Commentary: Four takeaways from season four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Commentary: Takeaways from season four of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
The fantastical world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returned last month to Amazon Prime to bring us its penultimate season. Leading into the fifth and final season of the show that sets up stay-at-home mom turned stand-up comedian Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel for a potentially destructive, entirely entertaining and for sure funny final season.
Looking back, it’s clear to see the evolution of some characters and the grounding of others, all while presenting the show through the colorful world of the 1960s. Here are four takeaways from season four that stuck with me since finishing the season and how I think they will play into season five.
Major spoilers from season four of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ahead. Watch the show before you read this.
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The Midge and Lenny shippers finally got their moment, but that moment is fleeting and won’t last.
The relationship between the titular character Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) and her stand-up comedian friend and mentor Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) finally hit a tipping point in the finale. After three seasons of teasing it, the two finally got together. While this was a long-awaited moment, there is absolutely no way it can last.
Lenny Bruce was one of the most influential and important stand-up comedians in history, but he was a rebellious trouble maker, and also a deeply troubled person. Kirby became a series regular this season and as it progressed we got a deeper look into Lenny’s life off stage, learning about his family and his drug addiction. Lenny died in 1966 from a drug overdose. This season shows his iconic performance at Carnegie Hall, which was in 1961. It’s safe to say Lenny will not have a happy ending.
Going into season five Lenny is set up to deeply inform Midge’s decisions moving forward. Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of the show, told The Hollywood Reporter that knowing how Lenny’s story ends helps enrich the show arc and makes the relationship between him and Midge more meaningful.
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Let’s talk about Abe’s evolution
Arguably the most touching point of the last season had to do with Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub), Midge’s dad and a disgraced math professor, who recently started a new career as a critic at The Village Voice. What makes Abe so funny is his oblivious narcissism, as, up until this point, he’s cared about nothing other than himself and his work.
However, in season four Abe turns a corner – he begins caring for those around him. He bonds with his colleagues at The Village Voice and has his ego knocked down a peg by the editors in the room. The moment where Abe’s personal growth becomes clear is in the final episode when Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollak), Midge’s ex-father-in-law and close friend to the Weissman family, has a heart attack and almost dies.
Abe spends the episode trying to convince the writer of Albert Einstein’s obituary in The New York Times to write one for Moishe. When he fails, he ends up writing one himself. When Moishe wakes up, Abe reluctantly reads him what he wrote ending with:
“…You were a very good man. And I miss you very much. But you’re not dead so…”
Abe struggles to read it, fighting off tears. Once he’s done, Moishe kindly puts his hand to his heart and mouths thank you. Abe shrugs and smiles.
Joel’s gotten used to the idea, but Mei is still working on it. pic.twitter.com/nXPUHhl9YQ
— The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (@MaiselTV) March 28, 2022
Joel and Mei: Another way the show is tapping into the conversation around women’s rights in the 1960s
The story between Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), Midge’s ex-husband, and his girlfriend Mei (Stephanie Hsu), an Asian-American woman studying to become a doctor, is a relationship that has and will continue to bring modern-day feminist issues into the show.
These two began working together when Joel opened his bar in Chinatown above Mei’s family’s underground gambling ring. They automatically have chemistry and begin a relationship that would not have been normal during the ‘60s. The connection between Joel and Mei is evident and has evolved from season three to four into a committed and equal relationship.
It’s revealed that Mei is pregnant. However, with her residency on the way, Joel’s parents not knowing about her and the fact that she is not Jewish, this next season could dive into women’s rights and abortion.
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Midge’s ego is getting in her way and it’s setting up a disastrous season five for her
At the beginning of the season, Midge declares she is never going to open for anyone again and play by her own rules. And while it’s empowering to see her stick it to the man, it begins to harm her more than help. After being fired from a tour during season three, she begins working at an illegal strip club to do her comedy on her own terms. But, she never performs outside of that strip club for the entire season. She has become stagnant. Midge’s manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) keeps offering her gigs, but Midge refuses them.
At the end of the season, Lenny seals her a deal opening for Tony Bennett, what would have been Midge’s biggest show to date. But she turns it down. Susie reluctantly goes along with it though her disappointment is palpable. This is the point where Midge’s manifesto moves from empowering rebellion to unproductive stubbornness. She won’t listen to anyone and it’s starting to hurt her.
Eventually, she is confronted by Lenny, the only person she seems to listen to, in one of the final scenes of the show. He calls her out for turning down gigs.
Lenny: Ninety percent of this game is how they see you. They see you hanging with Tony Bennett, they think you deserve to be there. They see you hauled off to jail for saying “fuck” at a strip club, they think you deserve that also. Wise up.
Midge: I’m not hiding. I have a plan.
Lenny: Don’t plan. Work. Just work and keep working. There is a moment in this business, windows open. If you miss it, it closes. Just don’t…if you blow this, Midge, I swear…you will break my fucking heart.
It’s unclear at the end if she is going to listen. The show simply concludes with Midge walking through a snowstorm, stopping when she sees a billboard for the Gordon Ford Show. The showrunners seem to be signifying the storm ahead and perhaps the rainbows and riches that lie just out of reach in Midge’s journey.