At the beginning of this third season, I was excited and relieved to see that The Morning Show did a time jump to avoid the brunt of COVID-19. Turns out, I spoke too soon. Exactly in the middle of the season, we’re hurtled back to the epicenter of the pandemic — March 2020. While Season 2 ended with some brief insight into how the disease was impacting UBA and its employees, this episode took it so much farther to the point where I myself began to experience some belated stress and anxiety from the events of the pandemic.
Considering this episode is titled “Love Island,” it’s only fitting that the early days of the pandemic are marked by the main characters frantically seeking out human connection in the form of significant others or potential lovers. After hinting all season to a potential past between Mia and the rogue revolutionary photographer, we finally see her and André Ford (Clive Standen) bond together. Though their in-person relationship is all too brief, André and Mia connect through both flirty fun in their own bubble and crucial comfort amidst turmoil in the outside world.
Sheltering at home also brings out a bit of a softer side to our resident king of sarcasm and deflection, Cory. Cory buys a huge beach house out in the Hamptons, which puts him in a position to wander across Paul Marks, starting their topsy-turvy relationship. Cory also forces a bond with his real-estate agent. As it turns out, though, this relationship is just filler, as this flashback episode also reveals more about Bradley and Cory’s intense connection.
As the pandemic shuts down in-person work and pushes UBA remote, Bradley decides to shelter with Laura Peterson. While this puts a thorn in Cory’s side, Bradley and Laura’s bubble is like domestic bliss. Laura’s Montana home is the idyllic scene of autumn comfort complete with blankets, fire pits, and comfy sweaters. However, the honeymoon phase can only last so long, as Bradley’s jagged past comes to burst Laura’s egotistically progressive and ignorant bubble.
The Morning Show showcases what most of us remember — social distancing wasn’t about Hamptons homes and Montana comfort for everyone. Many people were forced into situations that caused discomfort or fear, especially when those in your social bubble didn’t quite grasp the significance and weight of COVID-19. Bradley’s family is unashamedly from low-to-middle-class rural America, which places them at a particular location on the political and social spectrum. While Bradley is cozying up to Laura, her brother, Hal (Joe Tippett), is in charge of watching over their mother. To them, COVID-19 is a hoax, so they both ignore social distancing and masking rules and carry on with life like normal.
The pull of returning to normal life is strong, and unfortunately for Hal and his mother, it results the way that it did for many people who ignored the very real danger of COVID-19 — their mother contracts the disease and eventually succumbs to it. This news plunges Bradley into a deep depression as she regrets not traveling home to be with her mother. She places the blame on Laura, even going as far as to say that Laura parades her around as a “white-trash” charity case and is probably glad that people like her mother died. It’s no surprise that their relationship soon crumbles as Bradley leaves to be on the ground for UBA in Washington D.C.
Coincidentally, the person who seems to comfort her most, at least from afar, is Cory. When he hears the news of Bradley’s mother, he becomes very upset and contemplative as he sits on the beach, mimicking Bradley’s exact position on the back deck of Laura’s home. This beautiful scene mirroring the two of them processing very deep and real feelings is enough to make me a Bradley and Cory shipper (as I act like I haven’t been one from day one).
From this tense moment onwards, the episode almost became too raw and real for me to sit through, as the wounds of COVID-19 and the ensuing tensions and chaos of 2020 and 2021 are still recent enough to hurt. From racial protests to news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death to the January 6th insurrection, The Morning Show taps on each pivotal and painful moment of the dark years of the pandemic and in this nation. Bradley’s filming from inside the Capitol Building on January 6th incites panic and rage, not just because of the armed attack itself, but also because one of the insurrectionists who assaults a police officer is none other than her brother, Hal.
Bradley morphs from a scared and shocked sister into master manipulator, as the final moments of the episode reveal the extent of Cory and Bradley’s secrets, the lengths Cory would go to to help Bradley, and how exactly Bradley Jackson became UBA’s Evening News anchor. By the time this episode of The Morning Show was over, I was feeling all of the feelings, and am looking forward to how next week picks up the thread back in the present with all of the gaps in the past now filled in.
Featured images courtesy of Apple TV+