T he Marvellous Mrs Maisel has served us with its fifth and final season of enamouring television – a neatly tied bow bringing the themes, characters and objectives of the show to their ultimate conclusion. Although most successful shows are criticised for their ongoing seasons, Amazon Prime’s original series has reached a natural end, wrapping on Miriam (Midge) Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) leap to comedic fame and her big break.
From the first season, Midge has been working through her divorce from the father of her children, and the exploration of her sexuality via an array of relationships with men. But, essential to her characterisation is her career. She jokes within her comedy that her inability to mother will lead to her children needing therapy. Even when we see who Ethan and Esther have become in adulthood, through time jumps in the fifth season, Midge’s motherhood journey is trivialized. It comes second to her attempts at becoming a comedian, to the detriment of her children. Yet, what is notable in comparison is how little we see of her husband Joel’s (Michael Zegen) turmoil over his insufficient presence in his children’s lives after his divorce. The gender inequality in the Maisels’ parenting style is what ultimately makes Midge’s mocking of Joel in her comedy sketches all that more rewarding.
Each time, she is being held back by a man who deems that he is funnier than her, but on each occasion she shows him up
Self-absorbedly, Midge continuously places herself centre stage. She will do almost anything for the crowd’s laughs and the development of her career. Whilst this seems unpalatable and Midge’s primary character flaw, it is also what leads to her ultimate success. The portrayal of Midge’s appearance on The Gordon Ford Show mirrors that of the first time she took to the stage in the very first episode. Each time, she is being held back by a man who deems that he is funnier than her, but on each occasion she shows him up.
It is self-interest that most often has us screaming at our screens. But, it makes the more familial scenes that bit more sweeter. In the last episode, ‘Four Minutes’, Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle) is devastated when she believes Midge, her daughter, didn’t call to tell her about featuring on The Gordon Ford Show, but we watch as her bitterness evolves into flattery when she learns just how many people had been trying to contact her about the event, and she rushes out of the door to see her daughter achieve her big dream.
The best executed relationship through season five is the tumultuous one between Suzi and Mike Carr (Jason Ralph)
The show’s production of a 1950s New York is colourful and lively, just like the portrayal of its characters. The themes inherent to this placing set the show up with a remarkable landscape of social, economic and political issues. Whilst a few of the jokes may go over the heads of modern viewers, it is their delivery that is the funniest aspect of the show. Palladino brings to Maisel a fast-paced dialogue that, since Gilmore Girls, her works have become so well known for.
The quality of the plots over various seasons have wavered, but what is consistent is the excellency of characters and relationships – these are what kept the viewers coming back. The best executed relationship through season five is the tumultuous one between Suzi and Mike Carr (Jason Ralph). As Suzi seeks to get Midge a spot on The Gordon Ford Show, it is Mike whom she pesters resiliently. Their scenes together are full of animosity, building tension through aggressive actions in the midst of other scenes. But beyond this, we also see the potential for great friendship and business comradery.
Some moments provided in the final few episodes were deeply sobering. Particularly a standout scene was that between Suzi and Midge in which Suzi talks about her relationship with Hattie Ford – the one who got away – in college. So few of Suzi’s vulnerable emotions are explored in the series, which makes these moments even more bittersweet. But, it also draws an end to the questions about Suzi’s sexuality without a coming out scene, whilst still showing Midge’s emotional support towards her manager and friend.
Whilst it is not clear if Suzi’s confliction is rooted in her past with Hattie or this concern over Midge’s authentic work, it is certain that Suzi cares greatly about Midge’s success
The lead up to this scene is Midge’s request to use Suzi’s past connection to Hattie to get a slot for The Gordon Ford Show. Yet, the issue Suzi poses to Midge is that of wanting her to make it as a comedian on merit and her own work. Whilst it is not clear if Suzi’s confliction is rooted in her past with Hattie or this concern over Midge’s authentic work, it is certain that Suzi cares greatly about Midge’s success. And so, as we have seen Suzi do so many times throughout the show, she puts Midge’s career before all else, and secures her a spot on Gordon’s show.
But, what viewers find most rewarding about the final episode is the celebration of Midge’s friendship with Suzi over her career. Even at the end of the episode, where both Brosnahan and Borstien portray the older incarnations of their characters, it is their time spent together that takes priority and a centre-stage to their busy lives taking place across oceans from one another.