“Who is Bradley Jackson?”
That’s the question Mitch (Steve Carell) asks Neil, his producer, when he gets the push alert informing him of his temporary replacement, Bradley (Reese Witherspoon). The third episode in the binge-worthy first drop of The Morning Show picks up right where episode two left off. Right now, the audience is also wondering, “Who is Bradley Jackson?” Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) is wondering “Who is Bradley Jackson?” And the executives of the network are wondering “Who is Bradley Jackson,” when really, they should be wondering “Who is Alex Levy?” because the news anchor they thought they knew is gone. Like Taylor Swift, the old Alex Levy can’t come to the phone now because she’s dead.
A foil of her emotional daughter, Lizzy (Oona Roche) who starts crying in the limo after her mom abruptly announces that Bradley will be replacing Mitch, Alex is all composure when she enters a boardroom full of angry network executives — angry network executives who, up until this point, have dictated her every move. “This network is held up by my show, and the only thing keeping us afloat is me, because guess what? America loves me, and therefore I own America. It seems pretty fucking simple, but you guys seems to forget.”
And forget they do. Alex has, for the moment, turned the tables. Even Cory (Billy Crudup), whose sole purpose so far has been to take the batteries out of Alex, looks impressed by her outburst. His new plan is to work magic with a reluctant Bradley (“I am being set up here to be some sort of fall guy, and I am not interested in that,” she says in the cab after the event) and the overeager Alex, only to pull the plug on them. He wants to use the duo to milk fast ratings, then fire them. “Chaos is the new cocaine,” he maniacally tells his boss, Frank, after explaining his plan. Frank gives him 48 hours to prove Bradley and Alex can pull it off, and he goes full steam ahead, telling The Morning Show staff that their show is now a “feminine space.”
Alex’s producer Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman) takes Bradley under her wing to convince her to not only stay on as Alex’s co-anchor, but to also find the potential for her own career. Bradley doesn’t like being used, nor does she like feeling “beholden” to people, but she does quickly warm up to the idea of being a journalist to the masses. The fame bug is real.
While The Morning Show is scrambling to prep Bradley for a potentially headline-making interview with Ashley Brown, one of Mitch’s accusers (who Alex demands to interview herself), he’s bonding with the only person who can sympathize with him: Martin Short as a Woody Allen-type director, who feels the same harsh spotlight from the #MeToo movement. Earlier in the episode, Mitch pitches an idea to launch a conversation about the nuances of the accusations against him before his manager promptly quits. Mitch says as a journalist, he’s willing to help the world “understand #MeToo.”
“I fucking love a tight rope. It makes me feel alive,” he says of the idea of mansplaining sexual misconduct to the world. His narcissism is almost impressive, until it’s matched by Short’s character, who says “there isn’t anything sexy about consent.” Now it just feels dangerous.
It’s through this conversation that we finally get into Mitch’s head, and see him, in real time, realize why women are speaking out. His friend is a fucking creep, and Mitch presumably had never really noticed. While Mitch may not be the most toxic guy in the room, he’s been friends with them, and enabling them, for years. “Well, you are actually a predator,” Mitch tells Short’s character, absolving himself of any wrongdoing of his own. “What exactly are you Mitch?” he asks in response. “Not you,” he says.
And for a minute, you’re left thinking Hey, maybe Mitch isn’t so bad, until we see Mia go into Mitch’s dressing room, sit down in his seat, and reach over to press a hidden button under. The door slams shut. Yes, Lauer’s reported, and later refuted, secret button lives on in the world of The Morning Show. Mia tries to confide in Alex about a potential experience of her own with Mitch, advising her to not be the one to talk to Ashley on camera. Alex is too close to the situation, even if she claims to not have known about Mitch’s behavior with other women.
As the characters, and audiences, chip further away at the nuanced conversations happening between the stressed out “What the fuck is going to happen when Bradley and Alex go live at 9 a.m. on Monday!!!!!!” conversations, the light between the cracks starts to shine in. Alex admits that she is truly so overwhelmed, and Bradley admits that despite coming off as a pantsuit-wearing hardass, she needs Alex to hold her hand and tell her it’s going to be alright.
If chaos is the new cocaine, then vulnerability is the new CBD muscle rub.
Water Cooler Gossip:
-I feel for Daniel Henderson (Desean K. Terry). Not only is he correct in saying that Lorelai is a ridiculous name in the premiere episode, but he is also correct in standing up for himself as he’s looked over for the role of co-anchor. He’s a young, educated, gay Black man who is overqualified for the job. He threatens to leave, but Chip begs him to stay, and even promises — promises — that the seat will be his in the end.
-Cory and Bradley have a sweet exchange during an after-hours shopping spree at Barney’s. Cory reveals that he sees a bit of his own mom in Bradley ( she worked on campaigns of women political hopefuls). Who knows if a word of what he’s saying is true...