In the interests of doing other things with my free time, this review will be written in approximately thirty minutes. Timer starts…now!
While wonderful to have Amy Sherman-Palladino’s unique writing voice back on screens, it is frustrating to see Midge back on the bottom rung after such a lengthy hiatus
Starring Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub, Kevin Pollak, and Caroline Aaron
More than two years after concluding its third season with a rather glib cliffhanger for our favourite comedienne, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns – though in a slightly different format. Electing to release two episodes on a weekly basis, so as to prolong public engagement, the first two episodes of Season 4 see Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) reset back to where we originally met her.
Though Season 3 seemed to be taking Midge’s career to loftier heights, and also saw Alex Borstein’s Susie taking on other clients, such as Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), Midge was unceremoniously dumped from Shy Baldwin’s (Leroy McClain) tour for making jokes that pointed towards his closeted homosexuality. Season 4 picks right up in the immediate aftermath, with Midge and Susie left humiliated and abandoned on the runway, returned to their ordinary existence in New York and finding it even trickier now to find work.
All stories need obstacles. Without obstacles, the achievements simply wouldn’t taste as delicious. Where The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s fourth season premiere appears to fall down though is returning too much towards the status quo of the earlier seasons. Buying back her original flat, and inviting her parents to move back in with her, struggling to break through on the New York comedy scene and struggling financially feels like too much of a throwback to the first season – and not in a good way.
To see previously meek housewife Midge filled with vitriol towards her appalling treatment at the hands of Shy’s agent, while amusing, makes for a frustrating narrative – once more putting Susie and Midge at loggerheads and seeing Midge confront every person who stands in her way. It is also frustrating to see her continually bungle career opportunities and refuse to adapt to her situation. Midge has spent previous seasons perfecting her routine so that she can use short sets to build her own profile, but now refuses to compromise on any front, which seems arrogant and churlish. There is also zero acknowledgement of her own part to play within being sacked from Shy’s tour even though Midge seemed to be taking some steps towards realising her position of privilege.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to appreciate about these episodes, or indeed that it is glib. There is much fast-talking Sherman-Palladino comedy on offer, with particular highlights including Midge’s stunned, slow build reaction to being sacked in the taxi with Susie, and a typically barmy, frenetic sequence occurring across separate cars on a Coney Island ferris wheel.
Should these plot elements be intentional, then the season is crafted well. However, perhaps this is where the show is being done a disservice by being doled out in small episodic chunks. There is little to persuade a viewer from tuning back in, short of good will points that the programme has built up over the past few seasons. Should The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel be breaking Midge down in order for her to take stock and enact some change then that would be a sensible move, but Midge has always suffered with humility. Despite her status as a fledging comedienne, she has never lacked confidence or a self-assured air. As inspirational and tempting it is for her to sit there and claim that she and Susie alone are going to change the face of comedy entirely, there still requires for there to be some compromise on Midge’s part.
After such a long time away, perhaps there’s simply a desire to see Midge succeed and receive recognition as the audience believes that she can, but to see her once again performing in a smoky, dimly lit bar is incredibly frustrating. With the news that the newly commissioned Season 5 is to be its last, hopefully this enables The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to rocket towards a conclusion which proves satisfying and demonstrates true growth both within Midge as a comedienne and as an individual.
The Marvel Mrs. Maisel is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.