For four seasons, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been a shiny, fluffy feather in Prime Video’s cap. The infectiously entertaining series that follows the lead Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) as she goes from wronged housewife to infamous comic is jam-packed with everything you’d expect from Amy Sherman-Palladino. Sherman-Palladino, who also created of Gilmore Girls, who executive produces the series with her husband Daniel Palladino, has a sort of twee, sassy, spunky charm. It’s a chicer Aaron Sorkin. There’s walking, there’s talking, there’s humor, there are snappy zingers. There’s a kind of rhythm to the writing and storytelling that is very much them.
Unfortunately, while that means they always start off on a charming foot, it also means that they struggle to pay off all of that build-up to create a satisfactory conclusion. While the first four seasons kept the story relatively on track, the fifth does the daring and jumps back and forth through time, to give us a glimpse into the future of Midge’s career. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, with a couple of the flashforwards offering amazing insight into Midge’s life, the problem is that show still has a meandering pace. It doesn’t feel like the 1961 storyline has any understanding of urgency.
Many times during the final season I found myself wondering, “Do they know that the show is ending?” The problem I’ve always had with the series is that the show is called The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I signed up for stories about Midge. I didn’t sign up for the Joel (Michael Zegen) show, I didn’t sign up for the Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) show, and I didn’t sign up for the Moishe (Kevin Pollack) and Shirley (Caroline Aaron) show. I have no problem with these characters in their supporting roles. But in many ways, I feel like the Palladinos have held Midge hostage from me while trying to get me to care about the rest of her family.
Much like Midge with her children, I don’t really care. Yes, Moishe and Shirley are some of the funniest characters on the show. Yes, I enjoy how neurotic and inept Rose and Abe are. Yes, Joel was good as a punching bag in the early seasons. No. I do not really care that much about their stories. Not in the same way I cared about Midge’s. The highlights of the show often concern Midge and the audience, Midge and Susie (Alex Borstein), or Midge and Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). Those aspects of her professional life are addictive. Yes, most of her material comes from her family and her life, but did that mean we needed to understand the inner workings of Rose Weissman’s brain?
I like don’t speak for just myself when I say that what largely drew me to Maisel, on top of Brosnahan’s verve and charisma, is Midge’s relationship with Susie and her relationship with Lenny. And while Season 5 embraces Susie and Midge’s relationship, though oftentimes not digging deep enough between the actual characters, it drops the ball when it comes to Lenny. Luke Kirby is obviously playing a real-life comic, but Lenny and Midge’s on-screen chemistry is undeniable. It’s sizzling.
Obviously, this show isn’t called The Marvelous Mr. Bruce, and Kirby is only a recurring star. But the season severely underutilizes Lenny and it feels like wasted potential. Instead, the season offers a new comedic male figure in Midge’s life: Reid Scott’s Gordon Ford. Now, Scott and Brosnahan have good chemistry, but the scenes between them are written with a type of tone-deafness that I have to wonder if the people behind these storylines simply want to say, “It’s the 60s, it’ll be fine!” Gordon Ford is Midge’s new boss. He’s a late-night talk show host and he’s attractive, funny, and cool.
Unfortunately, he’s also a man from the 60s, and unlike most of the other men, he’s very much… a man from the 60s. The scenes between Midge and
Gordon feel largely unnecessary. Her rapport with her fellow writers in the writers’ room feel like a better glimpse into what it’s like to be the only woman in a man’s world. In its final season, Midge’s life feels more cramped than ever. There’s no room to breathe, and we’re left struggling to keep up. There didn’t need to be more characters added or more extraneous storylines because they barely wrapped up any of the existing storylines.
For a show that is obsessed with Midge using jokes about her kids, it never ever really dives deep into Midge as an actual mother. She seems to see her children as a burden and view them only as props for her jokes. She’s rarely around and later in life, they seem to actively dislike her. She’s more obsessed with her fame than she is with anything else. Which is okay! But the show doesn’t really ever fully lean into what that’s like for her kids. Not with any depth or clarity.
The same goes for Midge’s relationship with her Joel. It’s a bizarre relationship. On one hand, it’s healthy the way that they co-parent and seem to be working amicably together. On the other hand, it’s a sort of lingering will-they-won’t-they that feels unnecessary. Has Midge forgiven Joel for cheating on her? Are they still in love? She refers to him, at one point, as the one that got away. He’s not getting away, Midge. The series has an obsession with redeeming Joel and while the character has certainly gained some depth since his early days, he’s a character who only truly exists in the shadow of Midge.
The series should have been a revolving door of guest stars who influenced or affected Midge. I want more Shy Baldwins (Leroy McClain), more Sophie Lennons (Jane Lynch), and yes, more Lenny Bruces. At the end of the day, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is not really, solely about Midge Maisel. It should have been, but it wasn’t and that’s a real shame.
One thought on ““The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 5 Fails To Stick the Landing and Make It About Midge | Review”
I wholeheartedly agree! Never before have I wanted to fast forward through the previous episodes! After patiently waiting for this final season, I am very disappointed and underwhelmed.