In the first trio of episodes that arrived on Prime Video today, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel quickly reveals that this season isn’t going to be like the ones that came before. It’s going to show and tell. Each episode opens on a flashforward decades in the future, which showcases where Midge’s journey to fame leads her. She may become a household name, but at what cost? Her relationship with her kids is fractured, and her friendships have failed, but at least she gets her very own 60 Minutes special. That’s a nifty consolation prize.
The decision to show Midge and her family’s future through flashforwards at the top of each episode is a somewhat unsettling choice. While it’s very exciting to see what lies ahead for this very funny lady, each flashforward shows how her life has eroded to accommodate that fame. Her children are, at best, apathetic towards her, she’s been married and divorced a handful of times, and the Midge of the future seems harsh and jaded. Midge has always been dynamite in a bottle — brash, loud-mouthed, and beyond her time — but the future lacks the charm of the 1960s present.
While the story structure has been fundamentally altered by the decision to peel back the veil on Midge’s future, Brosnahan remains as vivacious as ever. Even in just the first three episodes, she navigates the full gamut of emotions as both 1960s!Midge and the Midge she’ll soon become. There is palpable regret that tinges the edges of scenes and a delightful fool-hardy confidence that sends her head-first into embarrassing situations.
“Go Forward” Goes Way Forward
When The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came to a close last season, Midge was at a proverbial crossroads in her career. After her delightfully unexpected and tragically short-lived romance with Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), she found herself trekking through a blizzard looking for a sign, and a sign she found. The premiere’s title is an obvious allusion to the Gordon Ford (Reid Scott) sign that Midge gawked at in the finale, but it also seems to be pointing to the flashforward that viewers are confronted with right out of the gate.
A fast-talking brunette in a faded Ramones tee languishes in a psychiatrist’s office somewhere in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1981 — complaining about this and that, but mostly her mother. If the fast-paced dialogue and iconic cadence that Amy Sherman-Palladino has brought to all of her characters for the past 30 years wasn’t a dead giveaway that you were, in fact, watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and not some new Prime Video series, then the reveal that this is Esther Maisel (Alexandra Socha) helps to put things into perspective pretty quickly. The way Esther speaks about her mother paints a quick and clear picture of what fame and success will do to Midge’s relationship with her children. It’s bleak, but not entirely unexpected. With the glimpse into the future out of the way, “Go Forward” picks up the morning after “How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?,” with Midge suffering from her fool-hardy venture through the blizzard. She’ll lose a toe, but at least she has finally realized that she really, really doesn’t want to screw things up. She wants to take another crack at her career and make a name for herself.
Even after Midge’s conversation with Mei (Stephanie Hsu) at the hospital, the Season 4 finale really made it seem like Mei and Joel (Michael Zegen) would try to make things work as a couple and as parents. Joel clearly thought the same, since he decided to broach the topic of getting married and having a baby over Thanksgiving dinner—if only to smooth over the absolute insanity that breaks out when his parents, Shirley (Caroline Aaron) and Moishe (Kevin Pollak), announce they’re getting a divorce. Unfortunately, when Joel returns to his apartment and finds Mei waiting for him there, all of his plans for his future crumble. Mei reveals that while she was in Chicago interviewing for a job at the hospital, she had the baby situation handled, so she wouldn’t have anything standing in the way of her career. Their relationship comes to an abrupt end with very little fanfare, and very little closure for Joel, which sends him spiraling. Sherman-Palladino has some magical ability to make audiences care about pathetic little men that start off as absolute shmucks and then endear themselves when life smacks them down.
While some fans of the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of the Midge/Lenny dynamic have deluded themselves into believing that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel might rewrite history (it was me, I believed this) the premiere seems to set the record straight. They might tease fans by playing the melodic orchestration of “Till There Was You” over the airport’s sound system — which is actually too perfect for their relationship — but Lenny’s still getting on an LA-bound flight and in five short years he’s going to be dead. Brosnahan and Kirby play this scene like this is the last time Midge and Lenny are ever going to see each other too. There’s a heavy emotional weight to the entire conversation, and not just because they didn’t call each other after their night of passion. At least we can rest assured that Midge kept her promise to Lenny — she didn’t give up, and she made a name for herself.
“It’s a Man, Man, Man, Man World” and Then Some
The rather lengthy 60 Minutes special that kicks off the episode, which revels in the ups and downs of Midge’s life — both personally and professionally — really underscores how similar she is to the now-dead comedian who once played a pivotal role in her life. Throughout the first four seasons, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel used Lenny Bruce as a mirror to look at Midge’s own career trajectory. Both Lenny and Midge had their fair share of run-ins with the law, but this special inadvertently highlights just how deep that comparison runs. While Midge didn’t fall victim to addiction in her career, she did have many tumultuous relationships and had to sacrifice a stable existence as a parent for the sake of her career, and she crashed and burned, and rebounded. Lenny Bruce may be long dead in these flashforwards, but they only strengthen the case that Midge is a sanitized version of him. She’s a walking disaster in a pair of nice heels and a matching ensemble, instead of a rumpled trench coat.
Similar to how “Go Forward” reveals that, at some point, things between Midge and her daughter will go awry, “It’s a Man, Man, Man, Man World” makes it clear that Midge’s closest confidant, cheerleader, and manager, Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), won’t always be on her side. Guess the tits won’t always stay up. All of this stands in stark contrast to the plot unfolding across the first three episodes, which sees Susie fighting tooth-and-nail to get Midge a job with the Gordon Ford Show, even if it means getting her into the writers’ room. Her tenacity is unmatched, but the special reveals at some point it will meet its match.
While Season 5 was still filming, it was revealed that Midge’s erstwhile fling from the park would return for the final season, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel wasted very little time reuniting the two. On the way to her first day at the Gordon Ford Show, Midge runs into Sylvio (Milo Ventimiglia) on the subway, and while she tries — very hard — to avoid him, he is persistent. After learning that he was a married man, thus making her “the other woman” last season, Midge is understandably pretty reluctant to hear him out. He makes a strong case for the situation Midge got unintentionally caught in the middle of, it doesn’t look like they’ll be rekindling their short-lived romance this time around, but at least things are left quite amicably between them.
In previous seasons, Midge has gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a working woman, particularly during her stint at the department store, but her foray into the writer’s room is an eye-opening experience for her. It’s a man’s world through and through. At best the men in the room acknowledge her presence, at worst they devalue her knack for comedy and brush over her opinions like they would their wives. The odds are stacked against her, but she does manage to carve a little corner out of the office for herself and find a modicum of confidence, though none of them are willing to give her jokes a chance to garner a laugh.
Midge Almost Blows it Again in “Typos and Torsos”
With “Typos and Torsos,” the flashforward takes viewers to Israel, circa 1984, where Ethan Maisel (Ben Rosenfield) is making a life for himself as a lettuce farmer. As The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel showed with the Esther-centric flashforwards, Ethan clearly has strong feelings about his mother. So much so that he kept his engagement from her, just like he kept her out of the loop about his plans for his life. Midge seems largely aloof about the scene that she makes at the farm by arriving via a helicopter—and it’s not a good look. Apparently, the rapid rise to fame and glory made Midge completely out of touch with reality. This scene with Ethan is reflected in the 1960s present, as Ethan struggles with his sleep cycle and Midge and Joel flounder with how to appropriately deal with it, beyond hoping a therapist can solve it for them.
The flashforwards do, at least, seemingly confirm that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel isn’t planning on putting Midge and Joel back together. However, the main plotline does make a strong argument that they’re great co-parents and maybe even friends, if only Joel could stop blaming Midge for everything that goes wrong in his life. Just because Midge told his mother that Mai was trapped in China, rather than revealing his secrets, doesn’t mean it’s her fault that his mother and father decided to mount a cover operation to get her out.
In the first trio of episodes, Joel’s parents occupy a lot of the focus since their marriage is spiraling out of control, right alongside Joel’s doom-and-gloom outlook on his own non-existent relationship. But Midge’s parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle), have their own chaos to bring to the story. With Abe still at the Village Voice, his career seems to be the central aspect of his story this season, as Episode 2 sees him fend off a touchy-feely woman, while Episode 3 sees him dealing with something even worse. A typo! In typical Abe fashion, he frets and whinges about the typo the entire episode, all the while his wife is dealing with a far more dire situation. As anticipated, Benedetta (Kelly Bishop) is back and wreaking havoc on Rose—from getting flights canceled to killing flowers to burning down Rose’s beloved tearoom. Rose ends up leaning on Susie’s dogged brute force to handle some of the situation from there, though just because Benedetta is behind bars, Rose’s problems are likely far from over.
At long last, Midge finally gets one of her jokes onto the Gordon Ford Show, but Gordon bungles it on-air and Midge can’t keep her mouth shut about it. Not only does she audibly groan from the wings, but she also goes toe-to-toe with the host in a very public location which very nearly spells the end of her short-lived career as a joke writer. The only thing that saves her is that Gordon apparently likes verbally sparring with her, just about as much as he likes making moves on her, despite being a married man. Will Midge embrace becoming the “other woman” to get ahead? It’s unclear just yet.
How Does Season 5 Stack Up to the Rest?
Season 5 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel may not be as funny as previous seasons, but it remains one of the best series that Prime Video has put on streaming. When compared to
Sherman-Palladino’s other series, Midge Maisel may even rival the unforgettable characters of Gilmore Girls. Almost all of Sherman-Palladino’s female characters are deeply flawed, yet highly entertaining brunettes, yet there’s something about Midge and Brosnahan that makes her even more compelling.
To some degree, the stakes have largely plateaued for Midge. This is the stage where she has to put up or shut up—her career will either fly or fail and, luckily we know that success is waiting right around the corner for her. While she remains a very funny lady, most of the comedic relief in the fifth and final season is delivered in the form of fremdschämen, at her expense, and the absolute absurdity and irony of her life. With the added weight of her journey through the man-infested waters of comedy writing, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel plucks at the threads of sexism that it has loosely explored in the past. The clearly defined struggle helps to make her future success that much more satisfying. She won, despite everything that was working against her in a period of history that was largely in flux for women.
As much as the flashforwards hinder some of the momentum of the season, they do at least guarantee one thing: We’ll get closure for Midge’s story and, in the process, get a glimpse into the future of the characters that have captured the hearts of the audience for six years. For better and for worse, this is their fate. And hopefully, they all get the last laugh.
The first three episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 5 are now available to stream, with new episodes following weekly each Friday on Prime Video.