The Morning Show Season Two – The Show’s The Thing Wherein I’ll Catch The Conscience Of The King

There are spoilers in the following review. Please bear in mind before reading!

In my article on the first series of The Morning Show, I recalled a university tutor who taught me that Shakespeare never really said anything. “All you can do is maintain the paradoxes”, is how she put it. Overall Shakespeare says nothing because multiple sides of an argument cancel each other out, leaving a tangle of contradiction. Characters try to make progress in a certain direction, only to run into all kinds of snags, which leave them right back where they started. Hamlet trying to make up his mind what to do about his murderous uncle is a good example.

The second series of The Morning Show describes a Shakespearean kind of situation, where people attempt to move on, only to find steps forward becoming backward stumbles. Former news anchor, Mitch Kessler, sacked from The Morning Show for his behaviour towards women, has taken refuge in a lonely Italian villa overlooking Lake Como. Here he tries to come to terms with himself, and work out a way of moving on. He is fortunate to meet an Italian woman, Paola Lambruschini, a struggling documentary film maker. After forming an uneasy but supportive relationship, Paola neatly summarises Mitch’s dilemma as a cancelled celebrity. If he apologises for his conduct, he’s insincere. Do-gooding acts are self-serving. Continuing to live his life is callous. Choosing to end it all and shuffle off this mortal coil, is the coward’s way out. He just has to suffer. So, does Mitch have any control, any ability to improve himself and his life, or does he simply have to let fate take its course?

In the end Mitch doesn’t quite take any of the choices Paola offers him. Driving alone at night, tortured by doubts, he swerves to avoid an on-coming car, and then allows himself to crash. This is not really an accident, even though an accident is part of what happens. Mitch makes a choice, which is combined with what was happening anyway.

Now we turn to the fate of his long-time partner at The Morning Show, Alex Levy. She is threatened by looming revelations of her past intimate relationship with Mitch, and the fact that she knew what he was like but said nothing. First she begs Maggie Brenner, the writer of a tell-all book about The Morning Show, for mercy. That doesn’t work. Then, just before Mitch takes that fateful, final drive, Alex turns up at his villa and demands that he write a letter saying they never slept together. Although they enjoy a sweet interlude of rekindled affection, no letter from Mitch is going to save Alex. She returns to America knowing the book will soon be published, exposing her as the willing mistress of a sexual predator.

At this point, Alex does seem to take a step forward in accepting her situation. After learning of Mitch’s death, she attends his bleak memorial service. Alex feels compelled to give a speech revealing very real feelings of affection for her former partner, admitting the complexity of a situation where a bad person has good qualities. But if this acceptance seems like growth it soon turns into a backwards lurch. The Morning Show presenter Bradley Jackson does a great job of blunting the impact of the revelatory book – interviewing Maggie Brenner in a way that paints the author as a ruthless opportunist, while Alex comes over as someone trying to do better. Alex seems to be saved, Twitter giving praise for trying to move on – relief that lasts only until footage of her memorial speech is leaked on-line. Now Twitter turns, condemning Alex as the same person she has always been, sleeping with the enemy. In panic, Alex falls over a shoe, bangs her head, and ends up in hospital where she tests positive for covid. Was she infected in Italy, and did she then recklessly expose her co-workers on The Morning Show to the virus? Could things get any worse? Everything Alex has attempted in an effort to improve her situation fails. Trapped and alone in a dark, luxury apartment, she descends into a feverish, covid nightmare.

At this point, Alex’s loyal producer, Charlie Black, provides one last chance at redemption. He offers to put her covid experience on television, allowing people to see her pain and empathise with it. And in a finale to camera, vomit cleaned up, hair brushed, makeup reducing a febrile pallor, Alex confronts the world and herself. This represents a similar step forward to that seen at the memorial service. She accepts who she is, though this time she does so in public. There is no hiding now. But once again acceptance is ambivalent. By understanding her nature there is obviously a chance to change. Some of her confessional self-analysis has that feeling. Equally, though, her acceptance of who she is also has the feeling of, ‘this is who I am, I’m not going to be ashamed, get used to it.’ We are back with paradoxes rather than answers.

In Shakespeare’s Richard III, Brackenbury says

“Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours, makes the night morning and the noontime night.”

The Morning Show says the same thing. In an age that wants closure, clear judgements, black and white answers, this is a show that, for better or worse, recalls the tradition of Shakespeare where the real nature of life is an endless paradox where light can be dark, night can be morning, and there is always hope for another day, a new edition of The Morning Show to describe another twist in the tale.

Is it better or worse to present life in this way? Personally, I feel it is closer to reality than assuming that there are final answers to the problems of people living together. Life goes on, which does rather work against the idea of finality. It’s always a kind of cobbled together compromise. At least compromise is something that is naturally open to moderation and understanding. The Shakespearean approach has this going for it – the promise that life will continue. There will always be something else for The Morning Show to talk about.

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