As a huge fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I’ll admit I was nervous when this final season began. I’ve always trusted Amy Sherman-Palladino as a creative due to her impressive body of work, but the sudden tonal shift and disorganized structure of the first few episodes shook me up. Thankfully, I regained confidence in this final chapter after seeing how masterfully everything tied together in the last few episodes. I couldn’t picture how they could possibly wrap up such intricate chaos so neatly, yet they did.
This season sets out to cover a lot. The central plot consists of Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) trying to revive her career goals after self-sabotaging yet again. Her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) rallies to steer her away from quitting stand-up for good. She lands a gig writing jokes for TV host Gordon Ford (Reid Scott), while trying to convince him to feature her as a comedian on his show.
Laced in with the central plot are several scattered time jumps that piece together vignettes that define Midge and Susie’s futures. Some of these moments are clearly pivotal, others feel random. It’s as disorganized as it sounds, but it becomes easier to follow as the episodes progress.
Despite eventually getting used to the time jumps, I still struggled with them. Seeing the characters in eras other than the early sixties felt jarring, like seeing a teacher for the first time outside of school. Some time jumps also lowered the stakes by revealing important information too early. When we know exactly how Susie and Midge’s careers pan out after only the second episode, the speedbumps throughout the journey don’t pack the same punch. If we already know that Midge has her big break on the Gordon Ford show, it’s not nearly as disappointing as it should be when Jack Paar rejects her.
A particularly jarring example of this is when Abe (Tony Shalhoub) is shocked to discover that his granddaughter is the child prodigy of the Weissman family, given that he planned on it being his grandson for several decades. This may be a small moment, but it causes a huge shift in Abe’s character. This inspires him to leave his old-fashioned ideologies behind, and start taking women seriously. As satisfying as this moment is, it could have been even stronger if she hadn’t already been revealed as a wildly intelligent adult in an earlier time jump.
Another questionable choice was the disproportionate amount of time given to certain events. There’s one episode that covers thirty years, and another where a good portion is devoted to a musical number about trash. The huge plot point of Joel sacrificing himself to free Midge from her agreement with the mob was given roughly the same amount of time as a less important scene where Midge attends a luncheon with her former college friends.
Although the filler-adjacent moments were still fun, they alarmed me at first because they took up precious time that could have been used to develop pivotal moments. The show still managed to find the time to answer the big questions by the end, so it didn’t end up being as much of a problem as I anticipated. But I still wish The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would have spent more time fleshing out big moments, instead of padding episodes with fluff.
There’s also an interesting shift in tone. This new installment of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is darker and more jaded, which is a stark contrast to the plucky optimism of previous seasons. After rooting for Midge and her can-do attitude for four seasons, it was disorienting to suddenly see her become bitter and lonely in the flash forwards. At first, I didn’t think it fit within the world of such a famously chipper and pastel-colored show.
I felt this way up until the final episode, which opens abruptly on an extremely bleak scene involving Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). It’s hard to watch, but also hard to look away from. The “wait, are they really showing this?” shock value feels appropriate given the tragic context, and adds to the gut punch of seeing Midge’s hero fall from grace. Kirby’s brilliant acting chops help quite a bit, too. This fantastic scene slapped me in the face, and forced me to make peace with the evolution of the tone. Now, I’m convinced the show is better off because of it.
Despite the changes, some things stay the same: the two leads shine as brilliantly as always. Rachel Brosnahan is delightful, and does a skillful job of showing Midge’s growth. Many past examples of Midge’s impulsive self-righteousness have felt justified because they’ve usually been triggered by sexism. But after she messed things up for Shy Baldwin so horribly and fought against being held accountable, I found it difficult to stand with her.
Because of this, I was relieved to see Midge eventually learn from her previous mistakes over the course of this season. A great example of this is how she responds when Gordon Ford stubbornly refuses to let her on the show. At first, I expected her to go off on him and quit. But she sticks with it, and progressively learns to fight by strategically playing the long game instead. She wins in the end by securing opportunities through smart connections, and letting her talent speak for itself. She becomes easy to root for once again, and it makes her victory in the end all the more satisfying.
I’ve been meaning to write a love letter to Alex Borstein for quite some time now, so here goes: she’s absolutely incredible here. Her dramatic range as an actress is such an underrated secret ingredient. This season gave Susie an extra layer by introducing her former lover, Hedy (Nina Arianda). Despite being thrilled that Borstein would have more screen time to flex her acting chops, I was on the fence about this when it was first introduced. One of the most refreshing things about Susie was her lack of interest in romantic love, and I wasn’t sure how they’d manage to balance this new plotline without it feeling out of character.
But this won me over in the end, much like many other aspects of this season. The scenes involving their past relationship are subtle enough to be time period-appropriate, yet bold enough to not feel like queer-baiting. Even though it’s a big shift, Borstein always makes sure that every scene still feels true to Susie. Give her another Emmy.
As marvelous as Midge and Susie are individually, the true heart of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has always been their friendship. This comes to a surprising and satisfying conclusion in the final episode: a flash forward where older versions of Midge and Susie laugh together over the phone while watching Jeopardy. The contrast of such a simple final scene within a spectacle-heavy show states its importance, and allows it to stand out beautifully. It’s a grounded and heartwarming confirmation that they were the true loves of each others’ lives after all.
Despite my initial concerns, I should never have doubted this show. Even with puzzling choices that initially put me off, this final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel stuck the landing beautifully. It managed to deliver the satiating ending that I craved, yet there were still moments that I genuinely didn’t see coming. I am a satisfied fan, and I’m looking forward to what Amy Sherman-Palladino cooks up next.
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Despite some chaotically ambitious choices, the final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel sincerely lives up to its name in the end.
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