The Morning Show Season 2 doesn’t fall into a sophomore slump, and though imperfect, it’s a strong continuation into the world of journalism. It’s an excellent season to start watching after, but still, it’s a season with plenty of potential and too many misses after the finale. And that’s probably the most fascinating thing about it. The show has proven that it knows what it wants to do and where to go, and yet, at some point, with a few arcs, they fell through.
Because of its hefty season, The Morning Show Season 2 demands to be broken down with more than one voice in a roundtable.
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What are your overall thoughts about The Morning Show Season 2?
Shana: Overall, I really loved it. The whole “Mitch redemption” part of it, especially Alex’s visit with him, made me incredibly uncomfortable—but I think that was kind of the point. Not to mention, he never fully reached that redemption anyway, so it turned out to be really satisfying in that regard. (Revenge fantasies have entered the chat.)
I think, if I was to pick one thing where The Morning Show Season 2 had a big opportunity but didn’t really follow through, it was in how it handled the “Mitch targeted Black women” allegation. We didn’t really get a lot of material on the impact of that, and I think if we’re going to bring race into the discussion, we need to really, truly honor how it plays in. I talked about this in my review of “Confirmations,” where we finally got to hear Mia Jordan speak on her experience with Mitch. But one excellent scene, from one character, doesn’t quite erase…well, the erasure. If Black women were this character’s target, what was his motive? Who were some of the others? What were their experiences? Do they, like Mia, not really feel like they were victimized? And if so, what does that even mean overall? With Mitch dead now, though, circling back to that story might not even make sense without someone there to be the perpetrator—especially after how he flew off the handle and vehemently denied that being a thing, even as he was in the middle of accepting his role in other abuses.
Then again, it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of anti-Blackness out there, as if there aren’t plenty of other predators, so…Anything can happen.
Gissane: There’s so much about The Morning Show Season 2 that gives the series the push it has needed to find its footing, and it succeeds at it. I was particularly fascinated by the pacing—how the series manages to feel so achingly slow at times while simultaneously a much quicker watch than Season 1 is beyond me.
And I wholeheartedly agree with what Shana so eloquently details above. The season not following through with the allegations regarding Mitch targeting Black women doesn’t seem to match the bar the show established (or at least, is trying to). However, if Season 3 potentially goes into holding other men accountable or more information somehow releases about Mitch, it’s still something they could achieve (and I hope that they do). It could thoroughly strengthen the series because this isn’t just an absence on The Morning Show, but film and TV, in general, need to do better.
Lindsay: Season 2 of The Morning Show can really only be classified by one word in my mind: inconsistent. There was a lot that I absolutely loved (the addition of Greta Lee as Stella Bak, Mia as the exec producer of The Morning Show, the Bradley and Laura romantic relationship, ANYTHING with Marcia Gay Harden as Maggie Brener, Alex confronting her toxic behavior, especially towards the women in her life, the few but amazing scenes with Alex and Bradley and ditto with Julianna Margulies’ Laura Peterson and any moment she was on screen). Still, there was so much that either really fell flat on its face (Mitch’s “redemption”) or was not fully explored (the increasing anti-Asian behavior including the incident with Stella, the racial inequities of The Morning Show and network television, Mitch’s targeting of Black women, Bradley and Laura’s outing, Hannah’s storyline altogether post 2×04 really). The show suffered from both seeming very grounded, nuanced, and innovative around storylines like Bradley’s family trauma and exploring her sexuality later in life, and how does one, like Alex, who did not commit the sexual assault/harassment but was complicit in a way, address their behaviors; to completely behind the times in where the conversation stands on certain issues as a society. Or just plainly dismissive on important issues that THEY also established were important, including the initial premise of speaking truth to power in how sexual assault/harassment is wielded and accepted in such a visible field as national network news and even more importantly, telling the survivor’s side of the story while highlighting the damage visibility can have. I seriously never want to hear the word “cancelled” by any character on that show ever again. It held so much promise, even in its overdramatized and campy tone at times, that juggling so many nuances instead of choosing to focus on a handful meant that balls were dropped basically for everyone, despite some really stellar performances, visuals, and amazing work done by a host of female directors. I can’t help but think that the complete rewrite that was forced due to the pandemic and the filming of Season 2 in the middle of winter 2020 still heavily affected by the pandemic, tilted many of these issues in a way that made the inconsistency more pronounced.
I would like to make a special shoutout to Jessica Yu, Rachel Morrison, and Victoria Mahoney, who directed the shit out of three of my favorite episodes of the season that truly showed the care and connection that can exist between phenomenal directing, an actor’s transcendent performance, and great writing when done by visionaries like them.
Julianna Margulies is the most perfect addition into the show. What did you love most about her character and what are your hopes for the future?
Shana: I mean. It’s Julianna Margulies. Maybe I loved that most? I guess I could expand there…Julianna Margulies just carries something with her to every single role she plays. It’s a certain sense of strength, outside of the Strong Female Character™ trope—like, just a real, powerful woman. She doesn’t need to play one of these women who perpetuate a trope, fitting into a typically male-coded role but traumatized way more in order to exude strength. It’s just there.
She delivers a rawness, a realness, a feeling of “this is difficult, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other. I’m staring down not just the whole world but also whatever the hell is going on inside of me, and I’m just…getting through it and dealing.” Margulies makes her characters so authentic and relatable, even when they’re not at all people some of us would normally see ourselves in, and it all comes back to that idea of portraying a true inner strength. I don’t know how to fully put it into words because I don’t know how to put her and what she’s always meant to me as a TV viewer into words, but it’s that certain presence that commands your attention, a take-no-shit attitude, and just that something extra. She has it with all of her characters, yet it always plays out a little differently and seems to get stronger every time she’s in a new role.
It’s possible, probable even, that this inability to portray anything other than strength comes from who Julianna Margulies is as a person. Normally, that’d be a bad thing for an actor—they’re supposed to be embodying a character, not just putting themselves in different settings—but it works for her because she’s so damned good at what she does. It’s another idea that’s difficult to really explain, especially when there’s so much awe and admiration swirling around my head every time I even try, but there’s something there that’s unique, that’s perfect even while being completely imperfect.
She can say so much with so little, whether it’s putting up that “unbothered” shield I talked about a lot with Laura or the barely-there lift of the corner of her mouth when she’s just in the background of a scene, showing how truly proud she is of Bradley. I recently said on Twitter to the effect of: Julianna Margulies, when in character, doesn’t even let herself take a breath without it having a purpose. At the time, I was being a little bit of my over-the-top fangirl self…But the thing is? It’s true. And as a dancer, knowing how important breath is to movement and telling a story, it’s one of the things that’s so meaningful to me but may be missed by others because there’s just so much…more she also does. What separates the good from the great, though—what separates the Julianna Margulieses of the world from…just about everyone else, honestly—is the detail. It is the small stuff, those moments when she’s technically not the focus, but she’s still doing that thing she does so you can’t help but be drawn to her anyway.
In Laura Peterson, all of that blended together to create someone who was just free of all The Morning Show’s swirling drama and bullshit. In a lot of ways, she is the antithesis to an Alex Levy. Alex is so incredibly on edge—about 50% guilt, 50% too much pressure from the industry if I had to guess—and Laura’s just like…It is what it is. Even when she lets herself flinch, it’s barely there. She’s so reserved, yet so much an open book. Laura has figured it all out—as much as anyone can, at least—and it creates this “calm inside the storm” effect.
She’s really a role model, someone we can all feel good wanting to emulate. And honestly? That kind of goes back to my original statement: It’s Julianna Margulies.
For the future, I would love to see Laura return for The Morning Show Season 3. There’s still so much story in her, especially with regards to her relationship to Bradley, and things were left so open-ended. We didn’t get real closure.
So, yeah, I think it’s necessary to bring her back at this point, especially considering some of the reactions to what Bradley said in the Season 2 finale about Laura thinking her family was crazy. Personally, I really, truly saw that as just Bradley feeling guilty about her own mess and insecure about her relationship because it’s part of who she is to feel that way, at this point—and honestly, I’ve been there and projected like that—but I know it hurt a lot of people. At the very least, what I’m hearing from various reactions is how it felt like the continuation of this trope with lesbian characters being villains and/or villains being the ones who were coded a certain way as to imply being…something. I truly didn’t think that was the intent, but everyone is going to react to art differently and with their own experiences. So, if there’s any way at all to alleviate some of that pain, it needs to be done and done with care.
Besides, I just want more Julianna Margulies. I’m sure everyone who’s ever met me will be incredibly surprised by that. But seriously, look at what she did with Laura Peterson in just barely more than half a season…And think of the possibilities for even more. Who, in their right mind, would pass that up?
Gissane: There’s so much about The Morning Show Season 2 that gives the show the push it has needed to find its footing, and it succeeds at it. I was particularly fascinated by the pacing—how the series manages to feel so achingly slow at times while simultaneously a much quicker watch than Season 1 is beyond me.
And I wholeheartedly agree with what Shana so eloquently details above. The season not following through with the allegations regarding Mitch targeting Black women doesn’t seem to match the bar the show established. However, if Season 3 potentially goes into holding other men accountable or more information somehow releases about Mitch, it’s still something they could achieve (and I hope that they do). It could thoroughly strengthen the series because this isn’t just an absence on The Morning Show, but film and TV, in general, need to do better.
Bringing Julianna Margulies into the show is entirely what makes The Morning Show Season 2 so special because it adds on to the powerhouse of complexities and it allows incredible actresses the chances to thoroughly challenge each other with roles that are just right for them.
Lindsay: As noted above, Shana really is the Julianna Margulies expert here, but let me tell you, I am a quick study when it comes to brilliant middle-aged actresses playing lesbians. I have worked in the field of sexual assault/harassment for nearly a decade, so despite my love of Jennifer Aniston and deep appreciation of Reese Witherspoon (I am a child of the 90s afterall) I did not begin watching The Morning Show until I heard that Julianna Margulies would be in Season 2, playing an out lesbian journalist a la our Goddess and Savior Rachel Maddow.
Truly, Margulies has what she imbued into Laura Peterson so gorgeously; a steady and commanding presence that exudes power simply by being THERE. As Julianna Margulies herself noted about Laura, she as an actress is a thoroughbred. Neither Margulies nor Laura have to wield power against anyone; they just are powerful, and how this affects each character in Laura’s orbit was one of the most interesting things to watch this season, in conjunction with you know, just simply staring at her gorgeous face and wardrobe.
Bradley is enamored by Laura, inspired by her, and quickly attracted in a romantic and sexual way. She doesn’t understand why Laura is so upfront and without motive, despite such power in an industry that has done nothing but bend Bradley to its will from the jump and that Bradley has had to fight against every second to get minor shreds of power from. Laura is Bradley’s rock and shelter from the very beginning, and with everyone thrown out into space this season with their storylines, I was so grateful for Bradley to have a character like Laura, with the tenderness and care that Margulies can bring two seconds after being stern and sharply professional.
Alex is uncomfortable, fearful of Laura and her power. What could she do to Alex if she so chose, with her powerful friendships, insider knowledge/skill, and endless career accolades? Where Alex has stepped on her peers and others for her spot on The Morning Show, Laura completely built her power after complete devastation, in a way that seemingly brought people in and alongside her instead of under her expensive boots. And her career thrived above and beyond Alex’s. Margulies plays her interactions with Aniston’s character so beautifully because there’s still that simmering anger and bitterness towards Alex for outing her carelessly 20 years ago. Still, she’s also treating her like a gnat buzzing around her head that she easily brushes away.
I don’t know that many actresses besides Julianna Margulies who could have pulled Laura Peterson off so effortlessly. Yet as we know when hearing her speak of how she approaches roles, with infinitesimal detail and consideration that only she will ever fully know, but we get to enjoy and obsess over the result.
There’s a lot more to explore with that character in relation to the others. I am partial, of course, to the evolving relationship and important representation with Bradley, but also to Laura’s backstory and possible development over time. If we get a Season 3, which I very much hope we do, it would absolutely behoove the The Morning Show team to lock Julianna Margulies’ contract down FAST and for more than six episodes.
What storyline did you appreciate most?
Shana: The way The Morning Show Season 2 picked a particular moment in time and took us on this journey of early 2020 in New York was just so incredibly brilliant. I remember being absolutely kicked in the guts by the way the season premiere showed us both the New Year’s Eve celebrations and the deserted city, and then, even if it was just in the background and overshadowed by all the other drama, the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic was still always right there. It was so true to life, even in terms of the way we reacted to the different moving parts of the season and prioritized those over the spread of the virus, and then there was another huge attack on the senses with how Jennifer Aniston portrayed Alex Levy fighting the disease.
It ought to be too soon for this kind of storyline and damning look at how poorly we dealt with the news in real time? But it was…oddly therapeutic.
Gissane: Once again, hard agree with Shana on this because any other show, and as a hypochondriac I wouldn’t have handled dealing with the pandemic in my fiction consumption too. But The Morning Show Season 2 did a fascinating job of unravelling the uncertainties of it we all felt in the beginning along with the aftermath of Alex Levy contracting the virus. JENNIFER ANISTON’S PERFORMANCES. No words, and yet, a lot of attempts at words.
Also, anyone who knows me knows I’m a romance sap. I love a good ship. It’s rare that I actually watch a show without falling in love with a ship, so the series bringing in Laura and Bradley this season was not only pleasantly surprising, but as individuals and together, their arcs are truly some of the most nuanced forms of storytelling the season. It it’s beautiful, it’s complex, and it was so real, the series would miss out on gold if they didn’t carry it through in The Morning Show Season 3.
Lindsay: No one that has talked to me in the past three months, or who has followed me on social media, is surprised when I say that the storyline I most appreciated the most this season was Bradley’s exploration of her sexuality with one Laura Peterson in conjunction with her family trauma and how it affects all of her relationships, but particularly, her evolving romantic one with Laura. Especially, as Bradley is in her 40s, is in some of the heights of her career, and has the baggage of family who she is still struggling to break from in a way that is on her own terms.
I also appreciated where The Morning Show Season 2 was starting to go in regards to the storylines with Mia, Daniel, Stella, and even Yanko, but then they got dropped like hot tamales for Mitch Kessler. More on that in the next question.
In addition, I actually agree with Gissane and Shana regarding how the pandemic was handled. I thought I would be yelling TOO SOON at the screen every moment, and while some of it still felt eerie and unsettling in a way that was obviously purposeful and yes, TOO SOON, I appreciated the build. The utter ridiculousness that was our initial response and media coverage, while accurate, did frustrate the hell out of me as we reach nearly two years into this spikey fucker’s (thanks, Alexandra Levy) reign.
What storyline did you appreciate the least?
What storyline did you appreciate the least?
Shana: Aside from what I mentioned in the first question about not giving more than crumbs with respect to Blackness, I’d say just…whatever was going on with Paola. She had some good lines and good moments but was, overall, a weird Mitch stan who (apparently) hated young feminists. What was I supposed to get out of her? I have no idea, and that’s a problem on a series like The Morning Show, where you could probably write whole encyclopedias about every little detail and still not manage to cover the massive amount of thought-provoking content it provided.
Gissane: Same, Paola doesn’t seem to fit this show and going forward, I don’t understand why we spent so much time with her? What to make Mitch the dream-maker hero? I…it really didn’t work for me. But at the same time, there are still so many characters within TMS like Daniel and Mia that I feel we didn’t spend enough time with when they’re key players. Also, as much as I understand why The Morning Show Season 2, Episode 7 “La Amara Vita” happens, it could’ve had a better balance by cutting to other characters. I’m also going to agree with Lindsay above, but seriously, I never, ever want to hear the word “cancelled” again from this show.
Lindsay: So the reason I avoided this show initially was knowing the premise and doing the work in real life, I was in no way interested in watching, as most shows that highlight sexual assault/harassment and men’s misconduct in positions of power, the centering of either the male’s “reasons” for being a power-hungry creep or a gratuitous portrayal of sexual trauma that wasn’t survivor focused. However, I went ahead and watched Season 1 in preparation for starting Season 2 and was actually surprised that while it did have some of the more stereotypical plot points that I was trying to avoid, the show blended it with enough nuance and consideration for the survivor’s needs/wants. As well as a critique of power structures and systems that support long-term abuse, I had relatively high hopes for Season 2 (fully going in with caution because high hopes in my line of work for the understanding by media portrayals is not feasible). Then, instead of diving into all of the plot points that I have noted above as well as Shana and Gissane that were only cursorily addressed, the show went for the Mitch Kessler redemption arc…or at the very least, the “let’s try and understand this man who caused so much pain to so many people including driving someone to end their life.” I am not saying I don’t understand that perspective or that in some spaces, these aren’t needed portrayals. But we are past the point on a star-studded, massive show like The Morning Show that the narrative of the primary harm doer getting the focus is something we should even be telling.
There simply are not enough shows or movies giving space, time, and complexity to survivors, and I am very tired of that being the case. I am tired of pretending that the real problem is not spending enough time understanding the Mitch Kesslers of the world, while simultaneously, the same people yelling about cancel culture are also pointing fingers at the Hannah Schoenfelds of the world for even telling their stories in the first place and daring to be listened to or believed or to be human. End rant.
What surprised you the most about this season?
Shana: At the time I screened The Morning Show Season 2, there was basically zero information about Julianna Margulies’ character, other than that, she existed. I couldn’t figure out why she had kept so quiet or why she had this certain look on her face when asked about it during a virtual book tour event in the spring. But uh. Then, I screened “Laura.” And suddenly, the facial expression that had haunted me for months made sense.
There were all these “now, kiss” types of moments between Laura and Bradley…but I never, ever expected them to actually go there—especially not at the end of their very first episode together. I mean, we’re all so used to ships taking forever or never happening at all, especially when there are two women involved…right?
So, uh. Those inhuman noises you heard coming from the general direction of North Carolina’s Research Triangle area in late August? That was me, reacting to them.
My other big surprise kind of ties in here, yet also kind of doesn’t. I was really shocked by how some of the things Bradley was dealing with, with her brother refusing help for his addiction and Laura’s advice to her about putting herself first, reflected some of what I was living through with a family member. It’s a completely different situation, yet I wish to God I had a Laura in my life to constantly remind me that it’s not just OK to back away if I need to but also the right thing. At some point, we have to protect ourselves. If that means walking away, then so be it. But, you know, guilt complex and whatnot…
Gissane: The Morning Show Season 2 surprised me a lot with how well it dealt with the complexities of accountability and what that truly means. It’s not instant, it’s not easy, and it requires people to really dig inwards toward the good, bad, and ugly. We see that with Alex Levy, and I appreciate the fact that the show didn’t make it seem easy.
People are complicated and messy and in the same way, dealing with the bigger issues is just as messy. We see the exploration of it with Mitch as well. Bradley and Chip too. The conversation with Alex and Laura in “Testimony” lives rent-free in my mind for the transparency it captures between the two women and accountability on Alex’s end. It’s a fascinating, brilliant take into something that we as human beings are constantly digging into to understand better.
Lindsay: What surprised me the most about this season was two-fold. First, as noted by Shana, not only did they begin this storyline of having Bradley have this surprising chemistry with Laura Peterson, a woman. They actually ACTED on it by having Bradley kiss Laura by the end of that same episode, and Laura return the kiss. Then, they CONTINUED acting on it in the next episode…And before we knew it, the central romantic relationship of the show was the Southern closeted sexually fluid, in her early 40s, lead of The Morning Show and an out lesbian in her 50s who talks about therapy, healthy boundaries, and is in the prime of her career without competing with her peers. We have nuanced conversations around labels, career paths, utilizing our identity or not professionally, being outed early, being outed late, family responses, coworker responses, acknowledgment of trauma, toxic behavior in relationships, and the list goes on. There were archetype and trope-breaking portrayals, and even if it is two white, cis, privileged women, we STILL don’t have a broad enough or common enough portrayal of those complex stories. And I was pleasantly surprised by all of it while feeling simultaneously dragged for filth. A friend of mine said about writing sometimes, that something can feel so personal, lines can blur between the writing, you, and any “notion of what’s in character,” and watching Bradley’s character this season blurred a lot for me. But feeling seen and heard by fictional characters is certainly a part of the power of art.
Shana acknowledged this above, but I would be remiss if I did not also. I certainly don’t speak for all queer women, not for lesbian-identifying women either, but as a lesbian, I do understand, having just explained briefly what this portrayal has meant for me and for the community, that there was a lot of anger and criticism of the Season 2 finale as it pertained to Bradley and Laura’s storyline. Some expressed and felt by myself. We had just gone from the iconic “Am I your woman?” define the relationship conversation in the previous episode to Laura in Montana and her words being twisted and recontextualized in front of Cory Ellison of all people, who then completely ignored Bradley’s moment of crisis and disrespected his longtime friend Laura by confessing his love for Bradley unapologetically. This is where the other piece of my surprise kicks in because the issue is the finale really did leave TOO much up in the air and unaddressed. It was likely for the setup of Season 3. But having no further touchpoint or closure on Bradley’s outing (by Cory), Bradley ignoring Laura’s phone call, in crisis struggling to process what Laura was actually saying and probably using it to help ease her own guilt in Hal’s situation, the show REALLY left it wide open for emotional responses of fans to take over and drive the narrative instead of the writers and performances. Simply, there was not enough payoff in that episode to sustain what was built over the season. And queer women, certainly more so BIPOC, are more than used to being manipulated for viewership only to be left out in the cold at the end. But I am hopeful because The Morning Show and those involved in it actually COULD do their characters and storylines justice. Let yourself be great, TMS!
What are your thoughts on The Morning Show Season 2? Let us know in the comments below.