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« Podcast: Critics Awards, Capernaum, Vox Lux | Main | Beauty vs Beast: Saving Private Shakespeare »
Monday
Dec102018

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Returns for Season 2! 

By Spencer Coile  

It feels like an eternity has passed since The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiered on Amazon Prime last year. Its first season was celebrated, dissected, and rewarded by most major awards bodies – sweeping up two Golden Globes and eight Emmys. In particular, the show’s leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan was lauded for her portrayal as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950’s housewife who pursues stand-up comedy when her husband unexpectedly leaves her.

Season two, which is available to stream on Prime, picks up shortly where the first season left off...

Midge, grappling with her impending divorce, immerses herself in the male-dominated comedy club scene in New York City. Aided by her androgynous and unkempt manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), the two women attempt to carve out a space for female comedians to gain the respect and laughs that their male counterparts earn so easily. 

So does The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two earn its laughter and is it a worthy follow-up to an excellent first season? 

In recent years, television has morphed into the most commodified “Gotta have it now” type of media. Spanning across multiple streaming platforms with new shows coming out every other day, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain momentum between seasons. With culturally relevant shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, and This Is Us failing to live up to the critical acclaim of their respective first seasons, it’d be easy to blame that on the quality of the series itself. However, I’m struck more by the conversations surrounding them. Gone is the discourse regarding the show itself, and what remains are discussions about how the show couldn’t possibly live up to the initial hype.  

That said, those series do not have the secret weapon Mrs. Maisel does: Gilmore Girlscreator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Known for her strong female characters, not to mention her witty and fast paced dialogue, Sherman-Palladino keeps the momentum of Maisel’s second season going because she works overtime to keep the spirit of the first season alive (which she is successful at doing, to a fault), while also allowing it to expand its world-building. The first season focused on Midge’s self-discovery; she’s jaded and she’s funny! By this point, the audience knows she’s jaded and she’s funny, so while she slowly climbs the ladder to success, her family gets a lion’s share of attention.  

Her mother and father, Rose and Abe Weissman (Marin Hinkle and Tony Shalhoub) become disillusioned by their lives. Rose feels trapped in a meaningless marriage – to the point where she upends her life and moves to Paris, only to have Midge and Abe track her down and bring her home. Meanwhile, Abe worries that despite his budding career as a scientist at Bell Labs and tenured professor at Columbia, he lacks any purpose. Midge’s ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) struggles with letting his wife go and making a life of his own. The relationship he and Midge share – friendly while still harboring feelings for one another – is a refreshing take on separating couples.  

At the center of the series, though, is still the one and only Mrs. Maisel. At this point, there are no words to describe Brosnahan’s performance. Sherman-Palladino dialogue cannot be easy to master, but Brosnahan speaks it as though she’s been saying it her whole life. Midge is such a complex and compelling character; you find yourself wishing the series would spend less time on any other character but her own. And arguably, the most important relationship is between Midge and Susie, but aside from their usual scuffles and their incredible rapport, their dynamic feels underdeveloped. 

Mrs. Maisel still feels most magical when it allows its leading lady to do what she does best: get behind the mic. While she works on becoming established, not to mention juggling her divorce and new love interest Benajmin (Zachary Levi), Midge’s stand-up routines become sparse. And while this got somewhat frustrating as a viewer who only wants to see the protagonist succeed, there is some delayed gratification to Midge’s narrative. The more she gets knocked down, the more satisfaction there is to watch her pick herself back up and make her audience scream with laughter. 

To be clear, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel still crackles with the same energy that its first season had. If anything, broadening its scope to represent even more characters, more storylines, more set-pieces (Paris, the Catskills, Pennsylvania – oh my!) indicates Sherman-Palladino was perhaps overly ambitious, rather than coasting off the charm and success from its first season. And in the so-called era of “prestige television,” I take great comfort in knowing that there is a special place for a leading lady to be loud, vulgar, and bursting with life. 

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Reader Comments (5)

I am saving this for Christmas, thank-you for letting me know my love for this series will not be disappointed.

December 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Thanks for your sharing. Hope you can contribute more quality posts to this page

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December 10, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhotmail login

No real spoilers but only read if you've seen it:

I thought it was excellent, but it lacked some of the electricity of the first season.

As far as acting: Levi was a total bore. Brosnahan was better than ever, yet Michael Zegen might have been the stealth MVP. I don't dislike Shalhoub and Borstein's performances, but they definitely do too much sometimes. Maybe underact a moment or two?

Was anyone else thinking there was some very purposeful homoerotic tension between Joel and Archie? They kind of developed it, then never went anywhere with it.

December 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

After dealing with haters and naysayers, and "woe is us" types all week, this show, like The Good Place, is a super tonic for all that ails me. Despite some flaws (like, who is TAKING CARE OF THE CHILDREN?), I watch every episode with a grin on my face. The opening scene of Season 2 is perfection. Oh, Midge and company, I've missed you. 3 episodes left and I'll miss you again. Thank you, Amy and Daniel, for such sparkling work.

December 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Absolutely love this show! Nothing else comes close. Amy Sherman-Paladino is a genius. Amazing how the different plot lines are interwoven. Also how the characters act and speak like real people. The whole Catskills visit was wonderful. Rachel Brosnahan is a joy to watch - it's hard to believe this is the same person from House of Cards. Alex Borstein is also a joy.

Sherman-Palladino keeps dramatic tension going, and you never really know where the plot will take you. A rare accomplishment.

If this sounds like my favorite TV show ever, that's because it is!

December 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrrrich7

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