The third season of The Morning Show returns with the same urgency, drama, and thrills of a thriving newsroom that made its inaugural season an instant hit. While Season 1 was one of the first shows to set its storyline on the Me Too movement merely two years after it hit the US, the third season seems even ahead of its time as it tackles the most immediate threat to journalism: A tech billionaire taking over legacy media giants.
The previous season got a lot of flak for force-fitting COVID into its storyline for the sake of being ‘woke’ or ‘relevant’ like Season 1. How that season ended, with Jennifer Aniston‘s Alex Levy battling COVID on live television and urging the viewers to “hang in there,” might have made for a rather abrupt end. But in hindsight, given the very DNA of this show and how briskly it reacts to the changing times, it might have been an end in tune with the uncertainty of the pandemic-stricken times. When the second season released, we were past the deadly second wave, but the third wave was yet to hit the world.
Season 3 kicks off with a televised obituary of Alex, but it’s no spoiler that she’s pretty much alive. The prepped and stored announcement of her death is not even remotely related to her COVID bout, because now we’re in 2022 and the world is back to normal. The obituary is only if Alex fails to make it back as she gears up to the first woman journalist to travel to space. The pandemic pops up through fleeting references, but its ghost keeps haunting the lives of all characters.
Alex, who chose an isolated life in Season 2, is back at playing the power game in the UBA. But the pandemic seems to have turned her into more of a control freak and even more ambitious. At the same time, it’s also made her lonelier. She’s waiting for just the right partner, before she finds him in a fellow power-hungry leader, whose moral ambiguity she refuses to see through. Jennifer ably makes you feel the weight of Alex’s crushing vulnerabilities, but also her reassuring moral code, and thus the perennial conflict that she subjects herself to.
Reese Witherspoon‘s Bradley Jackson was seen gravitating towards her long-lost family, of her drug addict brother and alcoholic mother, at the end of Season 2. After another personal blow during the pandemic, she’s fiercely protective of her family, and ends up compromising on her professional duty as a result. Like Alex, she keeps telling herself a lie in order to protect the last of her family. Reese, like her Big Little Lies character Madeline, makes her righteously upfront character a hopeless liar, and thus, one that the viewers root for, even when she’s protecting a lie.
Cory Elison (Billy Cudrup) remains the best thing about the show. It feels like he co-creates his edgy character of the UBA head with director Mimi Leder and her writers room. The razor-sharp lines he mouths so effortlessly may not be his creation, but he undeniably deserves all the credit for his smooth dialogue delivery. Like in Season 2, we get fleeting moments where the camera breaks into his steely veneer and stares into his moist eyes, but from a distance, as if even the camera doesn’t want to grey the kaleidoscopic character he is.
Tech billionaire takeover
Like the others, Cory is also struggling post pandemic, mostly to keep a legacy media company afloat against the odds of financial crunches, a rapidly evolving world, and the advent of Artificial Intelligence in newsrooms. So naturally, as is the immediate reality, a tech billionaire steps in as an angel with latent devil horns.
The best addition across all seasons, and a worthy replacement to Steve Carell’s Mitch Kessler, is Paul Marx, played by the irresistibly charming Jon Hamm. He’s the disruptor here, and systematically pushes everyone to confront their own reality and truths, while cleverly concealing his own under a trunk of billion dollars. His personality is even a step above the Me Too-accused Mitch: he’s powerful, ethically untrustworthy, yet inevitably beguiling.
Speaking of that, his chemistry with Jennifer Aniston is right up there alongside hers with David Schwimmer’s. She appears smitten from the get go, despite (or probably because of) his excessively disarming ways. When the two finally let their guards down, it makes for one of the most combustible power couples on television. Paul Marx could easily pass off for an Elon Musk-like figure, but Jon infuses so much of vigour into the character that even the audience keeps forgiving him for his autocratic excesses.
Interestingly, this show is bankrolled by a tech giant itself so it’s fascinating to watch it take down the increasing control by tech giants like Elon Musk on mainstream media. There’re private rocket launches, surveillance through smartphones, and cyberattack via hack of the UBA. The skeletons of a newsroom come tumbling out in the form of not only its strategic data, but also the performance evaluation forms of the employees and their private data linked to the UBA network, thus leading to an internal mutiny and an external character assassination. Fellow media houses pounce on the remains, without realising that the same disruptors could come for them next.
Breaking news of a show
This season encompasses even a wider range of burning topics. In that way, its writers room also functions like a newsroom. The spectrum of news events include the January 6 US Capitol attacks, overturning of the Roe vs Wade verdict, the Ukraine war, and even a fleeting mention of the Naatu Naatu mania.
The first three, however, are crucial to the arcs of primary characters like Bradley, Christina Hunter, and Mia Jordan. Of course, they don’t have conclusive arcs as they’re developing stories in newsroom parlance. And since it’s a workplace drama situated in the heart of America, the stance remains pretty US-centric. Like the Ukraine War is only a minor plot device, and gets a short shrift.
Nonetheless, the news events aren’t peppered all over the screenplay of Season 3 only for effect. Besides smartly tracing the timeline of events, they act as catalysts, big or small, in the arcs of characters, including the secondary ones like Mia, Stella, and Christina. Diversity is achieved by not only showcasing more faces, but also in establishing how a changing America affects all its minority citizens, for better or worse.
In that, The Morning Show reflects the zeitgeist organically, smartly, and sensitively through the third season that leads up to the boiler room of a finale. But again, the drama unleashed in the finale feels massively earned, skilfully executed, impressively earnest and thought-provoking.
The first two episodes of The Morning Show Season 3 are streaming on Apple TV. A new episode will drop every Wednesday.