Midge and Susie hit the road with Shy Baldwin. Scenic gags ensue to little traction.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has always danced the line between being an Amy Sherman Palladino produced laugh-in and modern social commentary effortlessly. It gets rising stand-up comedian Midge Maisel laughs, while also saying something of substance on the 60s and whatever decade we’re soon to be in.
With it’s third season, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel abandons that principle motivation for a cotton candy love affair that fails to take it’s charmed cast out of it’s comfort zone, and tap dances (literally) around the racial prejudices of it’s time.
Last year’s season finale saw Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) at a crossroads between love and career. She called off her marriage to doctor Benjamin (Zachary Levi) and ran into the arms of ex Joel (Michael Zegen). She now has the potential to realize a new dream and tour the country with crooner and national darling, Shy Baldwin.
That dream comes true, and it is definitely dazzling, but there’s little left to realize beyond the bright lights of this starter stardom.
While Midge is easing into her role of travelling comedian, her manager Susie (the brilliant Alex Borstein) is stretched thin, travelling back to New York in intervals to satisfy the needs of her newest client, Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch).
Susie definitely learns some lessons from the ups and downs of their working relationship, but by the end of the season, their dynamic feels stale and without merit for eating up Midge’s time.
Midge meanwhile, rubs elbows with show business, getting particularly close to Baldwin (Leroy McClain) and his crew. Baldwin’s big song and dance numbers are indeed another form of eye candy, but also further sell the transportation effect of 60s swing and style.
Some of Midge’s rawest moments come out to play when she gets together with Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). Their comedic minds meld more and the sexual tension is exaggerated (a smoky slowdance scene in a tiki bar is a knockout), but the question of “will they, won’t they” is even more infectious.
Joel is still back in New York trying to satisfy the needs of his newest business venture: a bar in Chinatown. There he meets the dazzling Mei Lin (Stephanie Hsu) whose blunt charm echoes Midge’s. That’s one of the points of attraction, but Mei also has a way of satisfying everyone of Joel’s business needs, hinting that she may have more power than she is letting on.
Midge’s parents Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) are dealing with their own issues, particularly financial ones. They’re forced to stay with Joel’s parents and the distressed one liners ensue, and produce the funniest scenes of the season.
Besides the story line floating all over the place, the racial handling of our newest characters stands out to be another issue of the season.
Mei Lin is a powerful and strong character, but perhaps next season we’ll get to see more of her in her own element besides just being a foil to Midge.
Sterling K. Brown gives one of the best performances as Baldwin’s manager Reggie, but his talent feels wasted. He’s protective of Shy, just as Susie is of Midge, but that doesn’t mean that’s where his story has to end. Just sign me up now for a Reggie/Shy spinoff.
While The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel subtly nods to the racial issues of the 60s by saying Shy and his band have to stay in different hotels and travel differently, but that’s where it ends. I get that fashion and pizzazz are core elements to the show, however, it wouldn’t hurt to make viewers a little more uncomfortable regarding what the actual reality was beyond a pastel paradise The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so gorgeously portrays.