In the time between the pilot of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiering on Amazon Prime and the rest of the season dropping eight months later, there was a lot of discussion about how this new series would rank in the Amy Sherman-Palladino universe. Emotional walls had been built following the whiplash of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, but the critically acclaimed pilot had sown hope that Sherman-Palladino would take this opportunity to learn and grow.
The first season of Maisel, for the most part, validated those hopes. The recently dropped second season, while ultimately still superior to most other programs currently on television, has begun to betray the pitfalls that Sherman-Palladino is so obviously tempted to once again fall into.
Take the journey with me as I become a stand-up comic. No, that’s not right. I mean, as I break down the good, bad, and indifferent of two episodes apiece for the next five weeks. Yeah, Susie’s giving me the nod that that’s better. Let us begin with “Simone” and “Mid-way to Mid-Town.”
I am not usually someone who particularly cares about visuals. I am a dialogue person, which is why I gravitate towards Amy Sherman-Palladino’s work again and again. However, that shot of the Empire State Building transitioning to the Eiffel Tower made me gasp at its magnificence.
Any episode that includes Lenny Bruce is going to have him in “The Good” column. Possibly even episodes he’s not in? Stay tuned. Mark my words, in about two more seasons we’ll be looking back on this episode as their first hug, because by that time they’ll have just exchanged their first kiss.
It is interesting seeing the ramifications Midge faces for having tied herself to Lenny in last season’s finale. All this season she’s thought of by many as “Lenny Bruce’s girl,” being asked if they had sex in exchange for him doing her this favor. I wish we could have seen the context in which Midge had been brought up to Lenny after that, if any. It’s a juxtaposition of the assumption of male and female ability and opportunity that still reverberates to this day.
Midge’s Bilingual Set
The purpose of Midge’s stand-up at the Paris drag club is transparent: it’s all a set up to get to the scene revealing the aftermath of Joel seeing Midge’s routine at the Gaslight in last season’s finale. ASP wanted to leave the viewer hanging for the majority of the episode and so couldn’t just pick up where she left off, but there had to be a better way of getting there. The rest of the routine was just fat begging to be trimmed. Listening to the French translator speak over Midge was grating. Watching Midge fawn over the drag queens’ beauty, but also simultaneously literally upstage them, was even more uncomfortable given the language barrier. In short, as this scene should have been, it was awkward and unnecessary.
“Indifferent” is the perfect word for how I feel about Joel at any given time. Whenever he does something positive or negative, he does something else of equal and opposite reaction to bring his net worth back to zero. I loved that he was willing to stand aside to let Midge pursue her dreams, but that selflessness was also selfishly motivated by his own ego. The only person standing in the way of forgiveness and having it all is yourself, Joel. Get the fuck over yourself.
Rose in Paris
A major theme in this episode is each of the wives’ desire for their husband to valuethem. Shirley does what she thinks is best to keep the Maisel family business afloat until Moishe stops her, Midge calls Joel from Paris in a desperate last attempt to get him back after he gave her back his wedding ring, and Rose flees to Paris to rebuild herself as an entity separate from a daughter and husband that don’t seem to need her in the same way anymore. I don’t begrudge her that time and distance, but Midge is right when she tells her mother that she can’t just run away when people let her down. Rose made a commitment to her husband and she has to confront that one way or the other. Rose’s response-“Well, look who’s talking”-is incredibly unfair. Midge didn’t go back to Joel because he cheated and left her. Abe, though absent minded, is ultimately a fairly good and loyal husband. Rose may believe herself to be the Midge in this scenario, but in reality, she’s going down a path that if she doesn’t readjust will make her the Joel.
The Abe/Rose storyline in this episode echoes the Gilmore Girls storyline for Emily and Richard in the back half of season 4 and first half of season 5. The husband does not value the domestic labor that their society limits his wife to and so an estrangement builds between them. At the breaking point, the wife flees to Europe in the hopes of recapturing her youth. In Gilmore, Richard does not follow Emily and they experience a brief separation. I will say that in this case I believe that Maisel improves upon its predecessor. I enjoyed the way in which Abe decided to fight for their marriage. Which leads us to…
“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”
Midge Taking Down the Assholes
In case you weren’t convinced that this show is a female fantasy brought to life, look no further than the scene in which Midge roasts a bunch of misogynistic jerks during her set. Every woman watching can feel Midge’s self-satisfaction as their own, as if they themselves were the ones up on stage throwing the comedic barbs that shoot from her mouth. It’s incredible. Take notes, I’m sure they’ll prove useful.
Susie in the House
Please read that title to the tune of the Cory in the House theme song. These scenes are probably the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Susie fully enfolded within Midge’s world, so they’re to be savored, especially the sight of Susie in Abe’s robe, weeping at Charlotte’s Web. Maybe don’t trust Susie with your kids though. I cringe every time I see Ethan take a swig of her beer or hear Susie call him Joel’s “idiot kid,” but I recognize that might just be a me thing. Plus, to be fair, it’s not as if Midge is doing much better as a mother. At least Susie’s there.
Abe and Rose
New OTP material. Abe and Rose are what Midge and Joel wish they could be. Continuing the parallels between Rose and Joel from last episode, both of them take it upon themselves to offer their respective partners an apartment. However, Rose is brave and proactive where Joel isn’t. She sacrifices a life she knows will make her happy for one she’s less certain about for the sake of her family. Abe, in return, sets out to sign her up for art and couple’s dance lessons to make his wife happy within the parameters of their old life. He’s attentive to her wants and needs in a way we hadn’t seen from him before Paris. Relationship goals.
I feel bad, because I love Bailey De Young from Bunheads and she’s clearly giving it everything she’s got, but the role as written is still “high-strung chatterbox.” It’s hard to pull that off successfully without significant opportunity for vulnerability, which so far she has not been given. However, I do think her best episode yet did occur later this season.
Like I said in Abe and Rose’s section, Rose is brave and proactive where Joel isn’t. He’s made few commitments in his life, and even less he’s stuck to. His entire character can be summed up by the edict, “You can’t fail if you don’t try.” The viewer can see it during his argument with Midge at the apartment he tries to buy her. Joel cuts her off at every practical question she has about his life, his choices, his finances. They’re all valid questions, but his ego and masculinity aren’t secure enough for them. To answer them would confirm how precarious the commitment of the apartment truly is. Even the new job at his father’s business that he weasels his way into he stipulates as “not permanent.” I saw the parallels between Joel and Gilmore Girls’ Logan from the beginning, but here is where they truly solidify. Pray that we don’t find out Midge is pregnant in season 3.
“Marie’s not a Nazi, she’s just flexible.”-Rose (“Simone”)
[“I’ve missed you, Mama.”] “I’ve missed me, too.”-Rose (“Simone”)
“Hey Frank, I gotta say I don’t know how I feel about roughing up a girl…My sister’s a girl.”-Nicky, one of Harry Drake’s goons (“Simone”)
“Okay. I’ve sat here long enough. You wanna play it like that, fine. Miriam, go home. Me? I am not going home without my wife. Period. Now if you will excuse me, my dinner time is six o’clock. Only gangsters eat at nine o’clock after some bootlegging and a hot game of craps.” – Abe (“Simone”)
“Here’s the card of a psychiatrist who just moved to New York from Boston. He’s done wonders for my friend, Sylvia Plath.”-Lillian, the French translator (“Simone”)
[“You’re a wonderful man.”] “You’re a terrible cook.”-Abe to Rose (“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”)
[“Thank you for letting me know that everything I do is wrong and your mother’s accounting system is a piece of shit.”] “It really is a piece of shit.”-Mrs. Moskowitz to Moishe (“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”)
“Susie: Please This You Eat”-Zelda’s note (“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”)
“What life [am I going back to]? My daughter does not want my guidance. You have no need for my input. I’m alone in New York. Here, I have art. I have independence; no one looks at me with pity…Poor Rose, she’s too fragile to be told the truth, too delicate to confide in. She’ll shatter. Here in Paris, I’m…shatterproof.”-Rose to Abe (“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”)
“All comics are comics ‘cause something in their lives went horribly wrong. Something went to shit…But men, those over there, and men in general, think that they are the only ones who get to use comedy to close up those holes in their soul. They run around telling everyone that women aren’t funny, only men are funny. Now, think about this. Comedy is fueled by oppression, by the lack of power, by sadness and disappointment, by abandonment and humiliation. Now, who the hell does that describe more than women?”-Midge (“Mid-Way to Mid-Town”)
You have been a great readership, everyone. I am The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel reviewer. Thank you and good night!