Apple TV+’s The Morning Show started on rocky footing, but is finally blooming into a series that understands itself.
It’s February 2020, and the big issue at UBA this week is who will moderate an upcoming presidential debate. Several moderators have been selected, with one slot remaining. Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) wants it, while Alex (Jennifer Aniston) does not, though network CEO Cory (Billy Crudup) is eager for her to take the gig.
Having become much more than friends with journalist Laura (Julianna Margulies), Bradley debates the merits of coming out as queer versus remaining in the closet. One of the episode’s best scenes centers on this debate between the pair. Laura chastises Bradley for not seizing the opportunity for the public to know her as she really is— especially because Laura lost a major job opportunity after coming out in the late 1990s, and the times have changed. “I’m not interested in using my identity like that,” Bradley says, though coming out would boost her potential to bring diversity to the panel of moderators. “You’re not interested in it being your identity,” Laura corrects her, hurt.
The series has been unsubtly crawling towards the pandemic all season, often at the expense of Daniel (Desean Terry), whose pleas to devote more airtime to COVID-19 updates have been brushed aside by producer Mia (Karen Pittman). Feeling unappreciated by the network, Daniel lobbies for the moderator job, too.
Producer Stella (Greta Lee) takes Cory to task about his motivations in hiring her. Cory’s promotion to CEO came immediately after he was fired (you read that right; more on that later). Stella wonders if he only hired her because having a young, female Asian-American as the head of news production would reflect well on Cory.
Meanwhile in Italy, Mitch (Steve Carell) assists Paola (Valeria Golino) on her documentary. He hears that a smear campaign against deceased UBA employee Hannah, whom he assaulted three years earlier, is being shopped around to various publications. Mitch tries to get the story killed, and a gesture from Paola prompts him to really consider the consequences of his actions.
The Morning Show finds its balance nicely in “Kill the Fatted Calf” after three episodes of not quite finding its footing this season. The first two episodes devoted so much time to Alex and Bradley that other characters were overlooked, while last week’s surprise kiss between Bradley and Laura leaned into the high-stakes, soapy “gotcha!” drama the show has headed toward all along (and creating a depth to Bradley previously unexplored in Season 1).
Where the series leans in to its soapiness this week is the full story between something hinted at three weeks ago: how Bradley saved Cory’s job. He was fired for his lack of control over The Morning Show when Alex hired Bradley and then subsequently left the show. Bradley demanded he be rehired—at which point he was given the CEO position. This is wildly implausible, given that no matter how much of a hit Bradley was, she was still only three weeks into her job and couldn’t possibly wield that kind of power. But hey, the show is embracing its unrealistic nature at this point, right?
This episode particularly succeeds in giving depth to two of its most interesting characters, previously overlooked: Daniel and Stella. Daniel has repeatedly tried to earn promotions and negotiate more of the subjects he discusses, but the network only sees Daniel as someone to pass off diverse stories to, as he’s their only Black, gay anchor. He tries to branch out in this episode, angling for the moderator job, and Terry’s performance is heartbreaking as UBA continues to undervalue Daniel, keeping him in the 9 a.m. pop culture slot.
Stella wants to wield actual power, but is caught between Cory (as CEO) and Alex (as UBA’s 15-year jewel in the crown) asserting that they have more influence than she can achieve. Additionally, her attempt to educate weatherman Yanko (Nestor Carbonell) on cultural appropriation fell on deaf ears. She’s come to the network with idealistic ways to transform UBA, but no one seems keen to listen. That Stella doesn’t have a major win in this episode indicates that there’s far more to come from her, which would be tremendously welcome.
All in all, “Killing the Fatted Calf” introduces more conflict, but balances it well. It’s a quietly dynamic episode, and there’s a lot changing—not at the daytime program, but at The Morning Show as a series itself. That’s a great thing. As we move into the middle of the season, maybe the best really is yet to come.
The Morning Show drops Fridays on Apple TV+.