Spoiler Warning: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 4
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came back with a fourth season this year after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic halting production. We meet Mrs. Maisel, aka Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) as a ’60s housewife-turned-comic-goddess with the mouth of a sailor and the chutzpah of a house cat. She will knock over your cup of coffee right in front of you, and you’ll laugh instead of getting mad at the little monster.
Cats are cheeky ol’ buggers that way, and so is the marvelous Midge Maisel. Her brutally honest observations about her own life and those of others in it are sometimes just plain brutal. But her audience always laughs, and that’s all that matters to a performer. Right? Except it is all gung-ho for Midge until she crosses a few lines too many.
Season four may seem to be putting Midge through similar motions we have already witnessed, once again, but it is the season she sees the most growth. And that’s why this is the season that has the biggest heart of them all.
Mrs. Maisel Is Finding the Magic in Standing Still
After her perfect little life in Manhattan’s Upper West Side as a mother of two and forever supportive spouse to Joel (Michael Zegen) blows up in divorce, she finds herself in a path-crashing way – in New York’s exclusive comedy scene. We watched Midge’s rise to name, glory, and rebellious infamy grow through the first three seasons till that humiliating cliffhanger where fictional Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) flies away to Europe on tour, leaving her (with her mini mountain of luggage) on the tarmac. What promised to be the biggest break of Midge’s career became her most embarrassing career moment instead.
In season four, like Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), Midge’s fellow comic, friend, her second-greatest champion (second only to Susie [Alex Borstein], of course), and on-again-off-again fling, the audience also notices that Midge is holding herself back. For all the leaps she took in the first three seasons, these few steps back seem to have upset some who expected more progress for Midge. But it may only seem like Midge has gone back to where she started. This temporary setback is very much a part of her arc. We all know Mrs. Maisel is meant to be a star. But in a hero’s journey, you cannot have your grand big win without falling a few steps short first. Midge and everyone else on the Giant Wheel of her life are simply going through these motions of familiar storytelling narrative rigmarole, making this season the most spiritual of them all.
It might seem like there is no progress, but standing still is better than and definitely not the same as regressing to old patterns. All we need is a shift in perspective to see that.
Marvelous Growth for All Abound
This is the season of emotional revelations for everyone – be it Abe’s (Tony Shalhoub) tender eulogy for Moishe (Kevin Pollak) or Joel’s genuine support for his girlfriend Mei (Stephanie Hsu), the men have come some way. Susie, on the other hand, tastes professional milestones of her own. She gets her own office, one with a stupendous view, and her own agency with a list of growing clientele. But what about Midge?
We see Midge turn down idol turned bitter foe Sophie Lennon’s (Jane Lynch) advice to do a don a contrived persona to better find a footing in the male-dominated profession. So seeing her lay down stricter rules for Susie when it comes to booking gigs feels counterintuitive at this point in the game. Seeing Midge single-handedly turn around the entire business of a Burlesque club where she gets to perform without holding herself back is amusing nonetheless. But it isn’t till Lenny tells her she is repeating her gimmick that she is forced to face the mirror. She is hiding behind her bravado and trying to escape from her mortifying mistake.
After raging on about another man letting her down for a few episodes, Midge finally shows her remorse when she delivers her heartfelt apology to Shy. She knew he knew, as did we all, that she deserved to be fired by Shy after almost outing him just for a few laughs. She did something similar to Sophie in the earlier seasons when she not only ridiculed Sophie’s corny act but outed her real (albeit comically bougie) persona to an eager audience.
This was never considered a thoughtless, vindictive act on Midge’s part because Sophie got to have the last laugh by getting her blacklisted from the most prestigious clubs around town. Midge never got to reflect on almost taking a hit out on Sophie’s career trajectory. Sophie was, after all, a bigger fish. But so was Shy. And she almost did it again. Beyond the walls of the Gaslight Cafe, the world is a bigger place, and real people stand to get hurt. But this time around, she learns from her mistake.
However, the psychic curveballs thrown into the world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel did not just stop at Rose’s (Marin Hinkle) psychic predicting a future for Midge where she courts an enthralled crowd while standing in front of a mic. This season things get amped up with magician Alfie (Gideon Glick) thrown into the mix. While he impresses Susie into getting him on board as one of her clients by looking into her past, it’s the “Go forward” sign (actually the “Gordon Ford Show” hoarding) that Midge sees through the snow that hints at the message being sent her (and our) way from the Universe.
In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s fifth and final season, Midge will have her ultimate moonshot. Could it be that she becomes a late-night show host, or will she finally figure out how to get to Carnegie Hall? We will wait to see what eventually seals Mrs. Maisel’s legacy.