The second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” could easily be called “The Wonderful Mrs. Weismann.”
That’s because Midge’s mom, Rose (Marin Hinkle), gets the spotlight after spending the first season wringing her hands. Tired of her lot in life, she heads to Paris (yup, Paris) and begins a new life that, interestingly, gets a charge out of her husband (Tony Shalhoub), too.
Her daughter (Rachel Brosnahan), meanwhile, finds there’s an audience for female-centric comedy when she hits a stage in Paris and lands more than one joke, thanks to an interpreter.
If season one was about Midge’s rise, season two definitely strikes a blow for other women (and Hinkle, by the way, is fabulous). In the ‘50s-era comedy, they’re not willing to listen to lectures and attend teas. They’re eager to come into their own and, yes, sketch nude men.
Written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, “Mrs. Maisel” has such spunk it deserves a longer run. A handful of episodes? Come on. This season goes from Paris to the Catskills in less time than it takes to get the subway from Manhattan to Coney Island.
While that Catskills visit (later in the season) brings its own surprises, it’s the fresh air of Paris that makes this seem more than just a dalliance. Sure, Brosnahan’s Mrs. Maisel never looks like she’s struggling financially, but she faces the comedy world’s sexism head on and isn’t afraid to call out a few lazy comics.
That sparks a little ire from her manager, Susie (the always delightful Alex Borstein), and gets the tabloids churning. Was Mrs. Maisel more than just friends with Lenny Bruce? Is her husband jealous of her success or embarrassed by his inclusion?
In the first two episodes, Sherman-Palladino tosses out plenty of topics for her characters to discuss and dissect. It’s a “Mad Men” kind of year, but from a different perspective. Midge gets a lot from the women on the switchboard and uses her mother’s strength to fuel her own empowerment.
Later episodes of the first season looked like they were padded for importance. This year, every moment counts – even the ones with Joel (Michael Zegen), her ex, who’s discovering his biggest talents may not be on the same stage as his wife.
He tries to make sense of his mother’s unique bookkeeping system. A side plot involving those Maisels brings their own joys (particularly when Joel starts upsetting the old world order by offering free coffee to workers). It expands the universe and, like the Paris foray, makes this more than just a look at dank comedy clubs in the 1950s.
Although Totie Fields gets a shout-out, the series is still pretty mum on folks like Joan Rivers who, easily, could be a template for Mrs. Maisel.
Brosnahan has the same rapid-fire delivery as Rivers and a penchant for four-letter words. She’d kill with a contemporary routine and could launch a second career if she wanted.
Now, though, she’s like us – wondering how you can sustain something like this with a series of random drop-ins that often rely on a stream of consciousness.
The journey is fascinating. But the day trips are divine.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” begins streaming Dec. 5 on Amazon.