The Morning Show season 2 ended with a finale that showcased Jennifer Aniston’s talent in ways we’ve never witnessed before as her character, Alex Levy, battled COVID-19. The episode, merely titled “Fever,” was the agonizing reality check, bookending a season of television that told us, from the very start, that we knew where this was heading. The pandemic was always there, waiting in the wings.
We heard whispers of it, even saw the frantic rush that was Daniel Henderson’s escape from China after traveling there to bring us the news of a new virus on the other side of the world—the one that couldn’t possibly affect us here. But could. And it did. As we all know, by March of 2020, it was here. The news coming out of New York was like something straight out of one of those disaster movies. Over a year later, morgue trucks, some of the most stark reminders of just how bleak things had been still remained.
Those of us who care to know all of this already do, so we don’t need much more of a recap. But as we tried to warn you when we started The Morning Show‘s second season, these episodes were set during a very specific few months. We were always going to end up here.
The characters we took this journey with were headed down a path that would leave them scrambling to try to find a way to still produce the news from home. Hospitals were always going to be full by the time we said goodbye—or, hopefully, only goodbye for now—with chaos in the air, beds stacked in hallways so cramped the over-burdened and at-risk healthcare workers could barely get through.
And yeah. Someone was always going to get sick. Statistically, with that many people working behind the scenes, in a city so large and so hard hit, it was always going to happen. Viewers should have seen it coming, and maybe many did.
But then again, didn’t we spend most of the time we discussed The Morning Show this year focusing on other things? Didn’t we care more about Bradley Jackson’s love life, the life-altering addition of Julianna Margulies to the cast? Wasn’t the tell-all book, complete with details of Alex and Mitch’s affair, a bigger concern than “that spiky little fucker,” as Alex called the coronavirus in “Fever?”
It’s all so very fascinating to see how something like The Morning Show 2×10 “Fever” can almost feel like it came out of nowhere, when really the warning signs were there all along. As viewers, we kind of…got sucked in to “normal” life and everything going on with the series, the same way it all went down in the real world.
But here we are. We’ve seen it now, and as difficult as it was to see the pandemic’s early days all over again—and to realize we fell into the same trap that we’re likely to always fall into, in terms of never seeing the writing on the wall until it’s too late—we still can’t help but be grateful “Fever” exists.
And it’s for one main reason: We have witnessed, from Jennifer Aniston, what is likely one of the best dramatic performances of all time.
“I am literally on fire from the inside out.”
Imagine the sickest you’ve ever been, something a step up from your worst bout with the flu. And then remember, with COVID-19, there’s no treatment (we’re getting close-ish?) Think about the helplessness—especially in the earliest days of the pandemic, when we really knew nothing and even thought that the news of 80% of cases being “mild” meant most people would just feel like they had a cold. But that’s not what “mild” meant at all.
Get it all in your head. And then watch Jennifer Aniston nail it, bringing to life reminders of real people’s experiences, as you heard about them from loved ones, as you read about them in The New York Times, or maybe even as you suffered the agony yourself.
The fever, the shakes, the inability to get comfortable enough to rest, vomiting, exhaustion so bad it meant sliding to the floor—Aniston gave us all of that and then some in The Morning Show 2×10 “Fever.” With Alex’s “mild” case of the disease, there was no need to imagine how hopeless hearing your doctor say there was nothing they could do for you would make you feel because Aniston performed that. Her pain was obvious, those tears so raw and that glassy-eyed stare so haunting, it was impossible not to feel like we were right there with Alex.
We also saw Alex’s fear of dying, heard her wonder about what might come after…Even in the absence of COVID-19, this is the human experience. If we have not seen a loved one experience this yet and/or have never felt so sick we honestly thought we might not ever be the same before, this is coming for us. And make no mistake about it: Aniston made her character’s battle for her life real in a way that precious few others could. She dug into something terrifying and ugly, and just like Alex will likely never be the same after this, maybe the same could be said for anyone who saw that performance.
Of course, the phenomenal way The Morning Show 2×10 “Fever” came together in highlighting this talent didn’t end just with so many scenes of a very, very sick woman. There was also Alex’s broadcast from home, reminiscent of more real-world occurrences like Chris Cuomo’s decision to keep hosting his news program from home after his own diagnosis. (Though, Cuomo never appeared even a fraction as ill as did Alex Levy.)
But while this extra nod to real-world experiences with COVID-19 was appreciated, it was Alex’s moment of going off script, reminiscent of this universe’s first season finale, that was yet another slam dunk for the actress.
Alex knew, with Maggie Brener’s book out there and the leaked footage of her speech at Mitch’s memorial going viral, there were people who were going to enjoy seeing her sick. And she just…didn’t…care. She looked right into that camera and turned the scrutiny back on the public.
“But my response to you is…What’s—what’s your point? Is it that if I deserve it, it allows you to enjoy someone else’s pain while feeling morally righteous? And by the way, the world’s not fair. Fair is just a man made concept. So, why—why do you have this opinion? Why do you have an opinion on this?”
Because as The Morning Show has done so well at reminding us all season long, this fascination with celebrities’ personal lives is its own kind of disease. And Alex Levy has been fighting that one. Has much of the judgment against her been warranted? Absolutely. But has all of it? No. And that part is important.
“Did I bring this scrutiny on myself by putting myself in the public eye? I know that makes sense to some of you, but…Jesus. Just remember: I was a kid, like anyone else. I took my first steps, like anyone else. Had my first love, my first heartbreak…I just had the audacity to want to be on TV and try to entertain and inform you. So stupid. I didn’t realize, when I made that choice, that the thing people would find most entertaining is not even the thing that I do that I’m good at. That I have risen to the highest levels of. I didn’t realize that the most entertaining thing about me would be just batting me around like a freaking piñata while digging around, asking questions about my sex life. God. Why do I bother doing the news? Who’s your tailor sleeping with? Is he a good guy? Does it matter, if your pants fit? I’m done apologizing for myself. Either get on the Alex Levy train or just stay at the station.”
It’s another one of those times, like in the episode just before this The Morning Show season 2 finale, where one has to wonder how cathartic that monologue may have been for Aniston. There’s quite a lot there that, quite probably, all of our favorites would love to have the ability to say without facing consequences. And, of course, that applies more to women than men.
Because men, apparently, can go on disgusting racist and antisemitic rants…but never actually be “canceled,” despite so many crying about it.
All this is to say we bow down to Jennifer Aniston. May she forever leave any doubters, anyone who typecast her as “romantic comedy lead,” behind. And may anyone who dared hold things in her personal life—especially those where she did nothing wrong and was actually the wounded party—well and truly get fucked.
…but life was still happening
While the Alex Levys of the world were gasping for air, the world was still turning. In The Morning Show 2×10, the most obvious example of that was Bradley Jackson’s search for her brother. As life-altering as watching Aniston in “Fever” was, it’s not exactly like Reese Witherspoon’s performance as the desperate, worried sister who was beating herself up was any slouch.
It didn’t matter if Bradley was passing out “missing” posters to people on the street or making that gut-wrenching video to post on social media, just begging for help finding Hal, the turmoil was all so very there. And yeah, having the added wrinkle of the world slowly unraveling before one’s very eyes—and seeing the endgame of what that unraveling looks like in the form of Alex’s storyline in this season finale—certainly added to Bradley’s fear. How could it not?
With all of that being said, while it was certainly valid for Bradley to feel like this might have been all her fault, it wasn’t. Hal made his choices, and you can’t help someone who refuses to accept the help. It doesn’t work, never has. And while Cory gave Alex the support she needed at the time, once she made the decision to try to help her brother, that does not negate anything Laura told her about needing to put herself first.
Even Bradley’s “she thinks my family’s crazy” line about Laura isn’t some condemnation of her—it’s Bradley’s own regret, fear, self-doubt and just…shit coming out. That’s ok. It really is. Cory’s not some replacement or “better” option at this point. He’s still the one who outed Bradley and Laura—and even made sure they were both hosting The Morning Show when the news leaked for maximum carnage. His “confession” in The Morning Show 2×10 “Fever” wasn’t admitting what he did and begging for forgiveness—it was some rambling about his supposed feelings for Bradley.
…but if he loved her, he wouldn’t have done that to her. And he certainly wouldn’t still be lying about it by omission.
…but it all comes back to where we began, doesn’t it? Because where did Bradley and Cory wind up finding Hal? A packed New York hospital, in March of 2020, with all those people swarming about unmasked. And where we began, with realizing just how much we fucked up by focusing on all our day-to-day drama instead of getting ready for this thing to swallow us whole? Well. That’s exactly where The Morning Show season 2 ends.
Before we say goodbye to The Morning Show season 2, some spiky little thoughts.
- “Families are fucked up. You know why they’re fucked up? Because they’re full of people. If you want to cut somebody, then just cut them off and be done with it. But if that is not an option, then…you’ve got to own them. I mean, I think it’s why you stuck up for me—because you’re owning me and my shit. Don’t let your shame of what other people think run your life.” There is so much to unpack here. Alex wanting to make amends with Bradley when she’s worried she won’t survive? Big character moment. And, the fighting through, the emotion from both women? The Morning Show just continues to be nothing but one big experience in its stars giving master classes in Acting with a capital A.
- If the people blaming Alex for getting sick, when it was so early in the pandemic folks were more worried about washing their groceries than wearing a mask, was supposed to parallel the “fuck around and find out” energy aimed at anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers? Eh. That was a fail.
- Although, her trip to Italy, back when that country was Miss Rona’s favorite hangout…Yeah, that was still pretty stupid. For a lot of reasons.
- Ok but all of those people at The Morning Show, gathered together for an in-person notification about Alex’s diagnosis…makes me feel feverish just watching it. Y’all, go home! Or at least put on some masks!
- “I’m going to die.” “You’re not going to die.” “You don’t know this. And I don’t want to be alone.” I am joining Alex in death after hearing the actual whimpering.
- No, Stella, you don’t get to overlook Daniel all year and then suddenly pretend to give a shit about him when you need someone to carry your show in a crisis. Bye.
- “We see the iceberg. It doesn’t make you brave to steer the ship right into it!” The majority of the “leaders” in the U.S. did exactly that in 2020…and continue to do it today.
- “I’m not going to risk getting sick just because our prized feminist morning anchor was horny for Chester the Molester.” It’s Holland Taylor’s dripping sarcasm on “prized feminist” for me.
- “All we can do is try. I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here.” Pretty sure I need a Chip in my life.
- We really had a whole montage of Alex getting made up to look “presentable,” when the whole point was to inform the public about how devastating COVID-19 could be. Think about how fucked up our society is, that it won’t let sick celebrities look sick. Just. Just take a minute.
- “That spiky little fucker is in a race with you, the American people, to see who can cancel me first. You know where my money is? My money is on the spiky little fucker that…corona piece of shit.” Just when you thought The Morning Show 2×10 “Fever” couldn’t get any better, it put these lines out in the universe. We do not deserve.
- “I know everyone already thinks that I’m self-centered. And yeah, I am. Is there anyone out there who is perceiving the world from somewhere other than inside their own body?” Alex Levy in her unbothered era? We love to see it.
- “I think we can all agree that the world seems to be at a turning point, and uh, life right now is…presenting me with some adversity. I’m looking inward and asking myself, ‘who is it that I actually want to be?’ And then, I’m in the mirror, and I’m asking if that’s actually who I am. A lot of people are going to be doing that—at least they should be.” Narrator: Most didn’t bother. They baked some bread, though.
- “The world’s never going to be finished piling on. Shit’s always going to be coming at you. But life is…It’s life, you know? And I’m alive. I mean, at least I think I’m alive. Stay tuned.” She’s not wrong. And we’ll end with that.