It has been a minute since a character's death affected me as much as Hannah Schoenfield's (Gugu Mbatha-raw) on The Morning Show. The season one finale — named "The Interview" discussed interview between Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) and Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) that never happens, and the ultimately life-changing interview between Bradley and Hannah — wrapped up the events of season one with a shocking death, and a predictable outburst, the combination of which left one recapper — myself — extremely frustrated.
For nine episodes, The Morning Show has crafted a conversation around sexual harassment and assault at the workplace, highlighting the trickle-down effect of reporting allegations of harassment from the perspective of compliant on-lookers, survivors, perpetrators, and enablers. It was compelling, reaching its peak in episode nine when alliances formed to finally topple the patriarchy at UBA from the top down.
The mission was clear: Take down Fred Micklin (Tom Irwin) and call out the toxic workplace culture he created and protected. The key to achieving this was an anonymous testimony from Hannah, who was promoted by Fred from junior booker to head booker in order to buy her silence after Mitch coerced her into non-consensual sex one night in Vegas. Mitch hoped that by outing Fred as the source of poison in the company, he could start his apology tour, and thus his re-entry into society as not a creep. Hannah reluctantly agrees to tell her story for Bradley to air it during the morning show, but during their interview it's clear that Hannah still has a lot to recover from. She cries, shakes, and looks physically ill at the memory of Mitch using his power and influence to trick her into thinking he was a mentor and friend. Hannah has never talked about what happened to her, and it's difficult, but she does it for the greater good. The next time we see her after she kicks Bradley out of her apartment, she's walking around the streets of SoHo in a daze — a cloud of eerie smoke envelopes her, and it's the last time we see her alive.
The final shot we see of Hannah — one of the hardest working and most talented employees of The Morning Show as proved by her remarkable ability to make any TSM guests feel comfortable — is her covered in her own vomit on the floor of her apartment. My heart broke when I saw her, but more so when I thought about the messaging around such a scene: Be brave, tell your story, take down bad men, and then...die. It's this idea of hopelessness that frustrates me, especially compared to shows like Big Little Lies, which showed Celeste (Nicole Kidman), a survivor of domestic violence, uplifted by her friends. While Hannah was taking a fatal amount of drugs alone in her apartment, we know that Claire (Bel Powley) was calling her phone non-stop to apologize for being angry with her. While Bradley was working on her story, she begged to be there for Hannah. She didn't have to be alone. But for some reason, the writers felt that they had to deprive her character of a future and make her a martyr for the cause. Hannah's sudden and unexpected death is what finally makes Alex see the light and turn against UBA, her home for the last 15 years. Instead of announcing the morning news, she goes rogue and exposes herself for being complicit in Fred and Mitch's inappropriate workplace behavior, and basically calls Fred a piece of shit human.
Again, I ask: Did a woman have to die in order for another woman to do the right thing? It felt obvious that Alex was going to do the right thing in the end — this isn't Succession after all — and I strongly think her character would have gotten there without killing off one of the more unique and complex characters on the show. (Miss you already, Gugu!)
The episode goes even further, ending the season with a shot of Mitch, sitting alone and distressed in his Hamptons mansion — as if I care about Mitch's reaction to all this. He looks upset because he lost his chance to be redeemed; he hasn't learned anything. Yes, it's empowering to see Alex and Bradley go off on national television, rattling the entertainment and news world with their accusations against their employer, but what a bleak way to get there. Even more baffling is the choice to use an airy cover of the Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood" to round out the season. Fuck Fred and Mitch, but also, justice for Hannah, and for survivors everywhere who put their lives back together again everyday.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.