Man, I really hate it when couples fight.
No, not Midge and Benjamin. We all know that the most important pairing on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is that of Midge and Susie, so when there’s trouble between these two, it’s not something to take lightly.
As we head into the season two finale, we find our comedy besties at serious odds with each other. Turns out they both have some strong opinions when it comes to handling their ongoing Sophie Lennon problem (which, surprise, hasn’t gone away). When they discover the one-note comedienne sabotaged Midge’s appearance on a televised telethon (she’s “the national spokes-asshole for arthritis,” Susie grumbles), Midge opts for the high road, while Susie goes for the jugular.
After Midge is strategically placed out of the camera’s view during her phone bank time and bumped to an 11:55 p.m. spot, Susie marches into Sophie’s dressing room to deliver yet another award-worthy verbal smackdown. It’s angry, it’s vicious, and, my God, it shows more love for Midge than we’ve seen from either of her parents, ever.
Jane Lynch’s Sophie is as calm as Alex Borstein’s Susie is livid. But already we’re seeing the cracks in Sophie’s untouchable crown, so I’m not so sure the bogus hausfrau’s arrogant chuckle is going to work for her much longer. Susie is now pals with Nicky, Sophie’s security guard (and one of the goons who was hired to kill her), and one of Midge’s fellow telethon performers, African-American crooner Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain), has some choice words for Sophie and her phony act: “Your race can have her,” he tells fangirl Midge as they bond in the ladies’ room (“the mirrors are bigger,” he explains).
I’m not criticizing Susie’s course of action, because she says things to awful people that we can only dream of saying ourselves. But at the same time, I can see why Midge is upset that Susie didn’t let it go. As we see, Midge is able to take the sour lemon Sophie tosses her and make sweet, sweet lemonade with her five-minutes-before-midnight slot. She has people laughing, she has people calling, she hypnotizes viewers to “vote for Kennedy” (sweet! She’s going political!) — and in a miracle of miracles, she even gets a half-smile out of her father. (Yep, Abe and Rose are watching, and so are the neighbors in the building across the way). Midge’s career triumph over Sophie’s attempted interference will have a far more lasting effect on her rival’s ego than Susie’s method of screaming in her face ever will. Put that on your plate, Sophie.
It’s interesting, though, that “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” features a story line that hinges on the concept of apologizing: Sophie tells Susie that if Midge had just said she was sorry for badmouthing her in a set, all of their problems would have gone away at the snap of a finger. Susie, however, is “not going to make [her] client apologize for what is going to make her a star.”
Sophie Lennon is one thing — but what about Abe? Does that mean Midge won’t eventually have to apologize for potentially damaging her father’s livelihood?
We learn in this episode that Midge’s use of her family for comedic material is about to have severe repercussions: Thanks to Noah (see, Abe? Maybe having a son in the CIA isn’t such a bad thing, after all), Abe finds out that he’s being investigated by the government for his, ahem, “activism” during his 20s. The word “communist” isn’t uttered, but it’s not a stretch to assume that’s the direction this subplot is headed. So how did Abe Weissman end up on the government’s radar? Just ask his comedienne daughter, who told some jokes in D.C. about her father’s work at Bell Labs. If that wasn’t enough, Abe’s Bell Labs project has gone “tits up” (oh, Noah, if only you knew how your sister used that phrase … ), and after alienating his students and colleagues at Columbia with his constant barrage of insults one time too many, he’s being encouraged to take a sabbatical. Or, as his boss, Simon, puts it bluntly, “We’re all pretty goddamn sick of you.”
So the timing could not be better for Abe to have it out with his daughter about how the forging of her own career may have irrevocably destroyed his: right when all of New York is watching her on their little black-and-white screens.
More Maisel Musings
• It’s no switchboard ballet, but director Daniel Palladino makes Susie’s deli-booth-hopping an art form in “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy,” especially when it’s set to Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail.”
• Strangely enough, Moishe Maisel is not the worst person in the Maisel universe this time around (obviously, that award goes to Sophie Lennon; she can’t even be sincere when talking to real arthritis sufferers). The man may be on the road to redemption now that he’s fired Joel from his garment business. Not only does he hand over a check that would be the equivalent of half a million dollars in 2018 money, his reasoning makes a lot of sense. It’s so Joel doesn’t “get stuck” working himself to death in order to save his father’s company.
• Maisel is also taking its time with the Midge-Benjamin romance, setting up a minor (but very real) conflict that still doesn’t hold a candle to the major rift currently forming between Midge and Susie. Good news: Benjamin has seen Midge work at the Gaslight and he’s laughing. More good news: they’re sleeping together. Bad news: Midge isn’t ready for him to meet Ethan, making for an awkward surprise in the park.
• Please let season three feature Midge heading uptown to Harlem to catch Shy Baldwin and Moms Mabley at the Apollo.
• My heart leapt when I saw Midge voluntarily eating with Ethan and Esther in the kitchen. (Who cares if it was because she didn’t like how her parents dismissed her announcement that she would be appearing on a telethon?) Although Rose does have a point: “They’re not used to it. You’ll scare them.”