Thursday, April 18, 2024

“Mrs. Maisel” 3 & 4: Alex Borstein Gives Her Emmy Performance, John Waters Turns Up on a Park Bench


“Mrs. Maisel,” season 4, episodes 3 & 4 drop Friday sometime after midnight on Amazon Prime.


There’s the good, the bad, and the I don’t know.

On the plus side, which is most of it, Midge’s job at the strip club, what I would call a burlesque house in 1960, is a total hit. Tony winner Santino Fontana, the only Broadway star not in The Gilded Age, is the manager. The production values and costumes are off the charts. The girls are wonderful and I hope we see more of them.

On the downside, Midge — who is going out on dates — seems aimless. She’s treading water in these episodes, looking for a unifying theme for this season. Rachel Brosnahan is giving it her all but show creators Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman Palladino feel a little adrift. I hope they have a plan because we’re already at episode 4.

Episode 3 addresses the loss of Jackie, Susie’s roommate and the manager of their little village nightclub, the Gaslight. In real life actor Brian Tarantina died during the pandemic from a drug overdose. In the “Maisel” world, the cause of death is a stroke. His death obviously affected the cast and crew because Jackie’s death is sort of brilliantly handled and not swept under the rug. Alex Borstein’s speech/rant at his funeral is Emmy worthy. She pulls it off with aplomb. But there’s no payoff plot-wise to Jackie’s death. which is a shame. No surprise reveal or legacy.

There’s also a segment I can’t say I’ve seen before on TV and not really even in a Woody Allen movie at this length. It takes place in a synagogue at a bar mitzvah to which the main players¬† have been mistakenly invited. It’s right out of a Woody Allen movie and maybe the most Jewish thing I’ve ever seen on a regular TV show. It’s very funny.

There are a couple of strange things going on. Midge decides that Susie is a lesbian (Susie has never stated this, it’s just her look). Midge roams around Greenwich Village idiotically asking strangers for the name of a lesbian bar.¬† She finally gets it from a man on a bench played by the great John Waters. When Midge takes her there, Susie is outraged and leaves. Whatever happens next, I couldn’t figure out– she retrieves a drunk from another bar and installs him at her new office. This part was murky. Also, in episode 4, actor Reid Scott from “Veep” is credited but I could not find him. Plus, in Joel’s Chinatown bar there’s a poster for contemporary singer James Bay. Or someone named James Bay, but the poster is large and definitely there for a reason.

Episode 4 also features Jason Alexander, returning as Abe’s old friend, failed playwright Asher, who’s always a pleasure. But the episode ends an odd note that I didn’t understand. Midge falls off the stage and people just walk away as the credits roll. If this was a joke, I missed it.

Last season, Midge’s opening for Shy Baldwin was the overarching story, and it worked to carry all the episodes. This season just feels pedestrian so far. Even a pop-in from Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) was kind of wasted. But we can’t give up. The Palladinos are too smart not to have a plan. I hope.

PS I’m told that the end of episode 4 will be resolved in Episode 5, even though it was strange the way it went down. And the guy Susie snatches from the bar hearkens back to Episode 1 when she was hypnotized, but it will be explained also in Episode 5. Whew!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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