The Morning Show 2×08 “Confirmations” was the type of packed hour of television that’s almost impossible to grapple with. This series truly boasts an embarrassment of riches, and as it pushes toward the end of its second season, that’s only going to become more apparent. There were two opposing stories here, both of which were really powerful: the aftermath of Mitch Kessler’s death (may his memory not be a blessing) and the emotional destruction of having a very sick family member.
We’ll tackle the stories in that order, not out of the Mitch of it all being prioritized but simply because it falls more directly after what happened last time we visited with these characters.
While Alex Levy may have had a last-minute trip to Italy to mourn her friendship with Mitch Kessler, coming home to the news that he was dead was still just about as devastating for her as you’d expect. She was just with him, after all—just saw his true colors come back out to bite her in the ass after a night of pretending nothing had changed.
So, how could he just be…gone? But, well. That’s what happens. It doesn’t matter if you’re prepared for a death, or if it’s as sudden as an accident like Mitch’s. It just…floors you, one way or another.
We can—and should—talk about how pure Jennifer Aniston’s performance was in this episode. From the moment The Morning Show saw her step of that plane and be just so relieved that Chip found her, to her desperate denial, and heartbreak, and even anger in that car ride to Paige’s place, Aniston truly dragged viewers through so many stages of grief in a brief, yet meaningful, amount of time.
There was even something approaching acceptance in her decision to break the news to Paige before letting the network make an announcement, in deciding it was her duty to be the one to deliver the message. She even took responsibility for the delay in getting back to Mia and, after Paige told her about herself—which we all know someone has needed to do and make it a point to really get through to her for some time now—she still held true to her word and called Mia back. For once, Alex wasn’t running away.
The acceptance, however, wasn’t actually about this part of Alex’s grieving process. There’s still a lot of work to do there. But it was in the way she actually just listened to Paige instead of trying to keep living in her own, alternate universe that stood out here. She didn’t try to deny what had happened and only really offered up any kind of explanation for her actions once (with the whole “oh, it only happened twice” thing). Otherwise, she just…took it all in.
After that, rather than rushing back to her career at The Morning Show and being in the spotlight where she’s always found herself, Alex actually passed the big announcement on to Bradley Jackson. And she didn’t center herself in the narrative there, either. She finally gave Bradley credit where it was due.
“Because everything is changing, and you were the start of that change. And I just want you to know that I really…I so appreciate you, you know? That’s all.”
“Confirmations” was probably the first episode where Alex gave anybody, especially Bradley, credit for anything, in any way, that seemed genuine and not all about image. If—and make no mistake: that’s a huge if—Alex Levy is capable of growth and change, it might have started here. Only time can and will tell, and the answer will probably be different for everyone. That’s the beauty of a show like this and the questions it poses to its audience.
It’s not all about Alex. At all.
If The Morning Show has really, truly failed at anything, it’s in dealing with the whole “Mitch targeted Black women” plot point. Your key, most prominent Black voices on the series are Mia Jordan (Karen Pittman) and Daniel Henderson (Desean Terry). We’ve already talked extensively about how Daniel has consistently been in everyone else’s shadow, as well as the kind of complex guilt that comes with furthering that by not discussing his character very much in reviews.
For Mia, it’s like…She’s important to the show, a vital piece of what goes on behind the scenes, and someone affected by Mitch’s actions…But how often do we really see her feelings about it all highlighted? Not nearly enough. What we have gotten out of the character has, mostly, been down to Pittman’s performance—not really much in the way of narrative. Add in her position as someone who is one of, what, two (?) visible Black women on the set itself, and it’s like this one character is having to tell the entire story for the damage done to women of color by a powerful white dude like Mitch.
It’s a lot. One woman shouldn’t represent them all, and if she does, she’d better damned well get the focus. But she hasn’t been, not really. Not necessarily until her conversation with Rena in The Morning Show 2×08 “Confirmations.” We’re putting the whole quote here because, frankly, it’s the least we can do to give this character more of a voice:
“Yesterday was a brainfuck. This whole job is a brainfuck. Life is a brainfuck. You have to go through life, pretending like you don’t know they’re making you play by a different set of rules. You think the guy at work likes you—you think he likes you for you, and that means enough to you, you know? You’re willing to overlook his wife and his children—save that to beat yourself up another day. And then, you start telling yourself stories until you believe them. Because you know what? Maybe they’re true. And then, it ends. And he—he’s petty; he acts like like a jackass. But you…You persevere. You put it behind you. And then, you get the job you were after the whole time. And they publish a book, insist that he didn’t really like you for you. But you don’t believe them. Because to believe them is to believe that you weren’t enough on your own. And then, they lump you in with a bunch of other women—women who were legitimately victims of this empty, horny vessel who wanted nothing but what he wanted. And that job you got? Why’d you get that job—to make it ok that you were victimized? But you weren’t. You were the side chick. Fuck Mitch. Fuck that guy that put you in this situation. Fuck that they only fuck up your life. Fuck everybody.”
There is so much to unpack here, from Mia’s belief that she wasn’t really a victim to her desire to just want to have been enough, and even highlighting that she was forced to play by a different set of rules. Because, as a woman, she did have to play a different game than Mitch did. As a Black, woman, she had even more weight to carry.
The series hasn’t really explored that a lot, and we wish it had given this character the rich storytelling that an Alex Levy or a Bradley Jackson has received. But at least it’s all out there? And nobody can ever say Karen Pittman didn’t absolutely kill the scene on a level that stood out, even with (repeating myself, as always, here) such a stellar cast.
The thing is, given the power dynamics at play, one could argue—whether Mia is in a place to admit it to herself or not—that Mia was one of Mitch’s victims, just in a different way. It’s highly likely he saw her vulnerability in wanting to just be enough and used it against her. If nothing else, there was plenty of some kind of manipulation involved. And we know that, not because The Morning Show showed us a whole lot about Mia’s experience, specifically…But because it’s Mitch we’re talking about here.
If he was honest in his dealings with anyone, it was Alex. And even that is probably a stretch.
But the burden on Mia didn’t end there. Because now, like Alex and like everyone at UBA, she had to find a way to mourn the death of someone she probably shouldn’t be mourning at all. Grief just isn’t rational and doesn’t make that distinction, though.
More to the point, it was Mia who had to tell everyone gathered at The Morning Show about the as-yet-unconfirmed news of their former coworker’s death. She had to be the one to ask them all to keep quiet until they knew something for sure. Then, she felt obligated to be the one to write whatever words could sum up a life, a career, and a death—because she didn’t feel like even Maggie Brenner’s well-researched tell-all had him all figured out.
“And I have to put my personal emotions to the side and sum him up in two minutes.”
It was probably far too much for one person to have to do…But don’t we always put too much on Black women after failing to ever actually listen to them? What’s one more time, right, The Morning Show?
And we can talk about other coworkers, other survivors, or even viewers at home trying to grapple with it all. But haven’t we wasted enough time on Mitch Kessler? We gave him his uncomfortable moment in the sun already. Time to move on.
Bradley, Laura, and everything that may or may not be ok
Last time we saw Bradley and Laura, they were both hurt very, very deeply by Cory Ellison’s decision to out them. Their relationship wasn’t exactly in a great place either, given how they left things. Now, with The Morning Show 2×08 “Confirmations,” we were able to see how, if at all, they could move forward as a couple.
We knew, when “A Private Person” ended, that Bradley wanted to find a way to make it right—she thought Laura was worth fighting for. But what about Laura “No Fucks To Give” Peterson? Where was her head after the fight that actually saw her giving plenty of fucks, after the triggering that saw her, for once, well and truly rattled?
As this particular episode started, Bradley wanted to see Laura before starting the show. But Laura was kind of…standoffish. The armor was back up, the “unbothered,” sort of misconceived as cold, demeanor was back in place. She was more of the Laura we first met during Alex’s interview, not the real person we’d seen with Bradley from pretty much their first encounter.
She was in work mode, not personal mode. It could have meant the relationship was over, or it could have meant nothing at all. The thing about literally any character played by Julianna Margulies is that what you see is not always the entirety of what you get because there are always, always, always layers to account for. And that underlying humanity, at least for a few moments, needed to take a backseat so Laura could get the hosting job done.
…but then all hell broke loose for Bradley.
For anyone who has ever had an alcoholic family member, especially one who was a mean drunk, so many of us were Bradley in the moment when Hal came to her job and created a scene. Viewers who’d been publicly outed probably recognized a lot of that pain, yet again, too. Or maybe, we’ve just been embarrassed at work by a family member who’s mentally ill in some other way, or been attacked by some other kind of violent person, or so many other possibilities…
Regardless, something about Hal’s behavior in The Morning Show 2×08 “Confirmations” might have resonated in very personal ways. Or, perhaps just loving Bradley Jackson and seeing her hurt so badly by someone whom she loved and who was supposed to love her, made the scene powerful enough on its own.
Certainly, Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Bradley’s response to that kind of irrational, violent, and downright sickening behavior was haunting in its own sort of way. It wasn’t just about her sadness but how small she made herself in the moment, how quiet and timid this usually vibrant person became.
And seeing the shock written all over the face of the usually cool, calm, and collected Laura was its own sort of knife to the guts. You can love someone, hear their backstory and recognize that their family has created a lifetime of traumatic experiences. But until you see it all for yourself, until you witness all the abuse and the heartbroken, helpless reaction to it, you can never truly know, from that loved one’s words alone, what they’ve really gone through.
And even one incident isn’t going to be enough to truly make an outsider get it…But for a relationship with any kind of chance, bearing witness is certainly the first step in being able to be fully present for someone who needs you.
And, of course, Laura was there for Bradley. Because, with all the other bullshit aside, something just works for them. She just cares. And while she’s in a position to be able to get through to Bradley and to be her rock, she also knows what it is to take a step back when necessary. So, that’s the advice she gave Bradley…and the advice so many of us sometimes feel too guilty, or too responsible—too much like monsters if we try to take care of ourselves when the emotional turmoil of helping someone who refuses to be helped becomes too much—need to hear.
“But at a certain point, it doesn’t matter why he’s the way he is. It just matters that he’s bringing chaos to your life, and he isn’t interested in changing, you know? You have to think about you. Right? What is right for you? Think about that.”
You’re not a horrible person for walking away, for assessing your own situation and your own mental health and deciding when enough is enough. The Morning Show isn’t the only series to try to teach this lesson this season either. But maybe the advice will be a lot easier to follow coming from her.
Confirmed thoughts about The Morning Show 2×08
- Mia Jordan’s all “I don’t want to be lumped in with these legitimate victims,” and I’m like…We stan an Olivia Benson tribute.
- Ok, but did anyone else catch Laura’s barely held-back smile when Alex was telling Bradley about how much of an impact she’d had? We love a proud girlfriend. (And continue to worship at the feet of a killer actress who has owned us since the ’90s, in case that wasn’t abundantly clear by now.)
- Meanwhile, showing Bradley and Laura hosting the show in the background while everyone was scrambling to confirm Mitch’s death? Beautiful filmmaking…and, of course, when you’re dealing with Julianna Margulies and Reese Witherspoon, they don’t actually stay in the background. They are the spotlight, whether intended or not.
- Not me going off about big Carol Hathaway energy again…But actually? Laura, just radiating empathy and wanting to provide some true care for Bradley? I’ve seen Ms. Margulies do that since 1994. And I’m telling y’all: That was some all-grown-up Carol shit right there. Fight me. You’ll lose.
- “You learned behaviors as a kid to help yourself survive in a crazy environment. They’re not helping you now.” Y’all ever feel attacked? Because same.
- “My family just really fucked me up. And I love them so much, but I can’t fix them.” No, really. The Morning Show can stop indirecting me at any time.
- “Feelings? They drain your lifeblood…” That awkward moment when you start to agree with Cory Ellison.
- “…they turn your eyes gray. How I’m doing can not be your problem. Caring about other people, it limits your ability to make self-serving decisions, and what is good for you is good for the company because it owns you. And it owns me. And we own it. And we are all one. Circle of life.” Buuuuuuuut then, he keeps talking, and you’re like, “nah. Trash.”
- “…and there is not enough makeup in the world to make me look like I’m enjoying this.” Alternative: Julianna Margulies could ditch the makeup, walk around in a burlap sack, and still own me.
- While we’re on the subject: Can she hold me and tell me it’s all going to be ok sometime? Because, uh, everything kind of sucks, and I could use someone comforting me like that, so why not her? For science.
- “She probably needed, like, private space.” “Well, maybe she shouldn’t be on TV five days a week—kind of a bad career choice for, uh…you know. Private space…” Or, like, we could leave people the fuck alone outside of their jobs? IDK.
- “Well, if there were ever two lesbians who could appeal to middle America, it’s those two lesbians. Allegedly.” Presented without comment.
- “People might not have the stomach to pile on a dead guy.” Y’all have literally never been on twitter dot com.
- “I’m the President of UBA News. Anything you have to say about UBA News, you can say to me. And if this isn’t about UBA News, get the fuck out!” Stella went off, and we are here for that.
- “People judging you is a bitch, but it doesn’t kill you.” May we all learn to live by the words of The Morning Show’s undisputed queen.
- Chip and Alex’s little bitchfest in that car? Comedy. Gold.
- But y’all saw how this man almost fell to his knees when he saw Alex get off that plane and all that awkward not-quite reaching for her, even after all that, right? Right.
- “Transition, for society, is rarely easy. Reconciling who we were, with who we are, with who we want to be, is challenging. Figuring out what, from the past, we need to remember, to forgive, to learn from, or to ignore is impossible to do elegantly. People at this workplace suffered from Mitch’s inability to do any of that. And for that, many are still paying the price.”
- The writing on this show.