I was eager to see the second season of “The Morning Show,” the star-packed drama that Apple TV+ used as its calling card when it launched in the fall of 2019. After an uncertain start — are we really meant to feel sorry for Steve Carell’s toxic office predator Mitch Kessler? — the first season eventually found its way to coherence and clarity. We finally got to see the lech in action in a flashback, which was damning and nauseating, and we saw the writers zero in on the complicity of other network staffers and stars, including Jennifer Aniston’s anchor Alex Levy. It all remained messy, and at times preposterous, but still, it felt like more knowing and intentional storytelling.
Where could the show go in season 2, with Carell still on the marquee? Having seen the entire second season, I can tell you that the writers also seem unsure about what to do with the massive, glamor-crammed world they created. Not terminally so; the show remains highly watchable — as much for its good performances (including Billy Crudup) as for its amped-up absurdities. I laughed, I cried, I rolled my eyes, I rolled my eyes some more, I admired new cast member Julianna Margulies more than I already did, and, at a certain point toward the end, in the midst of a plot twist I won’t spoil here, I wanted to never ever see the sputtering Aniston act again.
The show picks up a year or so after season one, and the fallout from the Kessler crisis still takes up a lot of the story, with Alex having quit after the events at the end of the first season. She has become a feminist icon of sorts for calling out the network president live on the air, but she feels inauthentic about embracing that role, and instead she’s busy on her farm trying to be mellow with her dog. Meanwhile, Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley Jackson is co-hosting “The Morning Show” with a bland, ambitious guy played by Hasan Minhaj. She’s uninspired and her ratings aren’t great, either.
Eventually, the writers bring the gang back together, more or less, including Mark Duplass’ Chip Black, who is working stress-free at a local channel. They also follow Mitch to his spectacularly gorgeous escape in Italy, where he … well, no spoilers. It’s the plot strand I knew I didn’t need. “The Morning Show” certainly was a lot in its first season; it manages to be a lot more this time out.