Photo: Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Studios
The structural missteps that plagued The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s season two premiere have begun to be rectified in this second episode, “Mid-Way to Midtown.” Most notably, Midge is back in New York and has left the Paris scenes to Rose and Abe, which is really how things should have gone in the first place, but what’s done is done. In many ways, all is right in the world of Maisel this episode: Midge and Susie are together, and Rose and Abe are given the space they needed to sort out their marital discord, with wine, baguettes, and cheese.
While I found Maisel’s Parisian escapade in the premiere episode unnecessary, removing Midge from the equation helped to change my tune. Watching her parents rekindle their romance via a Frank Sinatra and Keely Smith-serenaded montage, a candlelit dinner in Rose’s tiny flat, a waltz along the Seine, and a shared bed was nothing but pleasing to the eye and ear. Though that all of that played second fiddle to the image of Tony Shalhoub in a beret.
But even on a whimsical show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, all fantasies have to come to an end. When Rose plans to buy an apartment in Paris, Abe has to shock her back to reality. As fun as it’s been whiling away his days debating the Bible in a cafe with his newfound intellectual friends, classes start up at Columbia soon. What Abe didn’t expect was for Rose to offer such a firm rebuttal: In Paris, she is no longer confined by the mid-20th-century constraints of proper American wifedom, through which she’s been forced to present herself as a fragile little flower. “Here,” she says with steel in her voice, “I am shatterproof.”
Not everyone has the luxury of running away to Paris when they get depressed, but since Maisel (and Rose) had the budget to do so, we also have to accept that the Weissmans’ problems are wrapped up a little too nicely by the episode’s end. Still, because this is a world that’s far removed from reality, it’s much easier to accept their happy ending. From one perspective, Rose’s behavior can be seen as that of a spoiled, privileged woman pouting over not getting her way. However, it also cannot be denied that Abe had been too aloof as a husband, and drastic measures needed to be taken to get him back on track — and to Rose’s surprise (and the audience’s), they worked!
Upon their return to New York, Abe announces that he pulled some strings at Columbia to allow Rose to audit art history classes, continuing the education she had started in Paris. And, inspired by their moonlit dance along the Seine (“We were adorable, but our technique was terrible”), he also signed them up for Arthur Murray dance lessons. I usually don’t think of Tony Shalhoub in the same sentence as “romantic lead,” but if your heart didn’t melt during this scene, it must be made of stone.
As for Midge, now that she’s home and has agreed to end her marriage, it’s time to get down to business. That means accepting the fact that independence comes with responsibilities, like coming clean to your parents and friends along the lines of, “My name is Miriam, and I’m a stand-up comic.”
Susie — who is now hiding out at the Weissman apartment in an attempt to ward off whatever thugs Harry Drake has hired — has scored Midge a paying gig at a downtown club thanks to the Village Voice interview. But before this happens, Susie needs to give her naive client a lesson in Publicity 101, which pretty much goes, “Stop kvetching that I got you noticed.” (Midge somehow thinks she can become rich and famous without her parents and BFF Imogene finding out about her side hustle; girl, you’re friends with Lenny Bruce, word’s gonna get around.)
And that’s where I take issue with Midge throughout this episode. She insists to Susie that she’s all-in on her career, but everything that comes with being independent and successful seems to scare the hell out of her. Compounding the situation is that Joel wants to buy an apartment for her and the kids, which makes Midge realize that her free ride at her parents’ won’t last forever. Now, I get that Midge doesn’t want to leave her comfort zone, especially when she’s had it so good for the past 26 years, but Zelda isn’t always going to be around to plunge her toilet and raise her children. What Midge needs to make that next leap in her life is a healthy dose of confidence. Ironically, there’s no better way to get it than by fighting for a seat at the table in the harsh, sexist world of comedy.
There was no way that Midge was going to stand for the hazing she experienced in “Mid-Way to Midtown’s” big stand-up scene, and we all know by now that her best material comes from when she’s at a low point. Not only is she bumped several times and subjected to onstage insults from the other male comics, but she’s introduced in the most cringe-worthy way possible: “If she can’t make you laugh, she can at least make you dinner.” Ugh …
But this boys’ club doesn’t stand a chance against Midge’s LBD, her pearls, and her sharp wit. Even in her pungent, mustardy state, Midge single-handedly smashes the comedic patriarchy eagerly awaiting “the possibility of seeing a chick fail” with one astute observation: “Comedy is fueled by oppression. By the lack of power. By sadness and disappointment. By abandonment and humiliation. Now who the hell does that describe more than women?”
This kind of killer scene is what was sorely missing in the season premiere, but at least we didn’t have to wait too long for it. With every gig, Midge becomes stronger and more confident, and that’s what we’re all here to enjoy in the first place. If only she could muster the courage to tell her parents what she’s really up to …
— Where can I get that gorgeous cream and burgundy hooded jacket Rose wears?
— Why, oh, why does Bailey De Young’s Imogene only appear in one scene in this episode? If she doesn’t show up in the rest of the season, I’m going to be very disappointed.
— I have never been more afraid of touching Rose’s pink soap, especially after Imogene’s and Midge’s stern warnings.
— Even Susie is more maternal toward Ethan than his own mother (though she missed his sneaking a sip of her beer). Good luck getting Midge to share a sandwich with her son while watching Andy Griffith on The Steve Allen Show.
— I’m finding the whole Joel-saving-his-parents’-floundering-business subplot almost as fakakta as Shirley Maisel’s accounting system.