Our favourite comedienne is back with her adventures and lots of laughs in the third season of Amy Sherman-Palladino's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The new season sees Rachel Brosnahan back as Miriam (Midge) Maisel. Midge's life turns upsidedown in the third season setting an interesting backdrop for a really gripping series but unfortunately, season 3 is a bit of a letdown as compared to the other seasons.
To brief you on the show, Miriam 'Midge' Maisel, a pin-sharp housewife and mother living on the Upper East Side in 1959, found out her husband was cheating on her. So she dumped him and began a standup comedy career, performing on the burgeoning Greenwich Village boho scene, where her decision not to alter her signature look – precise hairdo, cinched waist, merciless high heels – made her a hot novelty.
As season three moves on, we’re into the 60s and Midge’s unlikely career has moved up a level, she's divorced, she’s off on tour, doing gigs across America and Europe. Creator-writer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband and collaborator Daniel Palladino have clearly looked at season two’s sojourns in Paris and capitalized on that in season 3 as well.
As for the characters, the focus is more than ever on Midge and Susie, the friends from absurdly mismatched backgrounds who share both a potty mouth – the styling is a lot similar to Mad Men (which is also set around the same time) but the profanity will make you chuckle. At the centre, as Mrs Maisel herself, is Rachel Brosnahan, whose energy and exact comic timing still hold the show together.
The moments when Maisel works — Midge on stage, Susie learning how to speak up for herself, the two of them trading insults as they scramble from job to job — are delightful enough to overwhelm the series’ many useless subplots. It’s getting harder, though, not to think of how much better the show would be if it tossed aside a large chunk of the supporting cast.
Still, even this frustrating season had one absolutely perfect sequence — the one leading up to Midge being asleep in the pool chair. Late in the fifth episode, Midge’s mentor Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) invites her to hang out with him for a night in Miami. He has her crash his appearance on what seems like a version of Playboy’s Penthouse, where they pretend to be either spouses or siblings, much to the annoyance of the host. Then he takes her out to a Cuban nightclub for dinner and dancing, before they wind up at the seaside motel where he’s been living.
Lenny invites Midge into his room. She stops at the door, asks him for his opinion of her act (“I thought it was sensational,” he says), then opts to take a cab home rather than taking their relationship to a different place. Lenny is gracious in defeat, joking that maybe something will happen between them “before I’m dead,” and Midge heads off smiling.
At some point, the show needed to acknowledge the scorching chemistry between Brosnahan and Kirby. There were just a few problems getting in the way.
First is that Lenny Bruce is a very real and tragic figure whose death comes only a few years after his fictionalized self makes that joke in his motel room doorway. The second is that the series obviously sees Midge and Joel as endgame, even though we know they just don't fit together. The third is that Lenny makes Midge’s career possible, so her sleeping with him risks casting her professional rise in an unsavoury light. The scene smartly takes place after Midge is established enough in the comedy world that she no longer needs Lenny’s help, and it admits that the two are great together without letting them do anything about it.
For all the praise the show's dialogue gets, Maisel is better directed than it is written — and it’s clear how much they love staging these elaborate sequences. It seems as if Sherman-Palladino wants to make a full-on musical, and for now, is shoehorning that desire into a show where characters can only burst into song every time they are on stage.
The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel 3 might do not have anything that hasn't been present in the first two seasons already, but it surely makes an interesting watch. Season 3 will be loved by the die-hard fans of Mrs Maisel, but those who are not that fond of Mrs Maisel can watch it for the other characters who have been given some more screentime in season 3. Towards the end of the season, one realises that it is setting the plot for the fourth season.