Well. We have already heard mention of a “mysterious respiratory illness.” And then Cory spots an item on the news ticker: the family of Hannah, a young employee who slept with Mitch and later died of an overdose, has filed a wrongful-death suit against the network. And then there is perhaps the most ominous development of all, when a woman standing behind Cory sneezes and the episode ends with a thud.
‘Are We Just Going to Ignore This?’
The shutdown caused the show’s writers, led by Kerry Ehrin, to go back and rework everything.
“For a topical show that looks at the world as it is, the question was, ‘Are we going to just ignore this?’” said Michael Ellenberg, an executive producer and the chief executive of Media Res, the studio behind the series. That would be impossible, they decided.
“We had to address the times we were in, and so our first conversation was how to do it. Kerry was adamant that we did not want to speculate about the future — how long the pandemic would last, would it end, what it would look like after,” he added. “And so we quickly settled on this idea of, let’s look at the windup to the pandemic, when things are building and all the while there’s this bomb under the table.”
Season 2 is set in the first three months of 2020. The virus has struck China and is slowly gathering force to overtake the rest of the world. At the same time, a reckoning is coming for many of the characters, as they struggle with their own identities and with a changing understanding of power, race and privilege in and out of work.
Angry that he has been passed over to host a presidential debate, Danny (Desean Terry), a reporter on the show-within-the-show, demands to know what it is — being gay? Being Black? — that has impeded his career. Stella (Greta Lee), the blunt-speaking new president of UBA’s news division who is Asian American, agonizes about whether she was hired as a token, even as she is subjected to Trump-style racial slurs about the coronavirus on the street. Yanko Flores (Nestor Carbonell), the beloved Cuban American weatherman, is accused of appropriating Indigenous culture after he uses the expression “spirit animal” on the air, and then attacked again when his apology is deemed insufficiently sincere.