Everyone’s talking about the series finales of “Succession” and “Ted Lasso.” But the real winner this spring is the end of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
All of this fifth season has been terrific and much more sharply focused than season 4. From beginning to end, this last nine episodes are good as the original season and, I think, deserve Emmys in every category.
I rewatched the finale tonight and several things come to mind.
First of all, I’m in awe of the how Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino set up the ending: Midge, after having Susie sort of blackmail the wife of talk show host Gordon Ford, is booked on the show. This gave the Palladinos a way to bring all the main characters to Ford’s studio to watch Midge eventually hijack the show and finally have her moment on a national stage. (The only one missing is the wonderful Kevin Pollak– Moishe Maisel — because he was already shooting another series.)
Everything leading up to Midge’s biggest moment is carefully orchestrated including a seriously great sequence of Abe and Rose trying to get a cab on Central Park West. This is where the Palladinos really shine, in set pieces like the Wonder Wheel opening of season 4, or all the burlesque shows they’ve put on. Brilliant.
Midge’s eventually grabbing of the microphone only works because Rachel Brosnahan summons all of her accumulated talent from the five seasons and is in a zone. Sometimes in the past Midge’s stand up routines were funny, sometimes they were like preachy monologues about being a single working mom. (Often they were more to communicate plot and theme to the audience.) But this last time, Brosnahan is legit hilarious, It’s the performance of a lifetime as Midge brings together everything she’s learned on her journey to fame. Brosnahan is perfection.
Of course, Alex Borstein’s Susie is a no brainer. Counting in the flash forwards we’ve seen all season, Susie’s arc is stunning. We finally learn about her actual personal life, her heart broken in college by Hedy — played by the formidable Nina Arianda. In the future scenes, especially at the Friars Club and later in the final scenes on the phone with Midge, Borstein details her own version of Sue Mengers and so many real life women who gave their lives to show biz.
Everyone else is at the top of their game. The Palladinos finally show their Lenny Bruce as he unraveled in real life. Up til now he’s been a charmer who’s dipped in and out of Midge’s life. (I liked him almost as a figment of her imagination and disagreed with decision to let Midge sleep with him.) Kirby was so popular that he turned up in five episodes of season 4– a spice used as a main ingredient — and the result was he didn’t get what should have been his Emmy (from the Carnegie Hall performance). This season he was cut back to 2 episodes, he’s back to being a Guest Star, and he absolutely should win. His last two bits — Lenny reading his legal problems to a small audience — is poignant and spot on.
The large supporting cast is also top notch. Tony Shalhoub, Maren Hinkle (a true MVP), Kevin Pollak, and Caroline Aaron as the Weissmans and Maisels just devour their moments. (They are more like the blissfully oblivious characters from “You Can’t Take It With You.’) Shalhoub’s realization that Midge has been brave — which he reveals to dinner companions — is Shalhoub’s crowning accomplishment. Caroline Aaron’s Mrs. Maisel cannot be overlooked anymore– and “Shirl” will not let us look away. This thing she does is magic, but she makes it look easy.
So you’ve got Best Comedy, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress, Guest Star, not to mention writing, directing, and production design. Saying goodbye to “Mrs. Maisel” isn’t easy. Each episode has been like late 1950s dessert– a Baked Alaska, a chocolate mousse — from the best kitchen that never existed. The Palladinos have plenty of treats– Susie’s magician client just appears out of nowhere at the end, for example. There’s a mini plot line about Abe finding granddaughter Esther is the “grandson I never had.” And so on. I will really miss them all, especially Midge’s sister-in-law Astrid (the great Justine Lupe, Willa from “Succession”) and all the other minor characters who stole scenes and hearts.