There's a scene in the third season of Mozart in the Jungle that should be required viewing for all young women. Hailey Rutledge, (Lola Kirke), having taken an interest in conducting, is working with the New York Symphony's former maestro, Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell), on his latest composition. As he's playing, she stops him with a request. When he doesn't quite get it, she giggles nervously. You know that giggle. It's the apologetic sound young women make when they're trying to be assertive, but don't feel they have the right to be.
"Oh, please, please, ugh," he moans. "Don't do that." As a woman who has giggled my way through a number of interactions, I cringed. Why do we do that? To make matters worse, Hailey apologizes (double cringe), prompting Pembridge to give it to her straight: She's being too nice. If she wants to conduct, she has to command the room. "By all means, you can be pleasant," he says, "but your players want to be told what to do." Later, he adds: "Stop asking for permission. Get yourself some musicians and a piece of music, and just conduct."
Almost a year ago, Mozart in the Jungle beat out out Transparent, Casual, Veep, Orange Is the New Black, and Silicon Valley at the Golden Globes for Best TV Series — Musical or Comedy. At the time, the reaction was one of collective surprise. "Mozart In the Jungle? What the hell is that?" I definitely felt that way when I sat down to watch the two first seasons to prepare for this review. A show about a classical music orchestra felt daunting, out of reach. It took me about 2.5 seconds to get hooked. That's because Mozart in the Jungle isn't just a show about a mad genius conductor and his orchestra — it's a how-to guide for millennial women, with a killer soundtrack.
A show about a classical music orchestra felt daunting, out of reach. It took me about 2.5 seconds to get hooked.
The third season, which premieres on Amazon on December 9, opens in chaos for the main characters. Hailey is doing some major soul-searching. Her gig with the Andrew Walsh Ensemble, which she took at the end of last season — partly to get some space from her can't-quit-you-can't-live-without-you conductor and love interest Rodrigo de Souza (Gabriel Garcia Bernal) — has not panned out. She's out of money and stuck in Venice, with no way to get home. As it happens, Rodrigo has run off to Venice to work with retired opera legend Alessandra a.k.a. La Fiamma (Monica Bellucci), and avoids dealing with the New York Symphony strike. The two reconnect, rekindling their on-again off-again sexual tension that is both toxic and highly entertaining. Okay, I get it —so far, none of this seems relatable to your life, or mine. But bear with me. The early episodes of this season kind of feel like a step backwards for Hailey. In the past two seasons, she's gone from being a private oboe instructor to wealthy Upper East Side prep schoolers, to Rodrigo's assistant, to substitute player in the New York Orchestra, before taking a job as an independent player. Now, she's back to keeping Rodrigo energized on maté and making sure he shows up on time for appointments. (Not to mention her new position as La Fiamma's dresser, which provides her with as much scandal and drama as the orchestra ever did.)
I may not know much about Bach, but I can definitely relate to being a woman in the workplace.
But rather than rest on her laurels, Hailey rolls with the punches. She moves into La Fiamma's palazzo, where she sees firsthand what a strong, talented woman is capable of. It's no coincidence that Venice is where Hailey starts to take an interest in conducting, which, so far — in this show and in life — has been a role primarily reserved for men. I may not know much about Bach, but I can definitely relate to being a woman in the workplace. Hailey isn't the only awesome lady in this particular ensemble: There's Cynthia (Saffron Burrows), the too-cool symphony cellist who must come to terms with the potential consequences of an injury; there's Gloria (Bernadette Peters), the impeccably-dressed socialite and president of the New York Symphony; there's Monica Belucci as La Fiamma, drop-dead sexy at 52. And let's not forget Lizzie (Hannah Dunne), Hailey's New York roommate who decides to dump her hipster boyfriend and open her own 1930s-style cabaret after a sudden inheritance windfall.
They're all passionate, strong, intelligent women, and while their personalities vary wildly, they provide a blueprint for how to navigate some of life's toughest situations, set to some of the best music ever produced.
Hailey ends the season faced with a huge life decision. I'm sure that she'll get through it with her usual style, aplomb, and a dash of clumsiness, and I'll be there for the ride.