Written by Torrey Speer & Kristen Layden
Directed by Mimi Leder
Release Date: 24th September, 2021
While season two of The Morning Show hasn’t given us anything as brilliantly bombastic as Alex’s ‘I own America’ speech, at least it hasn’t yet, it is still retaining a sense of nervy suspense when it comes to Aniston’s portrayal of the character, even this soon into its second season.
While the character ended up doing the right thing at the end of season one and exposing on live television the institutional cover-up regarding Mitch’s behaviour at the network, ‘It’s Like the Flu’ isn’t afraid to remind us of how flawed and self-aggrandizing a character she can be while also not shying away from the collateral damage that she can sometimes leave in her wake, even when seemingly accomplishing the right thing.
Co-host’s Daniel’s reminder to Alex, and the audience, that she effectively screwed him over when her on-air revelations put the skids on their plan to try and make him co-host during weekdays are a gentle nudge that Alex is not a character that is the American sweetheart that she makes herself out to be.
The masterstroke of The Morning Show is in giving roles such as Alex and Mitch to stars such as Aniston and Steve Carell (who makes his first appearance of the season here) who made their careers in comedy, becoming icons thanks to their brilliant work on Friends and The Office where they captured our hearts by being funny in long running shows that amassed millions of viewers at their peak and which are still beamed into our homes today via endless repeat screenings and being readily available at the click of a remote control via streaming services.
That type of persona is what their fictional counterparts here have built their careers on and to see those charming on-screen ways subverted and twisted to something more disturbing or Machiavellian is the thing that gives their work as Alex and Mitch such as enjoyable charge.
It’s perhaps too much to describe Alex as Machiavellian, but it sometimes feels like that type of characteristic is boiling just under the periphery of every decision and action she makes. You want to like her, and the glossy veneer of The Morning Show looks as if it’s the perfect vehicle for Aniston given her background in comedies and rom-coms.
Newsrooms and daytime television studios have been the setting for many witty romantic works over the years (Morning Glory for instance, Broadcast News, and even Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom), but appearances can be deceptive, and Kerry Ehrin and her writers are always proving themselves quite adept at subtly shifting the series away narratively from the swashbuckling romanticism of previous newsroom comedy dramas, and towards something that has considerably more venom in the air.
There is an enjoyable suspenseful build as the episode hovers around Alex and Bradley being in the same room for the first time since the events of season one (they briefly shared a moment prior to the time jump in last week’s episode), but it reminds one that after spending last week with Alex on her emotional journey back to where she belongs (although it comes in the form of a deal because it’s Alex), that there is still something of a shark about her, in the way she navigates through life and how she approaches her job and those around her.
There is an undeniable warmth to Aniston’s screen persona that is so easy to be charmed by, but at this stage, The Morning Show is drawing a lot of considerable strength at putting the characters and the audience on edge that she could twist into something more damaging. It’s another reminder that for all of The Morning Show’s glossy veneer, there is, just like Alex, a sharp bite at its core.