Of course I’m a fan of THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. I was born into a world at a time where the series has been lovingly and meticulously set in, recreated in the few New York City neighborhoods that still resemble the early 60s time period that we have found our provocateur and her family and friends in for the show’s first four seasons. From the Riverside Drive apartment building with its opulent and, yes, in 1959, affordable lifestyle, a layout sttatingly similar to the more modest, farther uptown building that I brought home from the hospital into, to the Old Forest Hills opulence adjacent to plenty of Jewish delis that housed Joel’s upscale family that resembled my grandparents’ world, I resonated immediately.
And, yes, perhaps it suspended reality that Rachel McAdams could so successfully pull off being the embodiment of every Jewish boy’s fantasy. Rich, funny, family-oriented, and a little kinky. Not afraid to show her breasts to the world. Sorry, she’s more of the embodiment of what my family once called a “shiksa goddess” than a Miriam Weissman. No matter. With writers like she has, who cares how based in reality her character has been. I love her, and just about everyone else, and this show was THE reason I became a Prime Video subscriber, and provided me with some of the few enjoyable moments in the windows when the first four seasons dropped.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I anticipated today’s drop of the fifth and final season, appropriately enough in time for Shabbat dinner. And we immediately begin with a time jump, and a newer, less hopeful world. The Hollywood Reporter’s Christy Pina felt it was OK to share details of the first three episodes that I’ve enjoyed, so SPOILER ALERT, here’s why both my best and worst expectations were simultaneously met:
Season five opens with a shot of now-Ph.D candidate Esther Maisel (Alexandra Socha) in therapy in 1981, discussing her complicated relationship with her mother, who’s at this point in time a successful comedienne. In between bursts about how the world doesn’t revolve around Midge, Esther works on a molecular kinetic sequence to figure out how to use DNA mutations to change the trajectory of disease.
Twenty years earlier, Alex Borstein’s Susie Meyerson is startled awake when Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle) gives her a call and tells her that Midge is incredibly ill after getting stuck in a snowstorm, which audiences saw at the end of season four. Despite the fact that making sick house calls doesn’t exactly fall into the purview of a talent manager, Susie treks over to the Weissmans to check on her No. 1.
“Midge is the GOAT. Midge is the original. They came to find each other,” Borstein tells THR. “It was a happy accident that we found each other, and Susie’s seen a lot of people come through the Gaslight. She’s seen a lot of acts. She’s studied comedy her whole life. And when she saw this, she knew like, ‘That’s a rare diamond … and I gotta do this.’ So, I think it was it’s more than just getting a client work or getting a percentage, it was about realizing her own dream through this person, with this person.”
Toward the end of episode one, Midge runs into Lenny Bruce (Kirby) at the airport, and he tells her he’s heading out west for a bit. The two often banter and crack jokes in their conversations, but on the red carpet flooring of JFK’s TWA, something’s different. Their conversation seems more reserved and heavy. When Lenny apologizes for never calling her after their romantic moment at the end of season four, Midge shuts him down. “Oh no, we don’t do that.” Brosnahan chalks up their awkward conversation to embarrassment.
I think they both realize that whatever was going on with their relationship, their friendship, some chapter is closing, and that’s really sad for her and for him too, I think,” she says. “That scene is so beautifully written and so surprising to come so early in the season.”
Kirby, on the other hand, thinks the weight of their conversation comes more from everything Lenny was going through at the time — historically and in the show.
“His life has gotten subsumed under litigation,” Kirby tells THR. “I think that what we’re sort of playing with in that scene is that he’s just sort of beginning to feel a little more worn out than he already felt. … I think now, partly because of what Lenny went through in his relationship with divorce but also just what happened to him in terms of the courts, his life really did get bogged down by kind of heavy stuff.”
Anyone familiar with the life of the real Lenny Bruce (if you’ve never seen Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal in the eponymous 1974 biopic, do so) knows this story couldn’t have ended happily. But now we know why it didn’t.
Oh, and back to Susie:
In the first few minutes of episode two, “It’s a Man, Man, Man, Man World,” a flash forward shows Midge sitting down with 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace and discussing several of her career successes: 18 consecutive sold-out nights at the Copacabana, an infamous show at Carnegie Hall, performing alongside Bob Hope at USO Shows and more. Wallace then transitions into pointing out Midge’s four marriages and multiple relationships with men, before zeroing in on the one relationship that lasted longer than all of them: her 25-year friendship with Susie, which at this moment in time is over.
“What happened, Mike, is that two people in show business tried to have a friendship,” Midge tells the correspondent.
More details aren’t provided about their falling out, but Borstein and Brosnahan think it makes sense.
And, apropros for the season, additional Easter eggs:
Milo Ventimiglia made a guest appearance in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s fourth season as a man Midge runs into every day in the park for some time before going home with him, only to be surprised when his alleged wife comes home while she’s lying in his bed naked.
In season five’s second episode, Midge heads to 30 Rock for her first day as a writer on The Gordon Ford Show and runs into Ventimiglia’s Handsome Man, whose name audiences learn is actually Silvio. He chases her through subway cars, up and down subway stations and out onto the street, before she finally lets him get a word in. He explains that the woman who walked in on them was his wife, but they were separated, and she was only stopping by to drop off the dog. He apologized, and they agreed to maybe see each other in the park again one day.
And there’s still six more precious episodes left. Enough for a few more Shabbat dinners. Dysfunctional though they may be.
I’m in. I’m rooting for something resembling a happy ending. Even for Esther. I just wish it wasn’t so imminent.
Until next time…