The Morning Show 2×05, “Ghosts,” gave viewers a damning look at what happens when reality comes crashing down on the lies we’ve told ourselves. Simply put, it catches up with us, one way or another, and usually not at all in a friendly manner. In the end, what we refuse to see, either in ourselves or in others, can destroy us. And them.
So, let’s discuss the most obvious of culprits in this game of mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance: Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston). In some sense, she’s been a victim of this type of messed up thinking in others. To anyone with half a brain cell and eyes even partially open, it’s blatantly obvious that Alex is not comfortable in her old, yet new again, situation. She wasn’t ready to come back to UBA—never intended to be back in the blinding glare of the spotlight, in fact. She told Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) as much in The Morning Show season 2’s premiere.
And yet, here she is, not only back in front of the cameras but also being thrust into increasingly more visible and world-changing roles. Whether her back pain on the plane headed to Vegas and throughout “Ghosts” is from a true injury or not, it can almost surely be at least partially attributed to stress. To terror. To the ever-present thumping of a tell-tale heart, warning Alex that, ready or not, judgment day is right around the corner. She’s not the feminist hero that the world sees her as, and she knows it.
Alex’s problem isn’t wondering whether or not she’s good enough to do what she does. She knows she is, always has known. No. She’s absolutely certain that the alternate reality she’s constructed for herself, the lies she’s told herself and the world to paint a pristine image—to become The Persona of Alex Levy, not the person—is about to be destroyed.
It’s not paranoia. It’s Alex’s conscience telling her the truth.
Alex has been obsessed with finding out what’s in Maggie Brener’s (Marcia Gay Harden) upcoming book pretty much since the beginning of The Morning Show season 2. UBA’s daytime star may be writing her own version of her life’s events, but she’s completely fixated on everything about Brener’s take. Why? Because it just might contain something damning—something true. In episode 2×05, that obsession starts to attack her from the outside.
It’s in a visit from Audra (Mindy Kaling), who wants to make sure Alex is “ok” with her interviewing Maggie, with her going and reading the tell-all in question. It’s one of many times in “Ghosts” when we see Alex’s fantasy world start to peel away. When Audra is about to leave, after the usual “showbiz people” song and dance of pretending to be looking out for each other while not actually giving a shit at all, Alex asks Audra to see her through the same rose-colored glasses she uses to view herself.
“…cut the bullshit for just a second. I have always been gracious to you, haven’t I?”
Audra’s reaction is pretty much everything anyone ever needs to know: She’s surprised, and more than just a little judgmental, to see that Alex truly believes that…even though the facts say otherwise.
It all falls apart on a much, much larger scale when Alex gets to Vegas. Just seeing Maggie Brener sends her fixation on Brener’s book to a catastrophic level. She and Chip awkwardly (transparently) dodge Maggie when they see her in public; later, Alex just can’t shut up about what kind of story might be hitting the bestseller lists soon.
She has a complete freakout and starts rambling through the lists of people who may have talked to Maggie—people who, in her mind, have lied to paint her as the villain. When Chip points out that Alex said she didn’t want Mitch Kessler’s garbage, she vehemently denies it…even though he’s telling the truth.
“There are a lot of things you conveniently forget. And it’s frustrating.”
Alex takes that comment about as well (poorly) as can be expected, shouting her way down the hallway back to her hotel room…And then, there’s the big blowup with Maggie as “Ghosts” concludes. She is begging the woman not to lie about her relationship with Mitch, even though saying there was a relationship would actually be the truth. She swears everyone—especially Maggie—is out to get her, that the journalist is just putting whatever she wants in that evil, evil book of hers…And gets nowhere with all of it.
Because whether or not Alex is ready, whether or not any of us is ever really ready, the truth is out there, ready to rip all images and carefully-constructed fiction to shreds.
That brings us to the Laura Peterson of it all
Alex Levy’s fear of Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies) all starts to make a sick kind of sense here. All that time “warning” Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) about Laura in The Morning Show 2×03 was never about who Laura was. It was always about who Alex was. About what Alex had done.
I don’t even know how to begin to start to explain how downright abusive what Alex did in outing Laura was. And make no mistake: Even though Laura “Unbothered AF” Peterson gave Alex a little bit of the benefit of the doubt in admitting to Bradley that she wasn’t one hundred percent certain Alex outed her, viewers know it’s true. Especially with seeing how Alex reacts to Audra and how she unravels over Maggie’s book, anyone who’s paid attention to her journey on The Morning Show knows exactly who and what Alex Levy is at this point. She does bad things, either by mistake or on purpose, and then refuses to own up to them. She projects and places blame on everyone but herself.
It’s the same “never liked me” behavior toward Laura as it is toward pretty much everyone else Alex thinks unfairly ganging up on her…Alex even did the whole, “let me avoid this person in public and fail at pretending it’s casual and an oversight” nonsense to Laura that she did to Maggie. Or, perhaps, she convinced herself Laura was going to get her because she just hated her for no reason.
And honestly? If Laura did want to “get” Alex? I’d help her hide the body.
For far too many people, it remains unsafe to be out at work, or with their family, or with certain friends—really anywhere, with anyone, in society. That lack of safety and support, and the ease of an employer to fire someone for being LGBTQIA+, were both much worse in the ’90s, when Laura thought she’d created herself a safe group of friends and learned—the hard way—that she hadn’t. And she had the choice to let everyone else know about her true self ripped away from her.
It honestly doesn’t matter whether or not Alex intended to burn her, or if she just spilled what she thought was a non-secret: It was still wrong. Alex has been right all along in not viewing herself through the same “feminist hero” filter everyone has thrust upon her. You can’t be a “feminist” anything if your feminism doesn’t include all women—including, and especially, those who are marginalized by society.
If you call yourself an ally and what Alex did doesn’t upset you, you’re lying to yourself about what kind of person you are even more than she is.
Laura, on the other hand, has had time to process that trauma. She is, despite the pain still quite obviously lingering on, thriving. She’s preternaturally calm, fully open with Bradley as she reminisces. This is a woman who has been put through one of the worst betrayals imaginable and has still come through it, willing and able to open herself up to love again, to give Bradley the second chance she begged for at the end of The Morning Show 2×04, and to be unapologetically herself. She rebuilt her career and is a true success story in every sense of the word.
But that’s not how it goes for far too many people. Sometimes, they don’t recover at all—maybe in large ways, possibly in smaller ones.
So, yeah. “oh, beware Laura Peterson. She’s out to get me” or whatever…was all just Alex’s guilt. If, once you heard how being a lesbian—uh, the way Margulies delivers “I was…a…lesbian.” Send help—once cost Laura her job, you started to worry about whether or not Alex was the cause, that wasn’t the series being predictable. That was The Morning Show leading us on a particular journey and viewers taking time to pay attention to the road signs.
The ghosts of my brain cells have more to say about The Morning Show 2×05…
- They could just have easily called this one “Fuckton o’ Skeletons,” as in, “there are a fuckton of skeletons in y’all’s closets.”
- Bradley and Laura’s entire hotel scene, history lesson on Alexy Levy being the worst aside? I absolutely melted.
- It’s shipping time.
- Ship it like FedEx.
- Shiiiiiiiippppp ittttt.
- I absolutely adore everything about Mindy Kaling as Audra. Jot that down.
- “I know I don’t come off well. You don’t like me. You’ve never liked me.” “That’s not true.” “Which part?” “That I’ve never liked you.” Anyone else just become the skull emoji in that exact moment, or…
- Ok but seriously, nobody on that plane noticed how cozy Bradley and Laura were? Well. Ok.
- Jennifer Aniston is lights out in The Morning Show 2×05. There is nothing quite like watching Alex’s anxiety, her self-imposed fears of being exposed for what she truly is, just destroy her inch by inch.
- ..and her best this season is truly yet to come.
- Gonna keep shouting about this one: When we talk about strong female characters, we need to include more Laura Petersons and stop being dumb enough to assume “strong” only means womenfolk in male-dominated professions with “masculine” types of (almost always) physical strength.
- For the record, Julianna Margulies has no idea how to play anything but the many different types of inner strength.
- …and God, if she doesn’t continue to blow everyone away while she does it. This cast really is impossibly talented, and she continues to be at the top of the list.
- On road signs: There’s one with huge, bold letters in this episode, and I’m completely ignoring it for now to avoid spelling it out.
- But um…What’s a more salacious story than whatever Fred is trying to do to Hannah Schoenfeld?
- “I’m not going to waste my time with people who bring me nothing but chaos. Life! Is too short.” Ok but I would actually die for Laura Peterson.
- “Because…I can’t write it off as ignorance. I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway.” Mitch’s whole mock interview with Paola was layers upon layers of fascinating…to the point where diving into it might look a little too much like forgiving shitty men. So. Not going there.
- Speaking of shitty men. Cory. He’s doing a very good thing by trying to block the smear campaign…but at what cost?