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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Everyone takes a step back when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns to New York

Illustration for article titled Everyone takes a step back when iThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel/i returns to New York
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If “Kind of Bleu” was about disappointment, “Marvelous Radio” is about all kinds of despair, as characters who want to change just keep repeating same old patterns over and over again. Aside from Sophie Lennon’s performance, this felt very much like a filler episode to me, which is strange considering we only have 8 episodes this season.

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Everyone is back in New York, with the Weissmans forced to continue their frustrated c0-habitation with the Maisels. Midge is now joining them, as she scrambles to make some money since Shy is taking a break from his tour, citing exhaustion. True to her word, Midge does a good job keeping Shy’s secret, not even confiding in Susie about the real reason that Shy needed to take some time away from everything.

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It’s a little unclear why exactly Midge is so down on her luck and doing all these commercials instead of comedy shows. She was opening for Shy Baldwin for crying out loud! Even with the tour on hold, you would think she would have access to some great comedy gigs in New York. Of course, Susie picked up a bad gambling habit, which is perhaps why she can’t clearly see that these jobs for some quick cash are, in the long run, a complete waste of Midge’s time.

Likewise, Abe and Rose’s money woes are a bit baffling. If Rose is able to seek out Benjamin to apologize and think about the life she could have lived through her daughter, she certainly could go back to her sexist family, make amends, and ask to be given an allowance again. She has clearly reached the point where she is willing to scrounge for a dirty dollar bill on the subway.

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Likewise, the fact that she has decided to foist all her anger and resentment on Midge when her husband is still refusing to look for an actual well-paying job is odd and never entirely explained. Why isn’t Rose concerned that Abe has been spending the bulk of his time hanging around twenty-somethings and isn’t contributing anything to the family at all. He is literally planning a budget for them, which envisions each of them only having a few years left to live. When he first totters back to his old school, you think he is going to ask to get his job back or something, but he is more convinced than ever that his true calling is now to write meaningful articles about important social change. Perhaps he and Midge have more in common than either would like to admit; they are each giving up an old part of themselves to go for their dreams.

I will say that the scene with Benjamin did make me wonder whether Midge just doesn’t want a relationship with anyone period. Why did she abandon the prospects of a handsome, successful, incredibly wealthy man who would have supported her career wholeheartedly? Something tells me that Midge’s decision to jump ship was actually the female version of Joel’s temper tantrum with Mei. She clearly has anxiety about getting trapped in a relationship like the one she had with Joel. And her mom’s insistence that she wear a non-white dress couldn’t have helped much either.

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Of course, the heart of “Marvelous Radio” is Sophie’s hilariously awful performance. After months of practice, she abandons all the hard work she has done in cultivating her skills as a serious actress, and reverts back to her own routine. The audience amazingly goes with the abrupt tone change and laughs out loud at her ribald humor, but Susie is rightfully angry. She’s done so much to help Sophie pursue this bizarre dream. The icing on the cake is when Sophie blames not only Susie for her failure, but also Midge, at which point Susie decides its in both of their interests to simply walk away.

This is a show about Midge’s development, but the show’s obsession with her unique “specialness” can also be frustrating. I was dumbfounded by the scene where Midge revisits her old apartment and walks herself in even though someone else clearly lives there. Not only that, but the new tenant tells her to just make herself at home and explore. I don’t care how cute Midge is; she should not be wandering around other people’s homes!

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Overall, “Marvelous Radio” was a disappointment after two really powerful episodes that not only had style, but also substance. Certainly, episode 7 had a lot of great moments of humor and, as always, was incredibly well-shot, but its lack of a fully realized plot made it my least favorite episode this season. “Marvelous Radio” works better as a series of loosely connected skits, rather than a fully developed storyline and, as we gear up for the finale, I’m concerned that many of these plot lines will simply be abandoned.

And I really wasn’t feeling Susie’s final monologue comparing Midge with Sophie. At its best, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel doesn’t idolize Midge, but makes her a flesh and blood person, one who has also made her share of horrific mistakes and who also occasionally acts like a diva. I was excited to see Sophie being portrayed as more than just a foil to Midge, and it felt too easy for the episode to end by reverting back to their old feud.

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Here’s hoping for a season finale that doesn’t just throw curveballs at the audience but moves us forward!

Stray observations:

  • As someone who takes public transportation every day, I loved the subway scenes, which really capture the exhaustion that can come from commuting on the daily.
  • Those huge Pursettes tampon boxes were hilarious!
  • Another great scene was when Midge kept laughing during the very serious mortuary ad.
  • Speaking of which, Midge’s face when Abe explained his “Abe and Rose End of Days Calculations” is spot on—she is disgusted, terrified, and deeply sad at all once.
  • I love that the neighborhood milkman completes the minyan. A charming moment regarding an otherwise sexist religious rule, where you need a certain number of Jewish men present in order to have a complete Jewish ceremony. More modern interpretations just call for a certain number of Jewish participants regardless of gender. Overall, the bris scene was quite entertaining, especially Shirley’s quip that she has seen funnier mohels!
  • Luckily, Midge and Susie pulled out of the commercial for the terrible, racist politician. For a couple of sharp gals, they sure make a lot of really abrupt decisions. Yes, it’s time to start reading the contracts, Susie!
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I write about TV, film, art, empathy, culture, and our digital lives.

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