The Morning Show ends its Season 3 premiere suggesting it has killed off one of its main characters, played by one of its A-List leads, by strapping her into a rocket and launching her into suborbital space.
There is no exaggeration in that sentence. None. The Apple TV+ drama, which previously was so dedicated to realistic portrayal that it wrapped Season 2 with an excruciating play-by-play of Jennifer Aniston’s Alex as she wheezed her way through COVID, seems to be done with all of that now.
The show is so, so much more fun this season because of it.
Whereas Cory Ellison’s frenzied monologues used to stand out against the backdrop of the show’s Very Important Topics — sexual harassment in the workplace and the aforementioned global pandemic, to name a few — the season’s tone is now much more in line with Billy Crudup’s gleefully delivered diatribes. Look no farther than Episode 1, released today, which time-jumps us into a present-day UBA so beset by financial woes that Cory courts an Elon Musk-esque tech mogul for a bail-out. Hence the space-y shenanigans, which are just the tip o’ the rocket this season.
This iteration of The Morning Show, under new showrunner Charlotte Stoudt, is unafraid to go big, bold and bats–t. Watching it is a profoundly enjoyable experience. Let’s recap the first episode, “The Kármán Line,” then I want to hear what you think!
The premiere opens with an obituary video dedicated to Alex — but we soon see that she’s very alive and watching it in the control room with Chip and Isabella, her assistant. “I look too perky. Don’t you think I look too perky?” for the somber motnage, she muses, but quickly moves on to the reason the package has been pulled together: just in case a suborbital flight she’s scheduled to ride during a live broadcast unexpectedly goes boom.
It’s two years after the events of the Season 2 finale. Alex Unfiltered has become a hit for UBA+ thanks to Ms. Levy’s newfound relatability, AKA the viewing public felt bad for her after watching her suffer through COVID and, you know, everything that happened with Mitch. Indeed, Alex seems to be doing well: She’s about to celebrate her second decade at the network, and when she’s not going on 3:30 am training runs to prep for her NASA-lite moment, she’s pressing Cory to give her a seat on the board of directors and a say in the future of the network. “How many ad dollars do you think I’ve brought into this company in the 20 years I’ve been here?” she reasons. If he doesn’t acquiesce, she warns him, she’ll leave. He promises he’ll keep her happy.
But at a meeting with board chair Cybil and news head Greta, we learn that Cory’s been cost-cutting at the network to keep UBA+ thriving. Cybil warns him not to burn through any more of their reserves.
What’s Bradley up to, you ask? She’s now the anchor of UBA’s nightly news, she’s broken up with Laura (who now co-anchors YDA with Audra), and she’s chasing a story about abortion laws in Texas… until Greta shuts it down. While Bradley fumes, Greta explains that the reason Bradley is an effective anchor is because Americans of many different political beliefs trust her, and “that’s what I’m trying to protect here.”
A salty Bradley heads to an American Alliance of Journalists event, where she’s slated to get an award. She has a frosty run-in with Laura during the cocktail hour — apparently they fought in Montana and Bradley fled — then hits the Champagne hard. Cory advises that she slow down until after she makes her acceptance speech, but she refuses. She’s sure he was behind the abortion story getting killed, though he swears he wasn’t. “Would you interfere if we were together? Is that what it would take?” she spits. He just grabs her bottle and walks away.
Alex then takes the podium to introduce her co-worker, informing us that Bradley was inside the United States Capitol Building on Jan. 6. When she became separated from her camera crew, Bradley reported the insurrection using her phone — hence the First Amendment Award she’s receiving that evening. A tipsy Bradley decides to ditch her prepared speech and grumbles about how she’s learned there’ll always be someone who tries to silence you. “Don’t let them,” she says, grabbing her speech and walking away from the podium while the crowd watches, stunned.
Alex later finds Bradley lamenting the abortion story, which was about a woman who crosses into Mexico every month to get pills for women who need to end pregnancies but can’t drive hours to have a procedure. Alex advises her co-worker to let this one go — “We can’t fight every battle” — but then becomes incredibly interested in the story herself as she and the TMS team travel to Texas for the rocket launch.
Upon landing in the Lone Star State, Alex meets Paul Marks (Jon Hamm), the head of the company behind the rocket and the guy who’ll accompany her and Cory during the launch the following day. She’s instantly interested in him, happily agreeing to a dusty ATV ride around his 200,000-acre property as they get to know each other. Still, she wonders, “What are you getting out of a 13-minute joyride on The Morning Show?” He replies that he wants to get to know her before the deal goes through. “What deal?” she wonders.
Cut to Alex storming up to Cory, demanding to know what’s going on. He confesses that UBA needs someone with “more money than God” to help them out of a financial rough spot, and Paul may be that guy. Alex intuits that Cory hasn’t told Cybil or the board about any of this yet, and she doesn’t seem comforted by his assurance that she’ll be taken care of if the deal goes through.
Later that night, while commiserating with Chip, Alex gets a text from Bradley: Her contact on the abortion story has been arrested, and can Alex spare a camera operator? Cory intercepts Bradley at JFK International Airport and stops her from running off to report the abortion story. “I was there for you, remember? I need you to return the favor,” he says, and we get a flash visual of someone — likely Bradley, though we don’t see a face — washing their bloody hands; the reminder seems to trigger something in her, and she says she’ll do what he says.
Which is good, because Alex has run off with Chip and a camera man, determined to report the story that Bradley couldn’t… which means there’s no reporter to go up in the launch. Mia and Greta pitch new TMS anchor Chris (Nicole Beharie), who smartly passes “on being a guinea pig” and notes that she hasn’t done any of the physical training required for the gig. But no worries, Chris: Bradley’s going to step in!
The morning of the launch, Paul is not happy to learn that Alex is MIA. Chris and Yanko go on air and lie to the viewers that Alex was injured during training and Bradley will take her place. And then it’s time for Bradley (who, please let me repeat, has had ZERO prep for this whole thing), Paul and Cory to go up into the cockpit, which is giving serious Contact vibes.
Alex and Chip watch TMS from a diner, engrossed as the rocket approaches the Kármán Line, or the delineation between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. Everything is going great. Bradley, Cory and Paul unbuckle and float in zero gravity while Bradley talks to Yanko — and the at-home audience — via a camera inside the craft, trying to describe what she’s seeing and feeling.
Then, all of a sudden, the audio and visual feeds abruptly go out. As Alex watches, horrified, the episode goes to black.