“Revenge,” the powerful first line of the fourth season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel bluntly set the tone for the season. Merriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) was unceremoniously fired from the entertainment tour that was supposed to be her big break as a comedian by her friend and fellow entertainer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) for inadvertently making implications about his sexuality. Heartbroken, Midge returns home to discover her humiliating failure was already published in the papers by her biggest critic L. Roy Dunham (Hari Nef). Midge, at that point, left unable to book more gigs, buried in debt, and facing constant belittlement from her disapproving family and community, had a breakdown when she realized she could not even afford milk since her credit history with the milkman had been under her cheating ex-husband’s name.
Fans know Midge as a spunky optimist. Part of her appeal is that she is always very carefully dressed in a bright dress with a matching hat and bag — which is why it is so entertaining when she flips and is recklessly hot headed to the point of getting arrested for foul language, or soliciting, or indecent exposure, or….you get it.
Although the women in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are portrayed as incredibly privileged and sheltered — except for Susie (Alex Borstein) – I admired that the show chose to repeatedly reference the nuance of how women in the 50s and 60s were financially handicapped and often had to get ahead by stepping on other women. The twist that Midge’s relentless critic L. Roy Dunham was a woman who happily wrote viciously negative reviews of Midge because it made the male editors take her seriously was shocking. Then the dynamic between Rose’s struggle to start her matchmaking business while condemning Midge for having a career. And most recently, Sophie Lennen felt threatened by Midge’s popularity as a comic on her show and sabotaged her act to undermine her.
So it appears that Midge’s character arc will have her continue to lose the soft naivety in favor of a more seasoned, professional disposition. This season’s Midge is no longer the perky idealist, she is a bitter, hardened comic that swears, and drinks to excess, and selfishly acts out. She is becoming Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). And I am excited to see how it works out for her.
The angst is broken up with several lively scenes demonstrating the quippy “Who’s on First” humor that program creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is known for. When Midge told her parents that she was fired, the whole family loudly argued while seated in different boxes of a ferris wheel on her son’s fake birthday. Another time, Midge’s father (Tony Shalhoub) writes a negative review for the play of a friend’s son. In Temple the next day, the Rabbi accuses him of having no loyalty to his community. The argument devolves into the entire congregation arguing with the Maisels. It is so fun to watch and it feels so natural to the dynamic of this family. It is a reminder that the cast is filled with incredibly well decorated supporting actors that often steal the show.
I am looking forward to the final two episodes of this season and to see how the other plotlines resolve when Joel finally introduces Mai to his parents, how Rose’s matchmaking business survives, and if Shy Baldwin or Lenny Bruce will have a central role in the season finale. Regardless, I have thoroughly enjoyed the trajectory of the season so far.
Image courtesy of Peabody Awards via Wikimedia Commons