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Hear Me Out

The Morning Show's Alex Levy and Paul Marks Are a Match Made in Hell

The narcissistic news anchor and even more narcissistic tech billionaire bring out the worst in each other.
  • Jon Hamm and Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Jon Hamm and Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show (Photo: Apple TV+)

    In Hear Me Out, Primetimer staffers and contributors espouse their pet theories, hot takes, and even the occasional galaxy-brain idea.

    Leave it to Jon Hamm to charm The Morning Show viewers into thinking a cruel billionaire could actually bring out the best in embattled UBA anchor Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston). Since their first hookup in Season 3, Episode 6, "The Stanford Student," Alex's relationship with tech titan Paul Marks (Hamm) has injected a dose of sexiness into a show that derives the bulk of its drama from real-life horrors. Their mutual attraction quickly turns into something more serious, as the two open up about their failed marriages and the excitement of finding a true partner in a fellow "divorced, workaholic, control freak."

    For a brief moment in time, everything is perfect. These extremely attractive people, played by two of the most famous TV stars of the 21st century, are in love, oblivious to (or actively ignoring) the external pressures and ethical dilemmas of the outside world. But The Morning Show is a series that thrives on chaos, and it's only a matter of time before Alex and Paul's romance curdles. By Episode 8, "DNF," their honeymoon period comes to a swift end when a photo of them kissing leaks, prompting questions about Alex's journalistic integrity — and if there's one thing Alex can't abide, it's an attack on her character.

    With that, the old Alex returns in full force. Under the guise of feminism, she declines to discuss her relationship during an interview about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade: "You know I'm not the news this week," she tells her guest (Shannon Woodward), who not-so-gently reminds Alex, "The story is whatever you decide it is. You and Paul Marks." Afterward, when Chip (Mark Duplass) tells Alex that she should've expected questions about Paul, she refuses to acknowledge that she dropped the ball. Instead, she fires him for telling her a truth she didn't want to hear, a move that's eerily similar to what Paul did to ex-Hyperion engineer Kate Danton (Natalie Morales), who was dismissed for raising concerns about his high-profile rocket launch.

    Like Alex, Paul couches his naked self-interest in a layer of altruism. He claims he wants to buy UBA to "fix" the news business and protect fair and impartial journalism, but he's just as happy to sell everything for parts when things start to get messy. Paul knows Alex well enough to realize that he can't just funnel all the money from dismantling UBA into Hyperion, so he throws her a bone by offering to let her start her own network. "You have been wanting to run things for a very long time. Maybe you start right now," he says. Paul presents this as a means of supporting Alex's feminist vision, but in reality, it's just a way for him to get her off his back while he determines the best way to save Hyperion, which remains his primary focus.

    In Episode 9, "Update Your Priors," Alex's and Paul's narcissism plays off each other in increasingly sinister ways. When Alex expresses doubts about blowing up UBA, to which she owes her career, Paul tells her that the company gave her a job, and she "made that into something else," a sentiment that could be interpreted as kind, if it weren't being used to advance his own aims. "You want to run your own studio? Run your own studio," he tells Alex. "This is a chance to create something new, something better, but you have to really, really want it."

    Alex internalizes Paul's words and sets out to remake media in her image. She gives Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) a hard sell on the new venture, but Bradley shuts her down, because the woman who destroyed evidence of her brother's involvement in the January 6 insurrection has morals, dammit. Though she's nicer about it than Alex's SCOTUS interview subject, Bradley insists Alex can no longer be "objective" about the UBA-Hyperion deal or Paul's controversial persona, infuriating her longtime ally. "Wow, people really do suck," Alex tells Bradley, before running home into Paul's loving arms, more committed to their plan than ever before.

    By the end of the episode, Alex's self-righteousness has hardened to the point that she rolls her eyes through Cory's (Billy Crudup) speech about her and Paul being "the biggest threat" to UBA to ever exist. She even expresses frustration with his own "self-righteous monologues" about preserving the company, when in actuality, Cory has never cared about anyone but himself. On that point, Alex is correct — never forget that Cory outed Bradley by leaking news of her relationship with Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies) — but the suggestion that she has the moral high ground here is rich. Alex can claim she's securing a better future for UBA's thousands of employees as many times as she'd like ("They're coming with me, and I will be paying them what they deserve," she tells Cory), but at the end of the day, this is about her longing for "a seat at the table," something she's wanted and worked toward since Season 1.

    As Alex deludes herself into believing she's acting out of the goodness of her heart, Paul works behind the scenes to take down Cory and Bradley, who's investigating Hyperion's illegal business practices. He tells his fixer Amanda (Tig Notaro) to do whatever is needed to prevent Kate from speaking to Bradley; threatens to expose the truth about Bradley's January 6 footage, prompting her to abruptly resign from the evening news; and leaks a story about Cory grooming Bradley when she first joined the network. Paul's history with Stella (Greta Lee) established him as a ruthless operator — when she was a student at Stanford, he purchased her code and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar business, without giving her additional credit or remuneration beyond one $50,000 check — but the calculated nature of his multi-pronged attack allows viewers to see that for themselves. The smug satisfaction Paul derives from "winning" the battle against his perceived enemies leaches out any remaining appeal from the character, leaving nothing but a hollow shell of an Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos-type billionaire willing to do anything to advance his designs and cover up his mistakes.

    Would Paul have been so horrible if he and Alex hadn't fallen for each other while walking around Coney Island earlier this season? Probably — Hyperion was built on deception and manipulation, after all, and Kate's attempt to blow the whistle began long before he made a bid for UBA. But Paul's specific brand of villainy has rubbed off on Alex, bringing out the worst parts of a woman who developed a reputation for extreme self-involvement long ago. Congratulations to the happy couple: You two may represent an existential threat to journalism, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that you're perfect for each other.

    The Morning Show Season 3 finale drops Wednesday, November 8 on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: The Morning Show, Apple TV+, Billy Crudup, Greta Lee, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Natalie Morales (Actress), Reese Witherspoon, Tig Notaro