SPOILERS INCLUDED SO BE CAREFUL!
Rose doing Midge’s act?
Moishe collapsing from bad news?
Midge and Lenny Bruce crossing a line?
The final two episodes of the short and odd Season 4 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” have dropped on Amazon Prime. Rather than release one per week so they could be savored, Amazon rushed the process with two at a time. Really, everyone’s going to have to go back and watch them again.
All the episodes had too much information packed into them. The main subplot– Midge working as a comic in a burlesque house — was so detailed and enormous that it alone requires more attention. Each one of these segments belonged in a big screen movie and will most certainly bring in awards for all the production staff.
But the big news (SPOILER ALERT) is that the Palladino’s made some decisions in Season 4 that really tip the balance between the fantasy and reality of “Mrs. Maisel.” Previously, Lenny Bruce played by Luke Kirby came and went like a visiting angel in Midge’s world. Was he even real? And being a real person from history with a load of baggage, how could he be integrated into the main story? The answer was, he shouldn’t be and wasn’t. He was more like a visage. And that made him special.
Now that magic has been disturbed. In an earlier episode this season, Midge brings a passed out Lenny to her apartment where he sleeps on the couch and mixes with her family. That alone seemed like a mistake. But now the season ends with Midge and Lenny crossing the line: they sleep together. Indeed, Midge sleeps with Lenny and with another, unidentified guy (played by Milo Ventimiglia) in short order.
The latter assignation makes no sense and has no plot purpose.except that Ventimiglia worked for the Palladino’s on “Gilmore Girls” and has down time from “This is Us” because his character is dead. But the whole encounter seems like a waste of time. The latter is a little jarring. The Lenny Bruce “character” worked as a cypher. He would be there for Midge when she needed him. Well, now he’s really been there. Luckily Kirby is so good that he triumphs– not in bed, but on stage at Carnegie Hall where he recreates the real Lenny’s February 1961 show rather brilliantly. He’ll win some awards for that.
The Palladino’s seem to have constructed episodes 7 & 8 to get their actors big moments. It’s obvious,but it works. Rose is hypnotized (by Susie’s weird magician,who looks like a hippie out of place in 1961) and goes on stage to repeat Midge’s entire act. It’s a moment for Maren Hinkle, she pulls it off. Caroline Aaron’s Shirley gets to show a softer side when Moishe (Kevin Pollak) has heart attack. Oh, yeah, that happens because Joel tells him he has a Chinese girlfriend who’s pregnant. Pollak drops almost dead like a pro.
There’s something off kilter about Season 4. The Palladino’s strayed from a plot. They lost the thread of Midge’s career in service of letting all their lovable characters have these moments. Season 3 was so well constructed that I expected more when they all returned– how Midge and Susie would dig out of the Shy Baldwin mess was something I looked forward to. But no progress is made in that regard. Susie becomes Broadway Danny Rose, entertaining eccentrics in her Times Square office. When Midge turns down the chance to open for Tony Bennett — she refuses to be an opening act — it doesn’t makes sense.
But the overall feeling is still there. The “Maisel” world is its own nostalgic fantasy, and we sure need it right now. With only one more season, I hope the Palladino’s can get organized to deliver a satisfying ending to Midge’s crusade. I think they will and in the meantime, getting lost in Season 4 is a welcome relief antidote to Ukraine and COVID.