Sophomore Year, She’s Still Marvelous

Better Late Than Never: Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2

I went into paroxysms of joy when the Emmys finally made restitution to Amy Sherman-Palladino for her divine, hysterical, and yes, marvelous comedy series for Amazon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel last year. Winning eight Emmys — including Amazon’s first triumph in a Comedy — and deserved wins for Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, it was a true work of art from one of the most incredible talents in the history of television. It is the nature of television that it took me the better part of six months to finally get started on the second season, and call me delighted, that its just as good as the first.

In the aftermath of her first breakout performance at the Gaslight, Midge (Brosnahan) has been trying to deal with a series of blows. Her marriage seems to be over after Joel learned how good a comic she was, she has been demoted to the switchboard at Macy’s, and as a quasi-result of her mother learning about her life, Rose (the criminally undervalued Marin Hinkle) departed in the premiere episode to Paris, much to the shock of Abe. Midge has been trying to deal with everything in her life since, as well as the obvious problem — how does she continue her burgeoning career as a stand-up comic while still trying to keep it a secret from her friends and her parents?

As is always the case with Sherman-Palladino’s work, the center of Maisel is a fast-talking brunette. Brosnahan continues to demonstrate the remarkable ability to deliver fast-paced, hysterical monologues that would make Aaron Sorkin need to breathe. But her humanity continues to show through — she is self-absorbed, but she is still a woman in the 1960s, so our sympathies go to her. Equal credit should go to Borstein as Suzie — the agent who seems capable of dealing with everything business wise — and incapable of anything else. There are always difficulties lying in wait — she was picked up my wiseguys to rough her up in the premiere, which led to a hysterical sequence where they have a conversation, which leads to dinner, which leads to them not being so bad-ass as they seemed.

And slowly but surely, the Weissmans are starting to earn their place in the likability pantheon of television couples. Rose’s departure to Paris led to some hysterical moments when Abe (Tony Shalhoub, in what is quickly becoming one of the great roles of his career) realized his wife had gone to Paris without him paying attention. He spent all of the first episode flying to Paris, under the impression Midge spoke French, and trying to get Rose to come home, only to be flustered to see she wouldn’t. The next delightful episode showed the two of them going cheerful native, Abe engaging in deep philosophical discussions, Rose going to art museum, and them dancing by the Seine.. When Rose seemed to think this was more than a vacation, Abe had to gently persuade her to come home, and it seem nothing had changed, albeit despite some truly gorgeous montages. But when they came back, Abe told Rose that he had signed her up for Art History classes at Columbia, and told her they were going to take some dance classes. Rose’s reaction was one of the most perfect moments the series has yet done.

And the series continues to demonstrate some of the most gloriously subtle moments. When Midge ended up doing an impromptu routine in Paris, it was hysterically funny considering there was what appeared to be simultaneous translation as well as culture shock. When the routine ended, there was the inevitable Jerry Lewis remark, but a woman in the audience handed her a therapist’s card, and said: “It worked wonders for my friend Sylvia Plath.” That’s one joke that registers across language.

Maisel has been a victory in the early awards seasons, sweeping the SAG Awards, and winning three Broadcast Critics Choice Awards this past January, as well as the second consecutive Golden Globe for Brosnahan. If it were just for recognition for the Palladinos, I’d be overjoyed. The fact that this is rapidly becoming the best thing that Amazon has put on — and slowly the rest of streaming — makes me feel that the Emmys are slowly coming around to the right way of thinking. Will they triumph over Veep’s final season? Hard to say. But they have proven you don’t need to be bitter acidic to be funny and awards worthy. Sometimes, you can just be Marvelous.

My score: 4.75 stars.

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