With only two more episodes left in season one of The Morning Show — never forget that Apple+ has already green-lit a season two of their mildly popular A-list series — we're finally learning a lot more about the man, the myth, the sexual predator: Mitch Kessler. Played by Steve Carell, it's been difficult so far to see Mitch as a real villain. Yes, we've heard about everything he's allegedly done to women around the office, but we haven't actually seen him do anything. And in fact, we've heard a lot more about his denials than anything else.
That changes in "Lonely at the Top," which starts out as tender look at the better days at TSM — back when there was literal confetti falling from the ceiling, and men are allowed to joke about inappropriate topics openly. The good 'ol days, right?
Here's a day in the life of Mitch, at what we will call his perceived peak: Wake up; drink coffee made by your loyal wife who knows you are cheating on her; get driven to work by a jovial chauffeur and make sexually-charged jokes along the way — mind you, it's literally 3 a.m.; arrive at work and parade around the grounds, peacocking at every available opportunity; be showered with praise and gifts (literally, as this flashback takes place around his 50th birthday); joke about seeing a woman colleague naked; make your producer and ex-lover feel uncomfortable in the hallway; go home to your wife; ignore your wife; play with your kids; complain about how you wish you had more of a lasting legacy in the world instead of just being America's daddy; drink whiskey. And then do it all again.
So that's a typical day, and it's already full of locker room talk, favoritism, and backstabbing (he's secretly gunning to take Alex Levy's [Jennifer Aniston] juicier segments). But Mitch really catches his sexual harassment stride when he's out of the office, and posing as an overworked news lover, just trying to stay afloat in his depressing life. (Ha.) We specifically see him work his shtick on hopeful junior booker Hannah Shoenfeld (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who we know has an alleged drug problem thanks to a traumatic childhood. Using manipulation tactics like gaining her trust, sympathizing with her, and inviting her to his suite to relax and watch a movie, he convinces her that his come-ons are her idea, when they're very clearly not. Throughout their sexual interaction, Hannah is clearly uncomfortable, cringing the whole time. She leaves, shell-shocked, to a snoring Mitch. The next time they see each other, he tells her "Hi" and she breaks down. She heads up to Fred's (Tom Irwin) office, where she's promptly offered a promotion. She swallows her fear, and her pride, and accepts the title of head booker in exchange for not reporting Mitch's sexual misconduct.
We also get to see how just much Alex knew: All of it, basically. Maybe she didn't know about every tryst, but she constantly had to deal with all Mitch's shit floating downstream, ending up right at her feet. Alex has always only cared about herself. And though she's not to blame in Mitch's actions, she is complicit — and she's not the only one.
This is the toxic workplace culture Ashley was referring to in episode 4, when she says everyone treated her differently after rumors about her and Mitch were circulated. Everyone is covering up for him, even, it seems, the women he created inappropriate relationships with. If The Morning Show was a ship, then Mitch was the captain, and no one wanted to be thrown overboard.
Since this episode took place all in the past, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) is totally absent from the episode, and she leaves a void. Although her character holds room for improvement, her bold and feminine energy adds a complexity to The Morning Show crew that was clearly lacking. Chip (Mark Duplass) acts more decisively and professionally around her than he ever did around Mitch. It took a new face to have everyone straighten up. Well, first it took a total upheaval, and then it took a new face.
The episode ends with a montage of actual footage of Harvey Weinstein reacting to all the allegations against him. "What a pig," Alex mutters, watching the news reel. Mitch glances at it, and asks to change the channel. I guess he didn't like looking in the mirror.