Jennifer Aniston on ‘The Morning Show’ Season 2 Finale and Cancel Culture: ‘It’s the New Sport’
[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for “ The Morning Show ” Season 2, Episode 10, “Fever.”]
“The Morning Show” has come a long way in two seasons. The Apple TV+ series begins by exposing Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) as a sexual predator, ousting the longtime anchor from his position next to co-host Alex Levy ( Jennifer Aniston ) and sending the show’s parent company into a tailspin. Investigations are launched. A toxic culture is uncovered. Replacement anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) helps Alex divulge their findings live, on-air, in order to kickstart the rebuild by any means necessary. The sins of the past, which cost one colleague her life, cannot be allowed to fester in darkness. They have to start fresh with the truth.
But throughout Season 2, Alex begins to question that assertion. Faced with a new tell-all book covering her time with Mitch on the “Morning Show,” complicated feelings about some of the people she turned her back on, and a return to the airwaves, the newfound #MeToo hero spends most of the 10 episodes in a state of panic.
Why? She’s terrified of getting “canceled.”
“[‘The Morning Show’] is all that [Alex] has,” Jennifer Aniston said in an interview with IndieWire. “She’s burned every bridge because all she cared about was that show and being on top and staying relevant and maintaining that level of Alex Levy-dom at any expense, to the point that she turned a blind eye on behavior that she should not have.”
“When she gets back into the show, she naively thinks that she’s gained some wisdom and some self-reflection, and she can carry this newfound Alex back into the hallways of TMS,” Aniston said, “but then realizes there are so many bodies buried — then the book, and then this [and that]. It’s just, ‘Oh my gosh, how do I navigate that?’ She’s spent so much of her time trying to plug up all the holes in the canoe, so it doesn’t sink. It’s that desperation to not be found out — what an exhausting existence to have to live in.”
In the finale, she has to face these struggles head-on. After Mitch’s death by suicide two episodes prior, Alex is reeling not only from her conflicted feelings for her former co-host (who she visited in Italy shortly before his death), but from public backlash over her decision to travel internationally during a global pandemic.
Then, of course, she’s diagnosed with COVID.
“The Morning Show” Season 2 is set in the months leading up to the pandemic’s breakthrough in America, and Alex is among the first notable figures to contract the virus. (Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who tested positive in March 2020, are also mentioned in the finale as famous early cases.) With a high fever, nausea, and more debilitating symptoms, she’s told to stay home, rest, and self-isolate by her doctors. But her producer, Chip (Mark Duplass), convinces Alex to share her plight with the world via an educational special shot live within her home. It’s their chance to show people what the disease looks like, and Alex’s opportunity to speak directly to a once-loyal audience who may be turning against her.
So for the final third of Episode 10, Aniston speaks directly to camera, as Alex tries to come to terms with everything she’s gone through. To the recent outcry, she says, “The legions of people who want me gone, they’re not real — Maggie Brenner’s book is gonna sell 30 or 40,000 [copies] if she’s lucky, but I’m meant to believe the whole world is going to be outraged about my behavior?” Later, she asks her audience if they think she deserves to suffer like this, and if so, “What’s your point? Is it that if I deserve it, it allows you to enjoy someone else’s pain while feeling morally righteous? […] Why do you have an opinion on this? Mind your own store.”
It’s hard to say if Alex is more worried about dying or getting canceled, but even equating the two is a major statement from “The Morning Show.” The season’s consistent focus on “cancel culture” paired with Alex’s ultimate conclusion — “I’m done apologizing for myself. Either get on the Alex Levy train or just stay at the station” — illustrates a resistance to the same kind of accountability the show argued for in Season 1.
“Obviously, that’s a new thing that’s happening. It’s the new sport,” Aniston said when asked how heavily “being canceled” weighs on people like Alex. “It feels reckless, which is why I think we really wanted to explore it in the show. What happens when someone gets canceled? Where do they go? Is that it? Depending, of course, on the level of the crime: Some are obviously unthinkable, unforgivable acts that cannot be overlooked, and then some are just bad judgment, or there’s stuff being dug up from 20 years ago, when times were different and things that were normal are now, today, not normal. Everybody is navigating through, ‘What are we allowed to say?’ ‘What can you do now?’ ‘Oh, no no — you can’t say that.’ So there is a new playbook that everybody’s trying to catch up to.”
“But what was fun for me was to sort of realize that you can stick your head in the sand as much as you want, but eventually those bodies are going to get discovered,” she continued. “You can’t hide it forever. This is the world we live in, and yet at all costs, [Alex] is going to stay above [the fold]; she’s back to that thing — the drug got her again. She just has to stay afloat, hide it here, hide it there, and eventually it all just bites her in the ass.”
How lasting the bitemarks should be remains the question. “The Morning Show” started as a series working to lay bare the dire consequences of sexual misconduct, discriminatory corporate culture, and unchecked power. It ends — at least with Season 2, since Apple TV+ has yet to order a third season — as a show unsure of how power should be scrutinized and who has the right to say enough is enough. Alex Levy will not be silenced. But audiences can still choose whether they want to listen.
“The Morning Show” Seasons 1-2 are available to stream in full via Apple TV+.