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TV Review: The Final Bow for ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Will Keep Fans Wanting More

Ladies and gentlemen now taking the stage for her final appearance, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. The Prime Video series has begun its fifth and final season, choosing to exit in style. I must admit, when Mrs. Maisel first took the stage in 2017, I was a late arrival. The series was recommended by friends and colleagues to me over and over, yet I did not watch it.

Based on the poster alone I was expecting something completely different. (Admittedly this is typically NOT how I decide what to watch.) One night with nothing to watch I gave it a shot.  A few minutes into the first episode I was hooked. I guess I was expecting a stuffy period piece set about a woman entering the workforce – not what I was looking for at the time. What I found was a high-energy, amusing comedy, filled with a colorful cast of characters delivering endlessly witty dialogue, led by a mesmerizing lead actress with the gift of spinning gab into gold – Mariam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan).

Courtesy of Prime Video:

Some of the series traits I instantly fell in love with Maisel continued through the first four seasons: the family antics, the rapidfire banter, most importantly an inspiring story of a woman who would not back down as she takes on the man’s world of comedy. There’s also the impeccable creative direction: the remarkable music, extraordinary sets, stunning costumes and hair, all of which maintained the illusion that we hopped right into the 1950s and 60s. Season after season Mrs. Maisel has reliably delivered.   

The season five premiere reveals the old gal has new tricks up her sleeve. The biggest comes in the form of fast-forwards which jettisons the narrative decades into the future to explore the fates of the characters. It is a creative device that pays off at times, but at others feels unnecessary. This is especially true when used so sporadically it can be easy to forget that there were fast forwards in the first place. It would certainly be true if not for how shocking some of the revelations can be. Intriguing at times, they often cover too much exposition for my taste, divulging too much character fate too early at times, while others are more like teases that are never fully fleshed out. 

Season five picks up shortly after season 4 ended, where Midge had just turned down an incredible opportunity, the chance to open for Tony Bennett. Her decision upsets Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) and leaves her walking through the streets of New York in blizzard-like conditions. As she fights through the cold and snow she sees a sign saying “Go Forward” for a Johnny Carson-esque late-night talk show, hosted by Gordon Ford (Reid Scott). The sign is exactly that, a sign of what Midge should do next with her career.

Courtesy of Prime Video: Alex Borstein (Susie Myerson), Rachel Brosnahan (Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel)

While the time spent in the winter storm leaves her with hyperthermia and possibly toe-threatening frostbite, delaying her career ambitions, her drive is unaffected. Midge and manager Susie Myerson (a top of her game Alex Borstein) are even more compelled to turn Maisel into the household name she deserves to be.

Mrs. Maisel has been a critics darling which has a healthy legion of fans who are used to the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride that is Midge’s comedy career. This season is no exception. Last season left Maisel again on the brink of her big break, only to walk away this time because of her self-imposed “no opening acts” rule. Throughout the series Midge has had her doubters; society, her parents, her parents-in-law, fellow comedians, agents, bookers, comedy club managers, even her husband. The list goes on and on.

The only people who never truly doubted her have been Susie and Midge herself. One of the series most appealing aspects is its telling the story of an uncompromising character who consistently breaks down walls, crashes through ceiling, and opens shut doors. She is unstoppable. As inspiring as Midge can be, the series never gets preachy, she takes on the unfair world because inside she knows she is just as good as any other male comedian and deserves her time in the spotlight.

Courtesy of Prime Video:

Watching Maisel’s career rise is always my top interest, but the beating heart of the show is the work relationship and friendship between Maisel and her manager/best friend Susie. They disagree, they take jabs, they butt heads, underneath it all is an unexpressed love and respect. Their relationship imperfections is what makes them so irresistible, and the fact that through it all Susie has Midge’s back and vice versa. It has been a wonderful relationship to watch season after season and one of the best comedy duos ever put on screen. They share an amazing chemistry which is hard to believe does not exist off-camera as well.

Part of their charm is the rhythmic dialogue that can bounce from line to line and character to character at a breakneck pace. Show creator and head writer, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s knack for dialogue has not lost a beat this season. Brosnahan’s performance covers a wide range of emotion, but when she portrays Maisel on stage that is when she really shines. Whenever Maisel has a mic or an audience in front of her just grab a seat and wait for the comedic fireworks to fire. 

Those standup scenes were the make it or break it point of the series. If Maisel’s acts are a chore to watch in the least, the series fails. Thankfully, the comedy sets are very funny, a joy to watch, never a chore. The results have consistently been hysterical, clever, and brilliantly delivered by Brosnahan every single time without fail. 

This season remains as watchable as ever, even though it is inconsistent at times. The pacing issues probably derive from this being the final season with the hefty assignment of having to tie up loose ends on its to-do list. Palladino admirably wants to do right by her characters and the storylines.

There are a couple of later episodes that feel a little lost and probably could have been combined into one. For example, let’s just call it a “trashy” musical, which may have sounded good on paper but wears out its welcome quickly, especially in the final hours of the series. Some tangents tend to overstay their welcome, pulling us away from the main spotlight, Midge. By doing so it loses some of the serie’s spirited pacing as side stories are wrapped up.

While I do love just about every character on this series, no matter how grating they can be at times, for me whenever Midge and/or Susie are not on screen I was left feeling anxious to get back to them. This is a small gripe which may also be a result of the binge watching I do at times as a critic. I am curious if the season is consumed in smaller bites, if the slight lulls I experienced are an issue at all.    

Caroline Aaron (Shirley Maisel), Kevin Pollak (Moishe Maisel), Michael Zegen (Joel Maisel), Rachel Brosnahan (Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel), Marin Hinkle (Rose Weissman),Tony Shalhoub (Abe Weissman),

The supporting cast is as infectious as ever. Midge’s parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) in particular are a joy to watch as they lightly spar with each other over the slightest things. Their last big scene in the series is a joy to watch, completely capturing the comic quirks of their characters with some final laughs wrapped up in parents’ love.  Midge’s often aimless ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen) is put to good use this season providing the relationship closure while his parents, Moishe and Shirley Maisel (Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron) add plenty of cringey laughs while working through marital woes. We even see a couple of faces from seasons past in bit parts.

Anyone who is a fan of late night television should enjoy the behind the scenes look at the makings of a talk show, including a writers room chock full of oddball and interesting characters that take on a life of their own. In addition, Reid Scott gives off just the right vibes as Gordon Ford, ranges from an egotistical and controlling boss to smooth talking charmer. His relationship with Midge wavers, making you wonder if he is an adversary, a supporter or both. 

As Maisel’s trials and tribulations come to a close, the series continues to tap into our emotions, keeping us laughing at and rooting for this sassy underdog right to the end, no matter how many missteps she takes. Though the final season may not be the best of the series run, it does deliver throughout, keeping its creative integrity intact. Most importantly, loyal fans are rewarded with enough closure to walk away satisfied from a final season that delivers loads of emotion, laughs and its fair share of chills. When all was said and done I found a smile on my face and maybe even a tear in my eye.

Saying goodbye can be tough. There is a welcoming warmth to the series which in addition to the snappy dialogue and offbeat characters instantly lets you know you’re in Maisel’s world. Even though there’s plenty more gas in the tank, now is the proper time to say goodbye. While Maisel’s act is not growing stale it is growing familiar. Like any veteran comedian whose act you have seen many times before, you start to know the rhythms of not just the jokes but also the characters. While I am going to miss watching her perform, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is exiting the stage at the right time – always keeping us wanting more.

Season five of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is now streaming on Prime Video with new episodes dropping weekly on Fridays. Also, be sure to watch Awards Radar’s interviews with the cast about the final season.  



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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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