Fans didn’t realize how lucky they had it with the end of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2. The close of the Amazon Prime series’ 2018 run was full of optimism. Our heroine Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) had just secured a spot on tour with fictional pop star Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain). Six months of running around America and Europe lay ahead of her.
Maisel’s finale a year later, season 3-ender “A Jewish Girl Walks Into The Apollo” brings all that promise crashing down. Midge and her manager Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein) are literally left out in the cold as they watch Shy’s tour jet fly away to some fair European country. Reggie (Sterling K. Brown), Shy's manager, has just fired them from the second leg of the tour. All Midge and Susie can do is cry and watch the plane disappear above the New York City skyline.
These two are in dire straits. However, there are a few huge reasons you shouldn’t be too sad for Maisel’s zippy leading lady. At least not yet.
The image of Midge and Susie sobbing on the tarmac is an upsetting sight, but it doesn’t capture the full financial repercussions of Midge and Susie’s firing. First and foremost, Midge, feeling confident after some successes and looking to protect her family, has just bought an apartment. She used her contract with Shy as collateral. Now that contract is null and void. Still, Midge has to make those payments on the apartment, which she bought from her ex(ish) father-in-law Moishe (Kevin Pollak). It’s unlikely Moishe is going to go easy on Midge for losing the Shy gig.
Then there is the deeper issue of Susie and Midge’s money. As we see in “The Apollo,” Susie has a severe gambling problem and it has started to harm both women, unbeknownst to Midge. It is suggested Susie’s latest betting failure lost all of the money they made on the first half of their tour with Shy. Towards the end of the finale, Susie sets her childhood home on fire to get the insurance money on the house.
“The insurance will cover Midge’s portion of the money I lost,” Susie tells her sister Tessie (Emily Bergl). It is unclear how long it’ll take for that insurance money to come in — and whether the Myerson sisters will even get it (someone has to confirm the blaze wasn’t set on purpose, right?). So not only is it a mystery when Midge will have any cash flow coming in to pay for her pricey apartment, but her manager could be arrested for insurance fraud.
Yet, Midge has major blame when it comes to being in this vulnerable position. During Midge’s Apollo show earlier in the finale, Reggie encourages her to speak about Shy. “They want to hear stories about him,” Reggie says. “Stories about the road, late-night craziness, gossip, tantrums — they love that sort of shit.”
Midge does not go that glossy. Instead, worried that Shy's all-Black audience will not accept her, Midge riffs on what Shy is like behind-the-scenes. She paints a deeply feminine portrait of her so-called friend for laughs. Midge says she met Shy in a ladies' bathroom and he was the prettier one. She jokes that Arthur Miller is going to try to date Shy. One line, “He pretty much has a guy for everything else,” could be taken especially scandalously. As Reggie points out when he fires Midge, a comment about Shy’s “Judy Garland shoes” hit too close to home for the performer.
All together, Midge performed a set loaded with stereotypic comments one would use to describe a man as queer in the 1960s without saying it. That is why Shy asks Reggie to fire Midge.
No matter what, Midge's comments were dangerous for a Black man in the violently homophobic '60s. But the stand-up's actions are particularly egregious considering her understanding of Shy. Shy is gay. It’s not a rumour or an offensive “joke” — Midge knows, for a fact, that Shy is a gay man. Season 3, episode 6, “Kind of Bleu” confirms as much, as Midge finds Shy battered in the hull of his Miami boat. He explains that the person who assaulted him was a would-be lover he picked up at a bar (it’s suggested he’s talking about a gay bar). The man then turned violent, beating Shy's face and possibly cracking his ribs.
Shy is terrified that his secret will get out. He cries over the idea of Reggie learning this horror happened “again” and explains to Midge all the girls he is seen with are for the photos. “You can’t tell [Reggie] you found me like this. You can’t tell anyone,” he begs. Midge agrees. It’s moving to see Midge help clean Shy up, cover his wounds, and silently keep his confidence, supporting him precisely in the way he asked. Midge seems like an ally at that moment.
The Apollo show destroys all of that goodwill. Midge came to Harlem-born Shy’s home and outs him in front of hundreds of his neighbors. No matter what Reggie told Midge about speaking about Shy, she knew the terrified singer wouldn’t have wanted that. Midge only betrayed her friend to save her set. She deserves to be in the comedy purgatory for a while; she needs to meditate on her harmful actions.
No matter what, it’s not like Maisel will ever truly punish its protagonist. As with all prior seasons, 2019’s batch of episodes repeatedly reminds us Midge is destined for greatness. In “Marvelous Radio,” Susie tells ex-client Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) that Midge will be “a legend.” In the finale, Susie tells Reggie of the upcoming European tour, “This is just the beginning. You’ll see. There is no one like her in the world.” Then, when Reggie is forced to fire Midge and hop on the plane, he promises a stricken Susie, “You’re gonna be right where I am someday.”
Maisel season 3 sprinkles various new career avenues for Midge throughout its eight episodes. There’s the stage at her husband Joel’s (Michael Zegen) club, her first guest appearance on a late-night show, and even Midge's meeting with real-life legend Moms Mabley (comedy superstar Wanda Sykes). Then there is the wide world of unknown possibilities that may be knocking around creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s head.
The marvelous Mrs. Maisel is going to reach her full marvelous potential one day. Now, that day just may not come until the end of season 4.