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The Morning Show Season 2 Is Toxic Corporate Culture At Its Worst

Spoilers ahead for the Season 2 premiere of The Morning Show. Season 2 of The Morning Show begins where Season 1 left off: Alex (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) are left gasping for breath after excoriating their own network live on-air. Together, they called out UBA for failing the women who came forward with misconduct allegations against disgraced anchor Mitch (Steve Carell), who, for most of Season 1, the network barely wanted to acknowledge. Now, Alex is taking responsibility for the culture she helped to enable. She implicates herself for looking the other way and prioritizing her personal success, then quits the show she’s hosted for most of her career. As the internet folks like to say: shocking if true.

But it’s not true, at least not in any permanent sense. By the end of the Season 2 premiere, months have passed, and Alex is set to return to the anchor’s desk. Rather than be punished for her willful blindness, she’ll be given an evening show, too. Cory (Billy Crudup), the head of UBA’s news division, is also rehired after being briefly fired for supporting Alex and Bradley’s unauthorized broadcast. The Season 1 finale posed a question: What happens when a misogynistic corporate culture is exposed past the point of denial and cover-up? So far in Season 2, the answer seems to be “not much.”

Yes, Fred Micklen (Tom Irwin), the network head accused of silencing reports of misconduct, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation — a decision made by UBA chairwoman Cybil Richards, played by series newcomer Holland Taylor. “We believe all victims, every last one of them, forever and ever until the end of time,” she tells Cory, a line Taylor skillfully delivers with ramrod sincerity that drifts into glibness. If the victims are telling the truth, “zero tolerance” will be extended to their abusers, she threatens. Of course, that hasn’t historically been the case at UBA, and there’s little reason to believe she’s after more than good optics.

Either way, believing women isn’t enough at this point. That’s how you find and fire the Freds and Mitches, but new Mitches will always reveal themselves in a culture that all but breeds them. In this episode, evening news anchor Ray Marcus is accused of verbally harassing his staff; next week, it will be someone or something else. They’re going to fire Ray, naturally, and his replacement won’t be another white man. But this is only how you stop a bleed. UBA suffers from a worse disease, one the company can’t cure if it continues to assess its health only by TV ratings (Bradley’s are falling) and stock prices.

The Morning Show has always approached #MeToo at a diagonal. Victims and aggressors are side characters; the show within the show is the living thing that matters most. In Season 2, The Morning Show has broadened its scope. In the first episode, it doesn’t even seem like a show about a morning show. Cory is our protagonist here, and he sinks or swims with the success of the entire news division. What was once a series about how a workplace responds to sexual misconduct claims has become a test of how far a mass media company is willing to go to save itself from reputation free fall. If the return of Alex is any indication, the game plan at UBA is to change as little as possible.