‘The Morning Show’: Breaking Down Bradley’s Big Move with a Little Help from Reese Witherspoon
“It will be really interesting to see how it’s perceived and what people think of it,” Witherspoon said in an interview with IndieWire.
What’s so surprising about the ending of “The Morning Show” Episode 3 isn’t that Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) kisses another woman. It’s not even that she kisses Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies), her network colleague assigned to do an in-depth report on Bradley, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), and their renovated Morning Show. What’s surprising is that Bradley kisses anyone at all.
“In Season 1, we didn’t really go into anyone’s personal life,” Witherspoon said in an interview with IndieWire. “We [saw] a little bit of Alex’s […] but [Season 2] was about pushing the boundaries and the edges of what [Bradley’s] personal life would look like.”
Now the question becomes: Is “The Morning Show” built for this? Up until the episode’s closing moments, “The Morning Show” has been pretty much all business, and Margulies’ Laura Peterson is part of that business. A prominent nighttime news anchor who was ousted from her own morning program decades earlier, Laura walks into the Apple TV+ series on assignment: First, she’s there to interview Alex about her return to The Morning Show. Then she accompanies Bradley on a trip to the Iowa caucuses — ostensibly to get her perspective on what’s changed at the company, but secretly to “coach” the less experienced host on how to handle serious topics, like politics.
Aside from an awkward comment by Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup) — Laura greets him by saying, “You put the C-E in CEO,” to which he replies, “And you put the L into LGBTQ” — Laura’s personal life has yet to be divulged. Just like Bradley and Alex before her, she’s there to do a job, and the audience is mainly wondering if that job pits her against our main protagonists: Is Laura there to help, or is she a threat? Will she take down The Morning Show, or help save it? That’s all we care about because it’s all we’re told to care about, until that closing kiss.
So what motivated the storyline to come, in which Bradley and Laura embark on a relationship?
“It started with a conversation I had with Kerry Ehrin, where she was re-conceiving Season 2 post-lockdown, and we just started talking about women that we knew, good friends, who in their 40s really just felt the need to push the boundaries of what society had told them for so long — really explore themselves and go on a journey of identity,” Witherspoon said.
One of the few things we do know about Bradley’s identity outside her career is that she comes from a conservative, Southern family. So if she comes out, either publicly or privately, her already tenuous relationship with her mother, Sandy, and brother, Hal, may be put to the test.
“The complexity of being a very public-facing person, of being on a morning show, but then having a private life that you’ve never wanted explored by other people being fodder for tabloid and gossip is just really complicated,” Witherspoon said.
Inhabiting a certain TV trope in a slightly new light, Laura helps Bradley find her way forward — not only as a romantic interest, but as someone who navigated being outed when predominant attitudes toward queer professionals was far less accepting. In an interview with Empire, Margulies said Laura was fired from a morning show when people found out she was gay (a topic which will be explored in future episodes of “The Morning Show”). Since then, she’s fought like hell to keep working in media and established herself as a sought after, respected reporter. To Bradley, she’s in an envious position — Margulies said she sees Laura as “a lifeboat.”
“What I think Julianna did really well — and it was really well-conceived — was creating this presence of someone who’s been in your business a lot longer than you, and they’re really grounded in it,” Witherspoon said. “They aren’t ruffled by other people’s opinions or ideas. There’s something so appealing about that. I feel like Bradley is almost seduced by that idea: ‘I kind of want to be her, but I kind of want to be with her.’ It’s complicated, as all relationships are, and Julianna did an incredible job bringing this presence to the screen.”
Now that “The Morning Show” is in its second season, there’s bound to be room for expansion. That’s the essence of television; swerving into a new lane can help keep characters from getting stale, even if too sharp of a turn can send them careening into the ditch. “The Morning Show” never hinted that Bradley might be bisexual, just as Episode 3, “Laura,” never frames its new character as a love interest. There’s no “meet cute”; her first (and longest) scene is with Alex, not Bradley; Laura’s scenes keep audiences guessing from start to finish: Is Laura who she claims to be? Can she be trusted? Is she about to betray Bradley, as Alex suspects, or is she a “lifeboat” that may save her from The Morning Show’s chaos?
These were the questions driving the story up until the very end. They’re all questions indicative of a show that’s repeatedly pitted its characters against each other in the cutthroat world of news media. But when Bradley gets a text from Alex checking to see if Laura asked any “invasive” questions and, as if on cue, Laura then turns to Bradley and asks, “Did you actually get vetted for this job?” Rather than answer, Bradley kisses her — which tells us nothing about Laura’s trustworthiness, but finally gives us some insight into Bradley’s off-air identity. Or, one could argue, it treats a person’s sexuality like a soapy twist.
“It will be really interesting to see how it’s perceived and what people think of it,” Witherspoon said about her character’s new relationship. “Women in their 40s are just kind of free of a lot of the pressures people feel. You start to feel like, ‘I’m not listening to the outside world as much as I did before.’”
Over the coming weeks, as Bradley’s identity is further defined, there are sure to be passionate responses — positive and negative. It’ll be up to Witherspoon and the rest of “The Morning Show” to decide what they really hear, and what they choose to ignore. Either way, there’s no turning back now.
“The Morning Show” Season 2 releases new episodes every Friday on Apple TV+.