At first I thought it was just me. I’ve since realized it’s not. There’s something different about this current season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Something that doesn’t make sense. Something… off. The first three seasons of the Amazon Prime series were electric, introducing us to 1950s housewife Miriam “Midge” Maisel (played brilliantly by Rachel Brosnahan) and how she responded to major curve ball in her seemingly perfect life, discovering she was great at stand up comedy. It was unprecedented and sharp and funny and good.
Season Two featured even more of Midge’s antics, and gave us great storylines involving her family–her dad Abe (the great Tony Shaloub), her mom Rose (Marin Hinkle), and her insane in-laws Moishe (Kevin Pollack) and Shirl (Caroline Aaron). Midge was attempting to date again, and even the ex-husband that we loved to dislike (Michael Zegen) started his path to redemption, whatever that looked like.
The third season saw Midge finally able to spread her wings, earning a paying gig that took her on the road and in front of more faces. She was becoming a brand name on big stages, and it was still good. Not great like the first two seasons, but still good. Yes, it started getting a bit dark with the addition of Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) and the still weird relationship between Midge and Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). We were introduced to Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) and his manager (guest star Sterling K. Brown), and the adorable (if unnecessary) Mei Lin (Stephanie Hsu).
Then came the unfortunate cliffhanger where Midge was left on a tarmac after outing her former boss, followed by a wait of almost two years for the fourth season. And what the creators/husband and wife team Daniel and Amy Sherman-Palladino came up with… doesn’t make sense. To me. Dawson. This season has Midge meandering around without a real purpose, without real prospects for a better or bigger career. There’s that, and if I’m being honest, there’s also the fact that she’s become extremely unlikeable. Her sharp, witty persona is what drew us in, and now her character just feels entitled. Empty. Mean. Make it stop.
Now, this is the point of the post where you notice that I’ve left one important character out of the mix. And you’d be right. However, that’s because she deserves her own paragraph. Hell, at this point maybe her own show. She has been the one constant throughout all of the seasons, the reason to tune in to every episode, the reason we laugh, cry and stick around.
Alex Borstein, as Midge’s manager Susie, deserves every single award that’s out there to receive. She shines in every single scene she’s in, whether it’s fighting for Midge to get stage time, dealing with the difficult Sophie Lennon, constantly being called “sir” by random folks, working with the stage crew up in the Catskills, or struggling to form her own business, Susie is the engine that makes Maisel go. This season alone, it’s her that has kept me coming back for more, with her performance hopefully putting her in line for another Emmy this fall (she’s already won twice for her role). The real standouts this season have been her funeral speech for a dear friend, attempting to ditch Sophie, and her inept search for a secretary.
Other than that, at the halfway point, this season has been ungood. And now that the meandering Mrs. Maisel has been set on a path to meh-ness, it might be hard to bring her back. All of the charm of Seasons 1 & 2 has been stripped from the character, and based on the past two episodes (5 & 6), it seems to be getting worse. I have more questions that ever (that I won’t ask here because it would spoil it for those who aren’t caught up on the season) that probably won’t be answered by season’s end. And with the creators and writers having two whole years to get it right, that’s not a good thing.
Basically, everything that made Mrs. Maisel marvelous is gone, which begs a question that I will ask here: Why should I care? Because outside of Susie Myerson and Associates, and maybe another Lenny Bruce cameo, right now… I really don’t. And it’s a shame.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season Four, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.