Recently, I re-watched the first season of Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I remember thoroughly enjoying this show when it premiered in 2017, and actually, I think I may have even seen and been mildly delighted by the pilot back when Amazon used to release the pilot episodes of shows they were—wink-wink—considering picking up for full seasons. I came to the show with zero expectations vis-à-vis creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (I still weirdly want to call her Cindy Sherman Palomino) or her Gilmore Girls oeuvre. But I dug this Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan, who I did know from House of Cards and have never confused with Evan Rachel Wood), a fast-talking, rich late-1950s Jewish divorcee who discovers she has a knack for stand-up comedy after her husband leaves her. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a clever, glamorous, brassy dame! I mean, sure, show’s pace felt like the entire cast was on amphetamines—a Sherman-Palladino hallmark, I would later learn—but I went to a lot of clubs in New York in the mid-aughts, so I’m used to people talking at me at breakneck speed, usually in the bathroom. The point is, the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was something I genuinely enjoyed, and its charm remained essentially intact the second time around.
Now here’s where I admit a weird thing: despite all of the above, I have seen neither the second nor the third season. Couldn’t tell you why. Just never got around to it. I mean, I had the vague sense that neither season was particularly well-received by critics. But I also felt pretty certain that that didn’t matter, that fans of the show were still happy with it and that if I were to watch Seasons 2 or 3, I would enjoy them just as much as I enjoyed the first. Still, I never did.
So, here we are, nearly five years later, and you can imagine my surprise when, having decided to dive recklessly into the two Season 4 episodes provided to critics ahead of this week’s premiere, I found that not much has changed for ol’ Midge since I last saw her in the Season 1 finale. Yes, I’m given to understand that she’s gained a bit more notoriety; she’s been to Paris and the Catskills; she almost married a very tall doctor; she’s toured with a superstar musician. At some point she and her parents had to give up their palatial Upper West Side apartment to go live, improbably, with her ex-husband’s parents in Queens.
But Season 4 opens more or less where Season 1 did: with Midge back onstage at The Gaslight. Only now, instead of ranting about Joel (Michael Zegen) walking out on her, Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) is the target of her ire. “Once again, a man has stepped in and f*cked up my life!”
And yes, at this point, Midge’s life seems kinda f*cked. She’s unemployed and, judging from the press she’s getting post-Shy-gate, increasingly unemployable. Or unbookable, rather. Also, she’s in dept to her ex-father-in-law Moishe (Kevin Pollak), who loaned her money to buy the apartment she and Joel shared all the way back at the beginning of Season 1, and Susie, unbeknownst to Midge, has gambled away all their earnings.
Don’t worry, though! After some impressive banter between the entire Weissman-Maisel clan on Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel, Midge and Moishe work something out, and by Episode 2, which drops alongside Episode 1 today, Midge and her parents (Tony Shalhoub and Marin Hinkle, in top form as always) and her kids are all living together in the same Upper West Side building they did when the show began. It is practically a full-circle moment.
But that’s not all! Determined to get gigs—Midge has decided she’s only going to do spontaneous, unfiltered sets now, just like her mentor Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby)—Susie and Midge are back to pounding the pavement, showing up at clubs hoping to get a slot in the night’s line-up. But after being kicked out of one venue, Midge is mistaken for a prostitute and—get this—she’s arrested! Just like in the pilot!
You’re not experiencing déjà vu, that’s really what happened in these first two episodes of Mrs. Maisel’s fourth season. So much banter—three seasons’ worth—just to get the character more or less back to where she started. She’s even still technically married to Joel! They haven’t actually gotten divorced yet! With only one more season to go after this one, you kind of have to wonder where all this is going. And yet…I’m hard pressed to criticize this crackling, effervescent show too harshly—as plenty of critics have. The cast is as winning as ever, and I’m willing to overlook any number of contrivances that keep them in each other’s familiar, antic orbit.