‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Finale: Nobody Puts Lenny in a Corner – Vanity Fair

This post contains spoilers for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

It’s always been Lenny Bruce. From The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s start, Midge’s love of stand-up comedy has dovetailed with a soft spot for the tortured comic who led her to it. And the crackling chemistry between Rachel Brosnahan and Luke Kirby’s respective characters has remained one of Maisel’s most consistent elements. Now, after a three-season slow burn, they finally, finally did the deed in the show’s fourth season finale. 

But before we can get to their long-awaited lovemaking, familial tragedy strikes. The episode, written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino, begins at the bedside of Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollack), who has suffered a heart attack after learning that Joel (Michael Zegen) is expecting a child with his girlfriend Mei (Stephanie Hsu), whom the Maisels have never even met. Both the Maisels and Weismanns prepare for Moishe’s possible demise. His wife, Shirley (Caroline Aaron) fusses over the trip they didn’t take. Abe (Tony Shalhoub) writes an obituary for him in The Village Voice, journalistic practice be damned. 

As she’s been known to do, Midge works out her feelings on stage. Her set becomes a half-baked treatise about women holding things down while the men around them fall apart. “What if we discover one day that we were always the ones in charge?” Midge asks. “Just no one told us?” It’s a fitting send-off to her time at The Wolford, an illegal strip club she’s morphed into an increasingly feminist space during her stint there. “I don’t know what I’m saying,” Midge adds. “I just don’t want this man to die.” With a tearful nod, she’s back in performer mode. “Now, let’s see some tits and ass.”

Enter Lenny Bruce, who’s been waiting in the wings to offer Midge an apology—and a once-in-a-lifetime gig. The former is in response to the season’s sixth episode, which saw a hungover Lenny flee from Midge’s Upper West Side apartment and its cookie-cutter domesticity. And the latter is an offer to open for Tony Bennett at the Copacabana. Lenny is busy performing at Carnegie Hall and has advocated for Midge to take his slot. But before he can cut to the chase there’s a raid at the strip club—forcing the pair into a full-blown blizzard outside. 

They tuck themselves away in Lenny’s hotel room, where the air between them is undeniably charged. “You are more important than God,” he tells Midge, echoing a line from her set. “You paid attention,” she says. “To you? Always,” Lenny replies. But before things go further, Midge wants to get one thing straight. “If we do this, if we take our clothes off and we do some very blue things in this very blue room, I need you to look me in the eye first and promise that you will never, ever forget that I am very, very funny,” she says. Lenny gamely replies, “I will be laughing throughout the entire thing, I promise.”

Their love bubble is soon punctured when Midge finds a bag of what appears to be drug paraphernalia in his bathroom. Lenny shrugs it off: “All is well, I promise.” It’s one that we know he can’t keep, given that the real comedian would die of an overdose in 1966—a date the show is inching ever closer to. 

While we all have a metaphorical cigarette, Susie (Alex Borstein) is saddled with office busywork and a foreboding scene with Midge about getting into bed with mobsters. The character’s more intriguing storylines—a dip into her sexuality in the season’s fourth episode and the fact that she gambled away all of Midge’s money back in season 3 go frustratingly unresolved. And Moishe lives, only to tell Joel that Mei needs to be Jewish by the time they wed and become parents. 

After a season often crammed with the shenanigans of side characters, the final 15 minutes of Maisel’s finale are wisely devoted to Midge and Lenny. She watches him bring the house down at Carnegie Hall before he whisks her to the stage afterwards, confronting Midge about why she stupidly turned down the Tony Bennett job. “I made a decision to do things my way,” she tells Lenny, referencing her early season credo to decline any gig where she wouldn’t be headlining. “Make me Lenny Bruce,” Midge naively told Susie at the time.

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