Somehow, even-perhaps especially- in this age of streaming where there are little to no commercial obligations, every single series still suffers from the “bloating” phenomenon. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is no exception, as “The Punishment Room” proves. Luckily, “We’re Going to the Catskills!” follows immediately after to remind the audience how delightful the show can be when the family is all together. And when an episode feels like one big Dirty Dancing reference.
“The Punishment Room”
Equal Opportunity Nudity
Masel to Maisel for joining the ranks of the few television series that have unabashedly shown a penis.
Rose and Abe
Much more subtle in this episode than last, but no less adorable. My heart constricts when Abe remembers Rose telling him about her artist acquaintance Bertrum, because it reveals that Abe had paid attention to Rose even before their recent improvements to their marriage. The slump that we saw Rose and Abe in the last episodes of the first season and the first episode of the second was not an extension of the norm, but rather a troubled period they had to muddle through. They’ve come out the other side of it stronger, as every successful relationship should.
Discouragement Passing as Feminism
As much as I love the Rose/Abe scene it brings us later, I don’t understand what the show is trying to tell us by having Rose discourage her fellow female artists in her class from pursuing their degree. It makes sense in universe on a macro level. An observant woman of Rose’s age and social class likely would express similar concerns to those girls. However, Rose appears downright gleeful to be doing so as if she has personal stake in the matter. The only explanation I can think of is that Rose discerns that her advice is having an impact on these girls and she misses sharing that with Midge. The text never makes this explicit, however, which leaves me feeling cold.
It’s also problematic from a writing perspective. Why is Midge worthy of confidence that she will break glass ceilings in a male dominant career, but these girls are not? The girls should be made aware of the environment they are going into, certainly, but it’s clear the text expects us to be fully on Rose’s side that these girls’ prospects are hopeless. Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.
Midge’s Lack of Social Filter
We all have a friend or family member that doesn’t know when to shut up, and can generally be relied upon not to shut up during an inopportune moment. Hell, many of us have been that person, which is why it’s so painful to watch Midge be that person. We know she’s well meaning, we know she’s been drinking, and we know her stint with comedy has affected her social skills. Yet, all we want to do is shove her in a closet so no one can hear her poorly timed realization about why her friend is spontaneously getting married. Poor Mary. Poor, ironically named, pregnant Mary.
This episode is ultimately forgettable, as few of the plot points presented seem to have any bearing on the rest of the season. Even the final scene of the episode, which one would think would either influence the following episode or come back as significant down the road, amounts to nothing. Susie now knows that the guys at the music shop have been selling records of Midge at the Gaslight…So what? If you listen closely, you can hear the writers cough in discomfort at that question.
Here’s a question the writers do know the answer to: How do you get the viewers reinvested after a below average episode? With a handsome jerk who has a heart of gold, of course!
“We’re Going to the Catskills!”
The Friendship Ring
Coming soon to a theater near you, starring Emma Watson. Oh wait, no, that was The Bling Ring. The friendship ring is what Midge gives to Susie to once again reaffirm that their relationship is more than that between manager and client, no matter what Susie says. I hope and assume that Susie’s gesture of begrudgingly accepting the ring signifies the last we will see of her insistence to maintain the strictly professional charade.
Susie and Her Plunger
Susie may not be a gold person as Midge previously evaluates, but she may want to consider having her plunger dipped in gold when she returns to New York. That thing gets her food and shelter in the Catskills for the summer, free to focus on getting Midge gigs so they can both earn money. Also, for the record, Borstein’s facial expressions throughout the scene where Midge first stumbles upon Suzie and her plunger are worthy of gaining her another Emmy.
As soon as I heard Zachary Levi was gonna be on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I knew I was going to love his character, as I do all of Levi’s characters. He has a unique brand of charm that’s impossible not to fall in love with, and you immediately see the same in Benjamin. It takes quite the man to keep up with Midge and Benjamin proves himself up to the task, even if their first “date” leaves much to be desired for Midge and Rose. Indeed, if her intention was to divert our eyes away from Lenny Bruce as a potential love interest then Amy Sherman-Palladino has chosen well in Levi’s Benjamin, but my allegiance remains secure. After all, Benjamin hasn’t been given a last name, and that’s only ever worked out for Cher.
Someone please get Midge a full-time nanny for Christmas. It’s so stressful for me to consider where and with who these kids are in every scene. I know Zelda is trying her best, but she can’t always be with them and someone other than Midge needs to be responsible. (She left her baby alone in the car in the summer heat, for God’s sake!)
Abe at the Catskills
I know, I know. Everyone loved Abe in his romper, but it just didn’t work for me. It’s what bumps this category down from “Good” to “Indifferent.” I was much more amused by Drunk!Abe. The man is a top mathematician at one of the best universities in the world, and yet he kept miscalculating how much he could drink before he got drunk. Either there’s alcohol in the tomato juice that he’s not aware of, or he repeatedly overestimates himself and his own tolerance, which masterfully says so much about his character with so little.
“You know, Joel, you and I are good friends. Close. To the point we didn’t even correct your mother when she implied that we’re a couple of queers.”-Archie (“The Punishment Room”)
“I don’t like walking into a room and my wife is there staring at some young guy’s schlong… But you don’t understand what we’ve been through. If she doesn’t get to do this, she’ll go back to Paris, and Paris is chock-full of schlongs. French schlongs.”-Abe to Simon, the head of the art department at Columbia(“The Punishment Room”)
“I hardly ever said the f-word before, now it just slides out of my mouth. I mean, what the fuck?”-Midge (“The Punishment Room”)
[“Well, read something and I’ll pretend that I’m enjoying it.”] “Arthur Rossman would like to thank all the fellow guests who consoled him on the death of his beloved dog Mogul.” [Midge laughs] “You are sick.” [“Well, read something light that I can laugh at.”] “There will be a twilight gathering of Holocaust survivors tonight in…”-Benjamin with Midge (“We’re Going to the Catskills!”)
“Give me another pickle. The brine in the pickle counteracts the alcohol.” [“You’ve had ten pickles, Abe. Your pickles aren’t working.”]”…I’m having my lawyer contact the chief counsel at Claussen Pickles. There will be a lawsuit.”-Drunken Abe in response to Rose (“We’re Going to the Catskills!”)
Thanks everybody. You’ve been more than diverting. I’m The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel reviewer. Good night!