The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 2 reviews.

tl;dr: A gold standard in dramatised comedy and a wonderfully funny, enthralling show elevated by excellent design, a brilliant cast, and superb writing.

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I've heard a lot of good things about The Marvelous Mrs Maisel but I'd forgotten how critically acclaimed season one was. Having rapidly made our way through it, all I can say is that – if anything – it didn't get half as much publicity as it deserved! From the set design to the acting to the writing to the comedy, there's barely a single item out of place for the entire eight-episode run. It's a masterpiece of TV work and immensely fun (and funny!) to watch.

The titular Mrs Maisel (or Midge) is a brilliant character and the friendship between her and new manager Susie is so expertly written and performed to be an immediate classic. That they are backed up by an equally outstanding supporting cast – both from an acting and character writing perspective – just elevates the entire show to another level completely. Combined with a beautiful setting and a whole heap of self-aware humour/critique woven into the plot and dialogue, and the first season is a rollercoaster of emotions and laughter. I think it's extremely fair to hold Mrs Maisel up to shows like The Good Place as Amazon's homegrown entry into the comedy hall of fame. Certainly, whoever wrote her actual standup is hopefully also a writer for genuine comics, because some of her bits are better than anything I've seen from professionals in years (though, again, Rachel Brosnahan really sells the performance perfectly).

If I was to make any critique, it would be that Midge does yo-yo between being simply privileged and intelligent to disturbingly naive. On the one hand, she's sharp-witted enough to pick up on all manner of extremely subtle societal issues and interpersonal relationships, and yet doesn't seem to understand that yelling at a Judge is likely to make things worse. Whilst I'll accept that we're seeing a particularly liberal and progressive version of 1950s New York, she is still a woman (and a Jewish woman) and I can't help but feel that she'd have learnt at least a few tricks to navigate through a society that is at least a little stacked against her, despite her high position within it. But who knows, maybe it truly was a golden era and this particular bubble of America could give rise to such a weird mixture of personality traits. Personally, though, I feel like they had to write her foot into her mouth a few too many times to progress the plot, though this is an extremely minor grievance that wouldn't register at all if the rest of the show wasn't so darn perfect. We're already well on our way through season two...

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Well, that didn't take very long 😂 Despite being 25% longer, we shot through season two in a flash. For the most part, I think they did a great job fleshing out the characters, particularly the supporting roles, whilst also grounding the show firmly in (at least a sense of) reality. In particular, the evolution of Midge's parents has been a joyous one to watch and leant a wonderful symmetry to proceedings: we start with her mother having a bit of a breakdown and jetting off to Paris, and we end with her father resigning from both of his jobs and hiring a lawyer for reasons that are as yet unclear. By the end of the first season both characters were fun, integral parts of the show, but they've taken them to whole new levels, particularly her father who has been given a lot more comedic opportunities in the second outing.

Which is particularly important as season two really zoned in on Midge's family life a lot more than her comedy. That's a bit of a shame, as the jokes don't come quite as thick and fast, but I think it's the right move from a narrative point of view. The trip to Paris was a great refresher into their world and perspective point on Midge's own life as she officially steps away from her broken marriage and towards comedy full time (plus that translator was an amazing actress and scene in general!), whilst the subsequent trip to the country was just a brilliant set of episodes all around. The situational comedy, the cringey "upper-class living", the focus in on Joel's parents, the growth it afforded everyone as characters, and of course Susie's charade as the plumber... it could have been filler and a slightly dull diversion, but of course the writers are too good for that and instead craft an absolute highlight.

They've also done a great job of building out some of the male characters (you don't often read that sentence!), in particular Joel and new love interest Ben (played brilliantly by Zachary Levi). Ben has proven to be a more-than-fitting match for Midge and has been central to some stand out moments, such as the silent car ride/radio impersonation, plus gave us access to the wonderful Rufus Sewell (A Knight's Tale, The Man in the High Castle) cameo 😍 On the other hand, Joel's bitter descent into adulthood has fleshed him out to be a highly likeable and interesting character. I do hope that the finale twist isn't a major plot point moving forward, as I do think they are better apart, but it was a nice touch and he has been redeemed as a person to quite a large degree at this stage. Oh, and on a related note, I love so much that fellow comedian Lenny Bruce continues to just be a really solid friend; I sincerely hope him and Midge never have a fling because it's so nice to see the playboy and the female star just be peers for once.

But of course Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein as Midge and Susie continue to be the utterly perfect stars of the show. Both characters (and actors) got a lot more emotional play in the second season and wow did the performances deliver. I love that their first tour bombed; I love that they managed to screw up relationships with key comedians (particularly Glee-star Jane Lynch's character, another excellent new face); I love that they're getting more individual time. Susie has really come into her own this season; she was a brilliant foil and comedic powerhouse in season one, but her side plots in season two have been excellent. I've already mentioned her plunger-related antics, but her abduction and subsequent befriending of the two gangsters was such a brilliant sequence, and I loved her high-bathtub meeting with Imogene, amongst so many other moments.

In other words, whilst season two may not have been quite as strong as season one in terms of immediate impact and wow factor, it's set the stage for an expanding and much more intriguing story that continues to develop in unexpected ways. And I continue to love every minute of it!

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