Not a lot happens over coffee in the third episode of The Morning Show, which keeps shuttling between different narrative arcs without offering much insight.
Story: As Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) and Alex (Jennifer Aniston) get ready for their high-stakes reunion episode, an old TMS colleague threatens to uncover some unpleasant truths. Mitch skips around in Italy with Paola on tow, and Daniel (Desean Terry), who is in China covering the coronavirus outbreak, feels sidelined by his own colleagues.
The Morning Show Season 2 is evidently building up to a crackling crescendo. At least, that is what the audience would want to believe, since the episodes keep indicating that something unexpected is supposed to happen. However, Episode 3 of The Morning Show turns out to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
In the days leading up to the Alex-Bradley relaunch episode, the network, led by Cory (Billy Crudup), pulls all stops to promote the highly-anticipated reunion. Enter Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies), a former heavyweight at the UBA and Alex’s rival, who lines up two tell-all episodes with The Morning Show stars.
Alex is shaken and insecure about being outed for her silent complicity in fostering the toxicity inside the UBA universe. While the audience is aware Alex and Mitch have had a past, Alex is determined to keep her name out of the mess. She is also scared of Bradley’s growing closeness with Laura, and what Bradley’s non-calculated moves might end up revealing about her. There is mystery, but not enough to keep one engaged throughout the runtime. That Alex has manipulated her way into winning the trust of most of her colleagues isn’t a surprise. How she does it may have been, if only Alex was intriguing. But despite Aniston’s pitch-perfect delivery, there is no significant development in Alex’s arc to keep the audiences hooked.
Neither is Mitch’s (Steve Carell) arc any better. He is mildly sad about having to live in exile at a plush villa in Lake Como. His new friend Paola (Valeria Golino), who’s clearly romantically inclined towards him, wants him to be a part of her new documentary on sexual assault. He is also being shadowed by former UBA president Fred (Tom Irwin) in Italy, who keeps reminding him that they are on the same side of the court. But the show offers routine reminders of Mitch not being as bad, as remorseless. The Morning Show’s treatment of Mitch is discomfiting, and while the first season mined the bechara-ness to its optimum, a similar outlook this season almost feels offensive.
In other news, Daniel’s frustration with his job is evident. He is quarantined in China, where he is stationed with his skeletal crew to report on the growing cases of coronavirus in the country. But the other side of the world is in denial of the imminent catastrophe. At perhaps one of the most poignant junctures in this episode, Bradley scoffs at the term “social distancing,” remarking how Americans social distance with their own families once they leave their nest. It is unsettling, because the audience already knows how things are going to turn out in a matter of a month — March 2020 — yet, coronavirus seems to be the least of the network’s concerns amid the maelstrom that UBA is undergoing. Daniel’s segment gets blithely chopped in favour of other seemingly important ones, making him even more aware of his peripheral contribution to TMS.
The problem with juggling too many storylines is that each one feels unrealised at the end of the episode. Whether it be Chip (Mark Duplass) trying desperately to fit in after his ceremonial return as Alex’s producer on TMS, or Bradley being perpetually confused about Alex, the episode never quite lands. The complications, lies and twists seem way too contrived, leaving the viewers more exhausted than interested in the episode. Imagine it to be a watered-down version of a Race or Aitraaz, only the twists are played out for an uncomfortably long span of time.
The only saving grace is Cory, who simultaneously looks out for his employees (Read: Bradley) and makes them (read: Bradley, again) aware of his position in the food chain. Even when the show stumbles, Crudup manages to light up the screen every time he is in front of it.
Verdict: The Morning Show Season 2 Episode 3 demands too much patience out of its audiences without the promise of delivering something better in the next episode. It can feel like a wasted commitment. Perhaps it’s a litmus test for the loyalists. But that it never gets to the point makes it a much inferior season than its predecessor.