The Morning Show 2×03, “Laura,” saw Daniel Henderson wrapped up in the chaos of people trying to leave Wuhan before lockdown in a continuation of this season’s theme of watching 2020 unfurl with the curse of hindsight. Mitch Kessler was off in Italy, being sickened by both himself and, to a much greater extent, Fred Micklen. Alex Levy and Bradley Jackson were still trying to find some kind of truce before their first day back to work together, all in the middle of Cory Ellison’s planned media blitz.
But there was one undeniable star, one focal point whose debut appearance on the series warranted simply a one-word title that happened to coincide with her first name: Laura Peterson. Or, if you put it all together in the real world, Julianna Margulies continued her long-standing tradition of just having the power to command viewers’ attention.
If you don’t know the legend by now (and seriously, which rock have you been living under to not know it?), here’s a reminder: Margulies is so good at what she does, and had so much chemistry with George Clooney back in the day, that a character who had originally been intended to die in the ER pilot and never be seen again became a fan favorite for six seasons and one bonus episode in the series’ final year. That icon was, of course, Carol Hathaway.
History lesson over; commence worshipping at Laura’s feet.
So, what was it about Laura that made her so special—so dominant—as to stand out, even on a series on which performance quality, regardless of which lead you’re singling out, already defies explanation? (I’ll keep praising Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, though, even if I’ll never quite find the words.) Well, it’s kind of complicated. And just like with those other two, the words might never exactly be right.
But, well. Here goes nothing.
It’s all about Laura Peterson
After all of the build-up, all of Alex’s warnings to Bradley about this mysterious Laura Peterson, there was something about her very first moment on-screen that declared, “I’m unbothered.” You didn’t exactly get the feeling that Laura was at all unnerved by the hustle and bustle of it all, that she might be struggling with finding the energy and strength for all the fake smiles and platitudes like everyone else. She just kind of…was.
Laura’s this…unsettling blend of everything that ever worked about Margulies’ previous iconic characters…But, then again, she was also something entirely different—as every new character should be.
While everybody else was either stressed or scheming, Laura was the picture of comfort and calm…And yet..It was obvious during her interview with Alex Levy that there was something she was trying to accomplish there. As few fucks as she had to give, there was at least one reserved for whatever was the cause of all that tension in the room, the constant sizing-up as if preparing for war.
Maybe it was because of the knee-jerk fangirling over the actress in question? But somewhere in there, I got the impression that Laura Peterson, whatever she was in the world of The Morning Show, she certainly wasn’t someone dishonest or evil like Alex seemed to imply with all her dread leading up to the interview. Even if you were unsure how to take the character’s behavior, her quick jab to Alex’s throat with that question about the nature of her relationship with MItch Kessler, her later interactions with Bradley Jackson certainly painted her as someone…not different, exactly, but certainly not unnecessarily vindictive or malicious.
She wasn’t playing a role or putting on a facade, as you might expect she would in this universe. Laura just happened to show us multiple sides of herself in a relatively small amount of time like a real person, not a persona, normally does.
In fact, the other side of Laura, far away from whatever history was clearly there with Alex, was just fun. She commanded everyone’s attention with her jokes on the plane before heading off to Iowa for the caucus, and she had Bradley unsettled with just how much different she was than whatever might have been expected from pretty much moment one. Her laughter was easy, free…her nature honest and open.
She didn’t play the games.
She was above all that nonsense, a “pillar of calm in the midst of a crazy storm that’s going around,” as Margulies put it herself.
And so, meeting Laura Peterson in The Morning Show 2×03 was about really getting to the bottom of the idea that a person can be so many things at once and nothing at all like what the people around us tell us she is. Laura is someone unique, someone who definitely isn’t above maybe digging a little more deeply than she lets on that she’s going to if the situation is right, but who is just not part of this world in the same way that everybody else is.
You can tell, in the incredibly at-odds ways that she deals with Alex and…everybody else, just about…that there’s a history there. And it perks you up, makes you want to know what is the reason, but then there’s so much else to the character, so much else that you get invested in—even in just one episode with so much else going on—that, like, yeah. This was Laura’s episode. It was her world, and we were just unworthy guests inexplicably allowed to witness it.
Did we really expect anything else from the woman who plays her? No, we did not.
Get on board The Morning Show’s ship: The USS Braura
So, there were moments…
There was the easy laughter over Bradley’s spilled coffee, or to a much greater extent, the pauses with just the right something to make some of those looks more longing than whatever you’d expect from two professionals having a good interview. We could talk about how Bradley found it so easy, even after initially having her guard up, to open up to Laura in a way that we haven’t seen yet this season, showing echoes…not of the person this world forced her to become, but who she was before it all went bad.
It seemed like there was something there, lots of “now, kiss” thoughts floating through my head as I screened The Morning Show 2×03, but I never expected it to happen, especially after the nighttime street conversation didn’t go there.
But, well. We all saw what happened in that car…right???
Just…what?! Hello, yes. That strangled, inhuman sound you heard was me, every time I replayed that scene.
Imagine being asked by some network executive to mentor someone, then finding out that you feel some kind of way about them. More to the point, imagine feeling this thing you worked so hard for being ripped out from under you, unsure of where you’re going with your job and why people don’t have faith in you…only to have someone who’s a Really Big Deal tell you “you’re bigger than that.” And then, you sort of feel some kind of way about her…
And then…surprise! You find out, as you’re supposed to be saying goodbye once and for all, that it’s mutual.
Even more exciting: Imagine feeling like there’s some kind of something, tension-wise, going on between two characters, dismissing it as never going to happen—especially not right away. Because, no, television never does things like this right away—and then seeing it go there.
The Morning Show is really all about the surprises, huh? We’ll take this one as a win.
Scattered Morning Show Food for Thought…
- Julianna Margulies has owned me for 27 years, approximately 73% of my life (yes, I did the math)…and is not letting me go any time soon. Dear God. Just saying if I’m (rightfully) constantly talking about Mariska Hargitay being God in my SVU reviews, I don’t even know what the words are for this one. I guess I just have multiple deities, and They are both women. As it should be.
- …they could both do physical violence to me, and I’d thank them for it. Anyway.
- Look, just to try and make myself sound slightly less like a crazed stan: Important People recognize the talent. See also: No woman has beaten her in terms of number of SAG Award wins for drama, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (comedy God) is the only woman with more bling (9 to Julianna’s 8).
- I seem to recall there being an undefeated streak at one point, too? Just don’t hold me to that one. I could’ve just been too far gone with the fangirling and junk food during broadcasts…
- No but like. The Morning Show 2×03 was a lesson in the very, very different types of chemistry that actors can have. Witherspoon and Aniston both had it with Margulies—in spades—but in ridiculously different ways. (And all of the above are capable of having it with filthy, wet paper bags.)
- They bumped Daniel, who was quarantining in Beijing after that devastating scene of people trying to flee Wuhan because Mia thought the story wasn’t big enough, wasn’t interesting enough. “I can hear TVs turning off in Wyoming.” And the worst thing is, this is how it went. People thought everything else was more important, that it couldn’t touch us here, and now…Well. Here we are. We have failed, and failed, and failed again. (And I know I’m a total hypocrite by making most of this review about one woman and not…this.)
- “People need to know what’s coming. News isn’t just the stuff you want to hear.” And yet, heinously enough, it has been for some. Thanks, Faux Newz.
- Paola is…I still well and truly hate her introduction and the way she seems to have a fascination with making Mitch Kessler into a “good” guy, but then there’s stuff like this: “You should feel pity for her. Choosing to live in her past. You have a chance to move on.” She’s so very much not wrong, especially when we see just how sorry we really should feel for Alex with yet another series of shots and sounds that can only be described as “the panic nightmare” just as she stepped up to take her seat next to Bradley for the first time since…well. Everything.
- “So, how do you get 100 New Yorkers out of a pool? Fuuuuuck you! How do you get 100 Canadians out of the pool? Just ask.” Did I mention being in love? Because I’m in love. Was I ever not going to be? Probably not, no. But still.
- “I’ve heard so much about you.” And then the eyebrow. My immediate thought seeing that was, “oh, God. Just take me.”
- “I’m going to get you another cup.” “I’m going to get you new shoes.” “No, I don’t need new shoes. I like coffee stained shoes!” “I can’t afford your beautiful shoes anyway.” Caskett had the coffee cup every morning. Darvey had the vanilla. Bensler had Reggie Bogdani’s mom reading Elliot’s grounds…And Braura have…wtfever this is.
- “I know. What the fuck happened, right?” Literally no one knows, ma’am. And for the record, I’m with Laura on the whole pregnant at 15 not sounding like much fun thing.
- The whole Mitch and Fred thing. Yeah…
- “I’m ready to be the absentee parent. My mother did it so gracefully herself.” This line did a number on me, especially after having read that. (Like, there are more ways than one to be absent.)
- “Shut the fuck up. What are you doing? What are you doing? Is this what you wanted to discuss?” I mean, if The Morning Show is trying to make a point about how it is possible to learn and grow, Mitch is clearly the guy that’s being propped up to show it here.
- …but he still doesn’t get to just live an easy life after what he did. Call it “cancel culture” all you want, but actions should have consequences.
- This will be even more of a thing later in the season…but like. How much work did Aniston and Margulies really have to do to nail that interview scene, and how much was just plain experience—especially on Aniston’s part in this case?
- No, but really. All that partying over Alex coming back, just seconds after seeing what was happening on the other side of the world…I’m exhausted.