AppleTV+’s The Morning Show is building up to an explosive 2020 arc. But this week’s episode, “It’s Like the Flu,” makes quite clear that it’s only January 2020 at the fictitious network UBA, and there’s well over a month’s worth of story to get through first.
Network executive Cory (Billy Crudup) continues to be the most dynamic, developed character on a show that wants all its characters to be so, though they’re often reduced to one-sentence descriptors (strong woman! Man who feels wronged by society!). Cory is slick and two-faced, this time trying to secure a deal for Alex (Jennifer Aniston) to return to The Morning Show despite Bradley’s (Reese Witherspoon) concerns. “I’m your boss, I’m going to make sure it’ll work out,” Cory says, trying to reassure Bradley. “I thought you were my friend,” Bradley retorts.
UBA continues to be an environment where concerns aren’t heard: Daniel (Desean Terry) is concerned about COVID-19, which has just appeared in the United States, but the network won’t dedicate any substantial airtime to the subject. The family of deceased employee Hannah Schoenfeld is suing the network over wrongful death, and Cory insists UBA pay whatever they demand. Mitch (Steve Carell) is on a solo vacation in Italy, trying to keep his head down. To put on a show of unity, Cory hosts a dinner for the UBA anchors and reunites Alex and Bradley for the first time since they addressed the network’s sexual misconduct issues while on the air.
There’s a confidence to the way The Morning Show conducts itself, and it doesn’t feel entirely earned. Mitch remains a main character, but the show’s mission for him is unclear: we know he’s guilty of misconduct, so why is the series still devoting airtime to him without massive repercussions or character introspection yet? There’s a strange scene where he’s accosted by an American tourist for his predatory behavior and prompts rescued by an older Italian woman. The scene is intended to spark a conversation about people’s actions and how they’re perceived as “incorrect” no matter how innocuous or genuine, but it’s clunky and unsubtle.
Bradley calls Chip (Mark Duplass) and the pair discuss Alex’s personality, exposing perhaps the most significant issue with the series itself: it’s too reliant on telling, not showing. “Alex can make you feel … important,” Chip says, pointing out that Alex only ever behaves in her own self-interest. We know this to be true, but it doesn’t feel like an astute observation on Chip’s part so much as an aggressive affirmation of how we’re supposed to feel about Alex.
Additionally, UBA’s negotiations with the Schoenfelds are only ever mentioned after the fact, never in the moment. The Morning Show has bent over backward to be a show that tackles #MeToo head-on but won’t directly go to the heart of the people most impacted by Hannah’s death—neither her family nor Claire, the colleague who discovered Hannah’s death (and has yet to appear in this season at all).
When asked if she’s ready to return to daytime television, Alex replies, “I’m getting ready to get ready.” That’s how this season feels so far, two episodes in. There’s only a mild hint at “resolution” for Daniel’s COVID concerns, Will Arnett appears (and then disappears) as Alex’s agent, Mitch’s time in Italy won’t be ending soon, and Cory deliberately disobeys an order from UBA and spends the rest of the episode reveling in his decision, without consequences. If there’s anything to learn from “It’s Like the Flu,” it’s that Season 2 is only getting ready to get ready.
The Morning Show drops on AppleTV+ on Fridays.