes shut and ignore this culture she’s happily benefitted from.
Once Chip is fired, everything goes into overdrive. Because when the next morning comes and Claire shows up at Hannah’s door with coffee to apologize for how things ended between them, there’s no amount of apologies that could fix the havoc Mitch and Fred and so many other culpable parties wreaked on Hannah’s life. Even though the last thing we saw her do was call to accept the job in L.A., that night, after telling her story to Bradley, she went home and overdosed.
Claire calls Bradley in tears to tell her what’s happened, and in a slow-motion shot, scored only by instrumentals, we watch Bradley tell the entire crew, who were gathered by Fred to meet the new EP.
The devastation rips through the crowd like a fire. Hannah was loved, Hannah was talented, Hannah had so much going for her. But Hannah felt defined by one awful thing that happened to her that no one else wanted to look at or listen to — and once they finally did, it was all too much, all too late.
Bradley calls Chip and tells him what happened, and that the interview is off, and he understands.
Chip goes to Mitch’s building and punches him twice in the face, and the two roll around on the ground like children.
Bradley goes to Alex’s dressing room and tells her everything: that she was going to interview Mitch behind her back, that Mitch assaulted Hannah, that Fred covered it up, and now Hannah is dead, and Bradley is leaving because she can’t take this anymore. Devastated by the Hannah news, Alex chases after Bradley swearing that she didn’t know, but that she still deserved what Bradley was going to do. She says that they can fix this together and begs Bradley to stay, which Bradley shows no signs of doing until a man on the street tries to take a selfie with Alex, who promptly loses her s— on him, and Bradley agrees to stay if Alex will just calm down.
Upstairs, it’s Cory, of course, who actually convinces her to go on air. “You can’t keep yourself pure just by moving on every time someone disappoints you,” he tells her. “So you might as well stay and fight the fight, Bradley Jackson.”
It’s Alex who launches the first grenade, throwing water in the new EP’s face when he tries to motivate his new co-anchors by saying, “Let’s do this one for Hannah.” Oh, hell no, sir. When the cameras go on, Alex can’t speak. She gets up and walks around the set, rather hilariously continuing to pass in front of Bradley’s camera as she awkwardly does the intro by herself. When Alex finally goes back to the desk, leaning on the side, she says, “Hi, sorry we haven’t been honest with you… We don’t tell you everything, even a little bit.”
Bradley asks under her breath if they’re really doing this.
“Yeah, you wanna?”
The interview may be off, and Hannah may not be able to tell her own story anymore, but they can still report the news. “We would like to share some information about our network,” Alex begins as both women proceed to tell everything they know about the kind of ship Fred has been running at UBA. It’s a wonderfully unhinged, messy performance from Jennifer Aniston as Alex, who is saving exactly no face, but who seems to be resurrecting herself in some other, more personal way.
“It’s all bulls—, and I’m not going to lie to you anymore,” Alex tells America. “None of us are going to lie to you anymore because I’m as culpable as anyone in terms of not calling out or helping to end the sexual misconduct that goes on in this f—ing building.” Alex spews confessions and emotions while Bradley offers facts and commentary: “The abuse of power, the corporate corruption, it has to end — we cannot accept a culture of silence, here or anywhere.”
In the booth, Rena warns that Fred is storming down the hall, Mia locks the doors, and Cory overrules the new EP, telling the cameras to stay rolling and tight on Alex and Bradley. “As many Fred Micklens are out there, there are billions more people like me, and Bradley, and you,” Alex tells the audience. “So get loud,” Bradley says. “We hope the Freds and the Mitches —”
Their live feed finally cuts to a test screen, and the fact that it sounds like Bradley’s wish for Fred and Mitch is being bleeped out is just perfect. BLEEP those guys, indeed.
This one really was for Hannah, who didn’t need to die for her story to be valid, and urgent, and heard. But in the end, hers was a story of tragedy, and it will be up to season 2 of The Morning Show to do that story justice. I’ll rely on hope from the final scene of the camera panning out on Mitch sitting bruised and defeated at his empty boardroom-sized dining table that season 2 will also know exactly where Mitch and his story can go.