Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was one of the greatest surprises of 2018, a series that, for its first season alone, won five Emmys and two Golden Globes (in the comedy category, including Best TV Series and Best Actress Rachel Brosnahan). It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that all the praise you may have read about this series is truly deserved, as it was one of the most charismatic, personal and humorous stories on television!
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is set in Manhattan in 1958, where Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a woman whose life as a wife and mother takes an unexpected turn when she discovers an unknown talent for comedy. Midge then decided to trade in her comfortable Upper West Side existence to perform stand-up comedy.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), with Daniel Palladino and Sherman-Palladino as executive producers, and it is inspired by pioneering female comedians such as Joan Rivers and Totie Fields, as well as including fictional portrayals of several real comedians such as Lenny Bruce and Bob Newhart.
The charisma, the excellent chemistry of the entire cast and its sharp, witty dialogue are only a few of the reasons that made The Marvelous Mrs Maisel such a big hit. Not to mention how the show successfully created the world of 1958, and they managed to make the viewers feel like they were actually there. So, let’s get back to 1958 as we review the five seasons of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season One!
The first season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was just perfect; we met characters that are pure gold! Rachel Brosnahan as “Midge” Maisel was an optimistic and lively character that was infectious on screen. However, at times, she was constrained by the traditional morals of the time, in which “what people will say” was of the utmost importance for a well-off Jewish family.
Around her, we got to know her colourful family, starting with her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), with whom she thought she had the perfect marriage and who would crush her with an unexpected and painful separation.
In the show, Tony Shalhoub plays Abraham “Abe” Weissman, Midge’s father, a mathematician whose quiet, orderly life is shattered by his daughter’s separation. Then there’s her neurotic mother, Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle).
The best thing about this diverse casting is that each character conveyed a non-transferable truth that we believed from the first sentence, thanks to an excellent script that not only focused on these characters but also on the social context of the time.
The role that society defined as acceptable for women of that time was that of wife, mother and housewife, and anything outside this space was viewed with suspicion by the well-meaning society of the time, as Maisel would discover in the flesh. This clash of the conservative and the modern went to provoke many well-constructed comedy situations that kept us grinning from ear to ear throughout the eight episodes of this first season.
On the technical side, it was great to see a series in which you can tell that the producers have invested a lot of time to make everything look real, not only the sets but also the costumes, make-up, hair and everything related to that period of time.
Although this first season didn’t resolve anything, and its ending seemed almost like a normal episode ending, we were happy to learn that the premiere of the second season was imminent and was already scheduled.
Aside from the Weissman family, the other big discovery of this series was Alex Borstein as Susie Myerson, an employee of The Gaslight Cafe who would become Midge’s Manager. The contrast between Midge’s high-class manners and Alex’s brusqueness and rudeness led to hilarious situations, conveying a charisma and freshness we haven’t enjoyed in a TV series for a long time.
The delightful first season went on to win the Golden Globe and Emmy for best comedy. Seven Emmys in total culminate a whole year of praise for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, the fantastic comedy created by Amy Sherman-Palladino in one year! The series ended with such a high note and high expectations for the second season!
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season Two!
The new season kicked off with a superb introduction (the musical selection was a masterwork on its own), in which we meet Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) as a “fix-it” telephone operator for the department store she works for as she tries to break into New York City comedy.
At the beginning of the second season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) took the stage in front of a foreign audience while Abe and Rose Weissman (Midge’s parents, brilliantly played by Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle) were reunited in the enchanting Paris.
Midge’s agent Susie (Alex Borstein) experiences the repercussions of having a bad reputation in show business, while Joel (Michael Zegen), Midge’s estranged husband since her infidelity, pulls himself together after leaving his job.
In season two, Midge found a new romantic interest in Dr. Benjamin Ettenberg (ZacharweLevi), a handsome doctor Midge met during a family holiday in the Catskills.
In a sense, we can say that this season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was rather more familiar, with a deep exploration of the Weissman family and the aspirations and concerns of each. The story mini-arc in Paris was followed by another arc in which the protagonists spend three episodes at the holiday resort they go to every year.
This allowed us to learn even more about the small and large tensions between the members of both the Weissman and Maisel families. The show creator Amy Sherman Palladino’s characteristic vibrant, non-stop style gave us absolutely perfect scenes.
In the first season, we saw Midge navigating between the pain of the breakup with her husband and her desire to emancipate and empower herself as a woman; in this one, we saw our protagonist trying to be more aware of how her new direction in life affects her surroundings.
Midge’s struggle to reconcile her comedy career with her family’s personal and even professional commitments was accentuated by a series of circumstances that we won’t reveal so as not to spoil the plot but which generated moments that are astonishing for the naturalness with which they happen.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was back with its feminist message and its completely optimistic and, not to mention, magical style. This second season has made us enjoy a more ambitious, fun and perfectly executed approach.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season Three!
The third season of the best (or one of the best) sitcoms in recent years, aka The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, focused, at least initially, on Midge’s (Rachel Brosnahan) tour that could change everything.
The new eight episodes of Amazon Prime‘s show started with an episode in which Midge performed for the USO (the well-known entertainment tours for American troops); the season then straddled New York and wherever Shy Baldwin (Leroy McLain) was touring. We got to see a handful of episodes in the city that never sleeps, Las Vegas, and another in Sunny Florida.
Elsewhere, Susie (Alex Borstein) found herself juggling two equally absorbing clients: Midge and her “rival/nemesis” Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch), hell-bent on making her leap into serious theatre. Joel (Michael Zegen) rented a bargain Chinatown venue to open a club, only to discover there’s a catch there.
Then there’s the alternative sitcom of Abe (Tony Shalhoub), continuing his identity crisis after leaving his job at Columbia. The Weissman couple also had to say goodbye to their flat and looked for new ways to maintain their lifestyle, with hilarious results.
We can’t forget that The Marvelous Mrs Maisel showed us the most romantic and splendid version of the 60s, that neat bubble world in which, sooner or later, everything turned out well. We knew that no matter how difficult things were, everyone would find a solution they were happy with.
With that in mind, even in rather bizarre issues like Susie and the gambling or that season finale, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel always gave off a good optimism.
While we have thoroughly enjoyed the third season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, we have to admit that it has fallen far short of the near-perfection of the previous seasons. There weren’t as many moments of framing or moments of pure magical comedy.
However, there is always a time in the life of a series when the quality suffers. The first season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs Maisel‘ was fantabulous, the second was perfect, and the third was a logical step backwards.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season Four!
The main novelty that we found with season four of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel can be summarised simply in that its broadcast that year on Amazon Prime Video was weekly.
Otherwise, as with the previous seasons, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had refined enough of the circumstances, personalities and other components of the show’s universe to throw the adventures of Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) into the deep end. Whether we, as viewers, were looking for something more is another matter.
Season four began minutes after Shy Baldwin’s jilting of our comedian. It was a traumatic failure that threatened to end both Midge’s career and what little money both performer and manager Susie (Alex Borstein) had left, and she had to find a way to pay off her debts.
Amy Sherman-Palladino quite aptly explored a return to square one in which one doesn’t start from scratch and already has baggage. The scheme of looking for places to perform may have reminded us of the early days of the series, but we were aware that the Midge of now and the Midge of a few years ago were quite different. This is the situation of the family, who were once again sleeping under the same roof in a flat.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was in as sweet a moment as it was ponding. The brilliant and sharp dialogue, the dynamic of the characters, and the optimism of that idealised New York City of the 60s were still the trademark of the house. But also a certain feeling of not wanting to give extra incentives to maintain interest.
After four years, it was still a delight to watch the episode by episode of the show, and Sherman-Palladino managed to dial up those snappy lines in absurd situations; however, the plot didn’t seem to live up to the artistic talent or what we’ve seen in previous seasons.
In short, in season four, the series showed what a remarkable comedy it was. Also, despite running out of steam, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was still a sensational comedy, boasting some of the best writing in the business and exuding a love for the characters that manages to come across to the viewer.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel: Season Five!
Now, we come to the final curtain, or at least the last performance for Midge. It was clear from the first minute of the fifth season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel that it was farewell for a comedy that was at the top and that, although it had lost some fame, has remained among the most relevant of current television.
Amy Sherman-Palladino and company begin the season by jumping twenty years into the future to the eighties, where we meet the not-so-little Esther Maisel, Midge’s daughter, on a visit to the psychologist. After the prologue, we return to the past right on the morning after last season’s finale, with Midge returning home completely frozen and with the epiphany on her mind.
So, the first episodes of this final season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel gave us a glimpse into the future of the comedy played by Rachel Brosnahan. Yes, she achieved prominent fame, but also, in the eighties, she didn’t exactly find the happy ending she was hoping for. We see these glimpses while, in the present, we see her coping with working as a scriptwriter on The Gordon Ford Show.
After so many years of watching Gilmore Girls, Bunheads, and so many seasons of this one, one of the things that continued to surprise us about the series was that so much happens in each episode. Although they all revolved around a specific conflict, the little more than fifty minutes per episode were full of the experiences and occurrences of each of the members of the family.
In this sense, while Midge remained at the centre, the trend has continued of giving plenty of space to the surrounding characters: from a certain descent into hell for Joel (Michael Zegen), whose fiancée has decided to leave, to the surreal war plot that the matchmaking guild seemed to have declared on Rose (Marin Hinke).
But, as it was good to reiterate, the central plot remained with the comedienne and her attempt to get her big break in show business. This included big performances and musical numbers that rival the “Garbage Man Can” from The Simpsons. That and the complex relationships our leading lady had with both men and Susie (Alex Borstein).
We think that in this season five, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel regained a certain pulse; perhaps this had to do with having an ending in mind that prevented the creators from having as much drift as in that sort of existential sense we had in season four. Knowing how it’s going to end created room for not only a better direction but also to be able to solidify the plot.
In that sense, if one looked back, the biggest problems we could have had in appreciating The Marvelous Mrs Maisel were that it had its own hallmarks. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel‘s optimistic, idealising spirit, in a way, put a stop to the evolution of the show, its characters and its plots. Not so much in a negative sense but in a restrictive way.
It’s not so much that the series repeated itself; it’s that it was subject to certain parameters that caused certain wear and tear more for the viewer than for the fiction itself, which continued to work tremendously well, but its “magic” or “charm” factor no longer made as much of an impact as in the first seasons.
But that didn’t stop us from enjoying the final chapter in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’s journey. The sitcom‘s final season was a great send-off: it was funny, slightly absurd, superbly directed and, above all, cosy. Midge and company will be sorely missed.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel has managed to leave us with a smile on our face every time for five seasons; despite dealing with sometimes complex marriage issues that could have made for a dramedy, the sitcom never failed to delight!