The Morning Show 3×05 “Love Island” begins as a fun and ship-heavy, if unnecessary, look back to 2020 — did we not already cover how terribly the media addressed COVID-19 in season 2? Are we not still terrible on our messaging? Hm. — and ends…well. It ends. That’s about the best thing we can say about everything that happens from the time things start to fall apart onward.
(Aside, of course, from the fact that Julianna Margulies and Reese Witherspoon are utterly phenomenal here. Obligatory to get that out there, even if it also goes without saying. Bradley’s grief and anger, Laura’s layers and layers of working through from “taking it” to “done“…brilliant. Stellar. Insert positive everything about the acting — and a demand for the AMPTP to give SAG-AFTRA the deal the union deserves — here.)
Anyway. Back to the episode’s problems. Things go from bad, to worse, to “be for fucking real.” And to be clear, the dissatisfaction isn’t about disliking a narrative choice around a relationship. No. It’s about choosing, mid-season, to go back and confirm every single bit of negative, predictable — but we were foolish enough to say, “oh, no. This series wouldn’t. Calm down!” (And we apologize for that. Profusely.) — speculation about where things were headed at the end of last season.
Most notably, there’s the January 6 of it all. Are we seriously trying to “both sides” the insurrection? To humanize the people who were involved in that? Are y’all for real? Surely not. And yet…apparently so. Up until that point, some of the other choices have the potential to be forgivable, depending on where the rest of the season goes. But Bradley covering for Hal is just a giant no. Especially considering we know, thanks to the season premiere, that Bradley actually gets an award for her coverage. Oh, and this “earns” Bradley her dream position anchoring the evening news, too. Even if there’s something understandable about wanting to protect Hal (before, you know, you actually think about what he did), where do we even go from here? Nowhere good — at least not if we want it to be believable.
Of course, the easy highlight of The Morning Show 3×05 is getting to see Bradley and Laura at their happiest, early in their time at Laura Peterson’s cabin o’ love in Montana. There’s that slow build, over time, to Bradley making the decision to make their relationship official on the air. And when they actually do announce that they’re together, it’s just…natural. These two are fun together, and while we often praise the kind of acting that goes into the angst and drama of it all, it’s worth pointing out that Margulies and Witherspoon are both utter delights in those moments. We’ll call it the BradleyLaura honeymoon phase, if you will.
(If you’re keeping track of Yours Truly’s inability to let ER go, it’s giving “Stuck on You.” Iconic stuff, actually!)
Even the initial tension, when Laura makes that comment about the education system in response to Bradley’s mention of her family not taking COVID-19 seriously enough, gets worked out in an entertaining way that at least appears to be about growing, maturing, and talking through issues. The couple has this great laugh about it, and the whole “definitely a lesbian conversation” line is the type of thing fanfiction is made of. (Quite a lot of that time in Montana fits the bill, actually — even the angst…up to a point.) But it comes back to bite them later. Which…that’s both no fun at all and just about how life goes sometimes, actually.
When things take a darker turn, there’s something to be said for how it happens. It doesn’t matter how strong Bradley and Laura’s foundation is. When two people have to live together sooner than their relationship’s natural progression would’ve otherwise dictated, struggles are natural. Living together is hard, even in the best of circumstances — and “these uncertain times” are anything but. So, add in the extra trauma of trying to live through a pandemic, the inability to get any “me” time away from each other because of the risks, and well…Yeah. Of course we could expect things to blow up.
When Bradley’s mom dies — and with Bradley far away, having offered to go home but told not to — it’s not even surprising that she feels extra guilt, on top of all the extra pain of grieving. Lashing out at Laura, at the only person there to (incorrectly) project blame and other negative feelings on…sure. That, too, is to be expected. Not to anywhere near the awful, nasty, abusive (or at least borderline on that point) extent that she goes, though. That’s…actually where the problems begin.
There are limits to what people can take, to how much they’ll allow someone to beat up on them. And there are limits and nuances to a story like this one that just don’t quite seem to appear here. That early comment from Laura suddenly becomes key, becomes central to her characterization and to the relationship’s demise. Suddenly, all Bradley’s longstanding insecurities (“she thinks my family’s crazy“) become reality. Even that makes its own kind of sense…until it doesn’t. There’s something particularly nasty about turning Laura into the villain, even as it’s very clear from Margulies’ performance that Laura is, at least initially, prepared to let Bradley just take it all out on her. Until she goes too far, that is.
Which, really, “Love Island” simply goes too far, just like our main character. Too far with the all-too-easy to predict aspects of Bradley and Laura’s story and too far into a backstory that is just…harmful, actually. But Bradley has her mother’s death as an excuse, however far we can or can’t let that excuse be enough. The series…has none.
Every single romantic relationship featured in The Morning Show 3×05 also comes to an end in this episode. Mia and Andre? Destroyed over his selfish, reckless decision to go out drinking and risk infecting himself, Mia, and God knows who else. Bradley and Laura? Over because of too much time spent suffocating on each other, issues they had before moving in together, and Bradley going too far in taking her pain out on Laura. Cory and Salma? Wasn’t going to be a thing ever, anyway.
So, what’s the message there? So-called “quarantine” was terrible for every single person and broke everyone apart? That’s nowhere near accurate, actually. And if we want to talk about so-called “lockdowns” (the US never had anything near a real lockdown) hurting people and relationships, let’s talk about the current “pandemic is over, you do you” state of things. Y’all won’t like what you hear, though.
Because, as it turns out, throwing this addendum to season 2 in at the middle of the series’ third season is a terrible idea. Bad for everyone, even. In the first place, it runs the risk of re-traumatizing people who were very ill in 2020 despite doing everything “right,” of blaming them — or, worse yet, the people they lost — for what happened to them when no one knew better yet. At the same time, “oh, Bradley’s poor family. Don’t look down on them” doesn’t work here either. Quite a lot of people were given the right information — only to be loud, wrong, and downright abusive over being asked to do the bare minimum. And if those people were mocked upon hitting the “find out” part of the “fuck around and find out” curve, so be it, actually.
While we’re at it, if we’re going to be like “wow, look how rough the pandemic [past tense — despite the virus having never left us, surging now, and causing chronic conditions for millions] was for everyone’s mental health and love lives” (or whatever), then, maybe we should examine ourselves today. No, wait. That’s right. We can’t dare talk about the people who, in 2023, are basically forced to continue isolating forever because “we’re all in this together” turned into “it’s not on trend to care about immunocompromised people anymore, so fuck y’all” and “protect the vulnerable” turned into “fuck the vulnerable once I no longer think I’m at risk. Y’all don’t even deserve safe visits to healthcare facilities. Lulz.”
So, yeah. “Revisiting” 2020 is…not a great idea. It’s a bad idea for people who are “tired” of it. And it’s painful as hell for people who are living through something that is, in a lot of ways, worse. But probably nobody wants to hear about that. As usual. So, back to more “acceptable” lines of criticism.
Here’s some more on the “bad, yet not ‘lol WTF’ yet” side of The Morning Show 3×05: Cory’s whole real estate saga. Literally no one cares. Not to mention, it’s a waste of Sasha Alexander to have her come in as “chick who distracts Cory from his creepy Bradley obsession for five minutes and also tells him about his future billionaire boyfriend down the beach.” Come on.
I know y’all are kidding
And now…January 6, 2021. Nothing good can come of Bradley editing her footage, then having Cory hide behind journalistic independence for her when turning down the FBI’s request for evidence. Yes, freedom of the press. And if it weren’t about Bradley saving her brother’s ass, weren’t about The Morning Show 3×05 trying to make us be like, “awww, insurrectionist fucks have families, too! And they weren’t all bad! Some just went with ‘friends,’ didn’t know what was going to happen, and — oops! — just happened to wind up fighting a cop instead of deciding to GTFO the second things went full-on terrorist,” then, yeah. Absolutely. Refusing to snitch, refusing to turn over a journalist’s footage, would’ve been a badass First Amendment flex.
But that’s not what happens in this episode. And it’s not what happens with Bradley Jackson’s career going forward from that awful decision either. She gets praised for doing something so bad, even Cory Ellison is disgusted. Gets an award, the evening news, everything!
“Yay, Bradley! You stood up for truth, and the free press, and you were so brave at the Capitol!!!! Congrats!”
…more like thanks, we hate it. Mazel tov on the character assassination and on being a coward, actually. But Bradley was supposed to be the hero, was supposed to be working on changing things and making them better. A joke.
More on The Morning Show 3×05
- Spoiler alert: That Purell isn’t going to do shit against airborne transmission.
- “You look like a dream.” My exact take on Julianna Margulies, every day of my life since September 19, 1994.
- “You know no one’s going to step foot on a film set right now.” Weirdly, he’s not talking about refusing to cross the picket line in 2023. But, um. Don’t do that shit.
- “Everybody stops to watch a house on fire.” Would have preferred to watch Cory’s fancy new house on fire, actually.
- “The fridge is full, the wine is chilled…I’m just missing one thing.” Seduction levels at a billion.
- Oh, ok. We’re making references to something happening with Bradley and Cory on something about a “crazy night” when they were “out of [their] minds.” Awkward AF, waste of my time, unnecessary confirmation of ick. Bye.
- “How was your day?” “Shitty.” “You said that yesterday.” My life. And I’ll say it again tomorrow, actually. Mia just gets me.
- Ok and she’s so great with Andre. Dance in that apartment! Live your best lives…until you don’t.
- Ok but Laura touching up Bradley’s makeup and grabbing her thigh under the table. I—.
- Cory with a KF94 that he considers not using and (lamely) jokes he doesn’t know the policy about because he doesn’t watch the news…when healthcare workers were in shitty surgical masks — if that! — and fucking trash bags. Grab me a vomit bag.
- “The education system is broken.” That look of disgust! Same, Laura! (Bad timing, though.)
- …I have, however, done the “that’s my family” defense — even when I can’t stand said family — though. (But, again, this does not apply to insurrectionist shit! Cut those people out! It’s easy, actually!)
- A conversation about coffee! And OMG the “no” face Laura makes at the camera! Give Julianna Margulies her own comedy already, I’m begging.
- Ah, yes. Blah, blah, want to “really see” you by risking the plague pre-vaccine. Fuck off, Cory.
- Karen Pittman, you legend you. That shot of Mia watching the protest footage owns my entire heart and soul.
- “Air it all. Let ‘em squirm.” This.
- “I’ve seen him die, like 20 times. They’re killing him. He’s calling out for his mama. They’re all just standing around letting it happen…” And the way she breaks.
- “People are stuck at home. Their only friend is the TV.” Y’all could @ me.
- “I think the American public can hold….more than one idea at a time.” Ok so then why doesn’t this episode treat viewers like we’re intelligent?
- “A billion people are gonna die, but you want to bitch about my paycheck.” When your condescending ass uses that illy-gotten paycheck for record-high emissions with your private jet bullshit, exploitation of workers, and vanity trips to space….yeah. What about it?
- The stunned look from Margulies when Bradley tells Laura about her mom being sick, Witherspoon’s perfect delivery on all Bradley’s anxieties…so good!
- JULIANNA MARGULIES BADLY TRYING TO IMITATE LIZA IN CABARET. MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE DOING MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SHOW. I AM UNWELL.
- OMG?! HELP.
- Did she ask Alan Cumming for tips???
- …and then, that awful, awful moment. Oof.
- Killer (no pun intended) stylistic choice just letting Witherspoon act the shit out of Bradley’s reaction, rather than telling us what’s happened. Gorgeous, in the most painful way.
- LOL WTF is this supposed to be a “parallel” or “connection” (or whatever) with Bradley on the steps in Montana and Cory watching the waves? WTF.
- Laura having to apologize for having a medical condition and not being able to go have people literally wait on her for “real food” in a pandemic…UGH.
- I very much felt the “fuck you” here.
- “You must be so filled with spite, it just corrodes your insides. That you’re happy when people like my mom die because they had…they get COVID because they’re uneducated, or they’re hicks, or…or they’re just not as fucking smart as you.” This is fucked up, actually. If it’s some kind of commentary on the schadenfreude around people who were loud and proud about not caring, that’s an extra fuck that from me.
- The way Margulies is squeezing those eyes shut, getting Laura to try for some control of herself before going off…
- And the way she’s barely holding onto herself before she just lets the venom build and build…
- Not fun to watch because of what it is and what they’re saying to each other, but wow, the talent on display!
- Is this…a Mitch conversation? Pittman nails it. But it’s another thing I could do without since there’s never going to be real closure for people like Mia.
- “Nope! Nope. Not worth getting COVID.” Exactly.
- “Sleep is my self care.” Next time I sleep in and am late for work, I’m using this.
- “Maybe he’ll refuse to leave the White House. And the Secret Service boys will have to drag him out by his tiny, little feet. Because people would watch that!” Kill me now.
- Ditch your “buddies,” Hal. And turn your shit brother in, Bradley.
- Should I care about Cory’s first vaccine dose? No, I should not.
- “I hate television.” Me watching the last act of this episode.
- “I know you have principles, but this is an extraordinary situation.” It’s ok. Can’t sacrifice the principles you already nuked.
- “Hal’s the only person I have left.” Ok but why is that?
- Like, she’s even emotionally manipulating this asshole? Unreal.
- “I’d like for you to leave now. And I don’t want to hear another fucking word about this. Ever.” Billy Crudup was nuts good here. Like, he was kind of terrifying.
- Oh, thank God that’s over.
Thoughts on The Morning Show 3×05 “Love Island”? Leave us a comment!
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