When Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiered last year, it was Amy Sherman-Palladino's scrappy, sumptuous 1950s follow-up to Gilmore Girls. One year later, it’s an unabashed breakout hit. The Amazon Prime series pulled off a feat even Netflix has yet to accomplish: effectively sweeping the Emmys. Sherman-Palladino won an Emmy for writing and directing. Star Rachel Brosnahan took home a lead actress award for her unstoppable, fast-talking, housewife-turned-burgeoning stand-up Miriam “Midge” Maisel. And, Alex Borstein nabbed a well-deserved supporting actress Emmy after delivering us the secretly big-hearted Susie Meyerson, Midge’s loyal, crude manager.
This is the high Maisel season 2, premiering December 5, returns on. Midge has rebranded herself the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and is set to dominate the world of stand-up. That is if her much-publicized trip to the Catskills doesn’t get in the way. Or Midge and Susie’s feud with the ultra powerful comedy agent Harry Drake (David Paymer). Or the fact Midge’s family still doesn’t know about her dirty joke telling career. Or whatever is going on in Midge’s relationship with estranged-but-nearly-reconciled husband Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen).
Okay, yeah, Midge still has a number of hurdles to jump if she’s ever going to become the superstar we know she can be. So, let’s see how she does it with a live recap of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2.
Episode 1 — “Simone”
It’s time to put on your finest headband and most triumphant smile, because Midge Maisel is back. While season 1 was securely centered around 1950s Manhattan, season 2 immediately announces it’s far more worldly than that — and I don’t just mean we’re going to Brooklyn. Minutes into premiere “Simone,” the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has to hightail it away from her growing stand-up career and new punishment gig in the B. Altman switchboard room in favor of fair Paris. While most people fly to the City Of Lights for love, Midge is instead on the way to France to bring back someone who has supposedly fallen out of love: her mother Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle).
This is where we need a short recap of a major, but easily forgettable, season 1 plotline. Towards the end of last year’s run, Rose, who was visiting her psychic nearly daily hoping for news of an imminent reconciliation between Midge and cheating husband Joel, learns she has been lied to. Joel tried to win back Midge, and she turned him down. Midge’s dad, and Rose’s husband, Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) knew this event occurred and didn’t tell Rose until about a month later. The two people closest to the Weissman matriarch lied to her for weeks on end.
So, Rose decided to flee to Paris, where she lived just before meeting Abe. It was the last place the former free spirit was happy. An extremely frazzled Abe and extremely hat-obsessed Midge, who knows no French much to her father’s dismay, find Rose has successfully revived her pre-family life as a wine-swigging Parisian expat. She is flourishing in an artist’s commune. She shares a bathroom. She has a dog. When Abe complains about a cockroach in the flat, Rose asks if he needs her to kill it for him.
Who is this woman? Well, she’s the real Rose Weissman, and I love her.
Rose is appropriately unimpressed with Abe, who didn’t realize his wife had left him days, if not weeks, ago. At an uncharacteristically late dinner, Rose orders steak tartare — her dog Simone’s favorite — and Abe melts down, storming out of the restaurant. Uncooked beef is the last straw for Abraham Weissman. Midge, however, stays through the meal and begs her mother to return home with her father. She brings up marriage vows and spousal commitments as supporting evidence for her argument.
“Well, look who’s talking,” a very sage Rose says. Quickly, we’re reminded of why Rose is so upset in the first place (read: Midge denying Joel and everyone lying about it). Off goes Rose down Paris’ cobblestone streets, a leash-free Simone obediently following at her heels. Rose’s instance that she no longer has to be unhappy and unfulfilled for the good of family is one of Maisel season 2’s most exciting new threads.
Rose’s abrupt exist leaves Midge free to reveal things aren’t as cut-and-dry as her mom may believe in the Maisel marriage. As usual, Midge stumbles into a club, takes a microphone, and manages to enrapture the audience with a disturbingly sad tale, all without anyone from management trying to tell her to get the hell off the stage. This time, she even pulls off the feat while “performing” in a foreign, non-English-speaking country. One day Maisel may deal with its use of pretty, thin, white, and class privilege, but this is not the day.
Instead, we get a truly emotional flashback to explain why Midge and Joel are no longer together after he saw her Lenny Bruce (true Maisel bae Luke Kirby)-aided show at the Gaslight during the season 1 finale. Joel was heartbroken after the performance, and Midge tracks him down to a brownstone stoop that probably belongs to his parents. Devastated, Joel finally hands over his wedding ring, and Midge walks away. We’re left believing Joel simply can’t handle his wife’s success. In the present, an entire Parisian drag bar is sobbing over the romantic tragedy. Oh, yes, this is also when Midge learns drag is a thing that exists.
In an important step in Maisel’s Joel Rehabilitation Program — two years strong — we learn at the close of the episode Joel, who is now living in his childhood bedroom, didn’t officially end things because he was jealous of Midge’s talent. Rather, Joel is in awe of his wife’s talent and knows he isn’t emotionally prepared to be the butt of her very good jokes for the rest of their lives. “I just can’t be a joke,” a painfully honest Joel says over the phone. Since he doesn’t want Midge to quit, Joel is instead going to try to quit her.
After one final “I love you” between the Maisels, Mrs. Maisel is left to walk into the Paris night alone. Break. My. Heart.
And, back in New York, the threats are far more physical than in Paris. Susie is abducted by a pair of lackeys for Harry Drake, the comedy super force Midge upset last season by outing comedy cash cow Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) as a fraud. But, Susie ends up winning her captors over with her neighborhood girl charms, as she claims to be from the Rockaways, just like the criminals. It is unclear if that fact is true, but it is certainly convincing. The men let Susie go with a warning the next guys Harry sends may not be so forgiving. At least there is one positive in Susie’s life: Midge’s comedy profile is rising. Now if only everyone would stop asking if Mrs. Maisel is sleeping with Lenny Bruce.
The most Amy Sherman-Palladino line of the episode: “My dinnertime is 6 o’clock. Only gangsters eat at 9 o’clock after some bootlegging and a hot game of craps.”
Episode 2 — “Mid-Way To Mid-Town”
I, like Midge Maisel 98% of the narrative time, am an only child (yes, she technically has a brother named Noah, but only when absolutely necessary). So, it brings me extra special joy to see Abe and Rose living their best lives after the hell of last season. They remind me of my empty nester parents, and I just want them to thrive.
There’s something simply heartwarming about watching Abe and Rose fall back in love while exploring the city Mrs. Weissman is so deeply enamored with. And, it’s even better to see Abe actually appreciate this kind of passion in his wife. After decades of watching family patriarchs roll their eyes at their wives on sitcoms, it’s easy to expect an older man like Abe will resent this new, laissez faire Rose and her interests. The academic clearly did start out with that attitude upon arriving in Paris.
Yet, the moment “Mid-Town” begins, Abe is all in. He has created his own Parisian habits, like debating philosophy with locals, while also cultivating his relationship with Rose. The couple enjoys cute market dates and visits Rose’s favorite museum and lunches at delightful cafes. Abe happily pays for the whole thing. At the exact moment you expect he’s going to complain this entire fanciful endeavor is simply too expensive, he buys a candy-colored pastry or takes his wife dancing by that bridge over the Seine that broke Midge’s spirit last episode. C’est magnifique.
Unfortunately, what’s gold cannot stay. When Rose takes Abe to see a permanent Parisian apartment, he balks, reminding her their lives are in New York. Yes, all of this was fun, but it can’t be forever. His school year at Columbia starts next week. If Abe doesn’t go back, he loses his position at Bell Labs, what he considers to be his single greatest personal achievement.
“And if I don’t go back, what do I lose?” Rose asks. It’s a painful question that Abe doesn’t exactly have the answer to. Still, Rose — or, “Rosie,” as Abe calls his wife for the first time in Maisel — agrees to pack up her life in Paris. Rose’s goodbye to the Rodin Museum is some of Maisel’s finest directing, as is her through-the-window farewell to Simone the dog. At minimum, we know Abe has grown as a person since art commune landlady Marie is devastated to see Abe, the man she screamed at in angry French only an episode earlier, leave. He has no idea what she’s saying, but it’s still nice.
This entire depressing scene swings back to the hopeful vibes we experienced earlier when Rose and Abe are squarely back in the Upper West Side. Abe has pulled some strings to make sure his wife can continue her art history studies at Columbia. And they’re taking dancing classes. Rose is so happy she could burst, and I’m crying.
While this is the best turn of events possible for the Weissman parents, it’s terrible for Midge and Susie.
Prior to the Weissmans’ return, Midge and Susie are playing roomies as the latter hides out from Harry Drake and his goons. You know, the ones who are threatening to kill her. So, Susie is living the luxurious life on the Upper West Side (until the end of the episode when she’s forced to hide out in the Gaslight). She’s sleeping in Rose and Abe’s empty room, wearing Abe’s robe, and — gasp — using Rose’s special pink soap. Susie is a rebel and couldn’t be happier about it.
This little change of scenery is also how we learn the comedy manager is secretly a fantastic classical pianist to the point where she can hear an off note on a piano. Also, Charlotte’s Web makes Susie cry. Immediately, “Mid-Way To Mid-Town” is an embarrassment of Susie riches. The episode reaches its Susie in the Maisel house heights when Midge’s “little yellow light source” BFF Imogene (Bailey De Young) shows up at the apartment to find a very high Susie in the bathtub.
Imogene has a lot to be upset about. Joel really messed up Imogene’s husband Archie’s (Joel Johnstone) career by quitting in the middle of the men’s shared presentation. Imogene, who hasn’t heard from Midge in weeks, had no idea her supposed BFF went to Paris. And now she has no clue who the stoned woman in Midge’s bath tub is. Midge tries to assuage Imogene’s concerns by promising to go to exercise class with her the next day, but it’s difficult to believe the secret comic will actually show up.
At least Midge has her first midtown-ish gig to look forward to following a publicity-upping interview between Susie and The Village Voice. As usual, it does not go to plan. Midge is originally scheduled to go third until she is bumped to fourth after one of the comedy club’s regulars asks to perform earlier. At first Susie thinks the move is a good thing… until she realizes it’s a portent of comedy doom. Midge is repeatedly pushed back for different male comedians until she finally goes on so late, she is covered in mustard and the guy in charge of the lights has left. It’s literally a bad look.
But, Midge makes the best of it. As Susie (wo)mans the spotlight, Midge absolutely eviscerates all of the poorly dressed male comedians who were actively hoping to see her fail. Their sexual prowess (or lack thereof), boring voices, and “tiny baby hands” are all up for criticism. The few people who stayed to watch Midge’s seat are practically rolling in the aisles from laughter — especially the women in the audience who find Midge inspiring. The comedy club’s booker is less enthused about a “girl comic” dragging his regular guys, yet he still hints he would hire Midge again. That’s a win in the Maisel book.
Speaking of wins, this is the closest Joel has ever come to being successful. He has taken over his dad Moishe Maisel’s (Kevin Pollak) failing clothing manufacturing business and is starting to make major, important changes while trying to unravel the company’s baffling books. Mishe reminds his son he doesn’t know everything about the business, like how certain firings could torpedo this delicate ecosystem, but all together, Joel is doing a great job. So great, he even offers to buy Midge a fantastic apartment, which she doesn’t exactly want.
I will take it apartment in her stead. Capability is a good color on Joel.
The most AS-P line of the episode: “I came to talk to you and I found that sitting in the tub like a big baked potato in a soup pot.”
Episode 3 — “The Punishment Room”
Kudos to this episode, which made me Slack the Refinery29 entertainment team, “There’s full-frontal dude-ity in Maisel!” at 12:30 in the morning. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has officially freed the penis with season 2.
The naked man in question arrives in the first act of “The Punishment Room,” as a model in one of Rose’s art history courses. See, Abe wasn’t lying when he said he would help his wife audit some Columbia classes. While Rose is happy to be continuing her education, she is flabbergasted and slightly terrified of seeing a stranger’s member in the middle of her classroom. Abe actually collapses at the sight. Later, during a meeting about Columbia’s less-than-feminist academic practices, Rose recommends using a fig leaf to cover up any future “schlongs,” as Abe would say.
But, there is more to this episode than a naked man, so let’s dive in.
One of Midge Maisel’s worst personality traits is believing people want to hear from her all the time, no matter what. This terrible tendency is on display throughout “Punishment.” First, it appears when Midge, finally released from her own punishment room of the switch board basement, wraps her coat girl shift. She walks up to multiple customers, plucks products out of their hands, and puts her preferred item for them in its place. Absolutely no one reacts like this kind of behavior is surprising or a jarring violation of personal space. Even in a department store as nice as B. Altman’s, that is impossible.
Midge’s “All about me” habit rears its irritating head even more intensely during the wedding preparation and festivities for her co-worker Mary (Erin Darke). At first, Midge’s insistent streak is a godsend for the religious Mary, who was initially going to celebrate her upcoming nuptials in her church’s “punishment room.” This is a room where young girls are left in corners to sob. It’s bad. Midge talks her way into getting Mary the church’s beautiful Window Room for an early evening wedding reception.
Unfortunately, Midge takes everything too far at the actual soiree. She begins doing a mini stand-up set despite no one asking her to perform. It’s so cringeworthy, I had to skip the entire ill-advised speech, which ends with Mary sobbing in a church pew. That dark scene is how I found out Midge jokingly questioned in front of everyone whether Mary’s marriage to her new husband Bill is a shotgun wedding. Midge quickly finds out her joke wasn’t a joke at all. This is a shotgun wedding. “Why the hell to you think I’m getting married three months after meeting him?” Mary rages. Finally, Midge may have learned every occasion doesn’t require a full performance.
At least Midge’s actual performances are going well. A stand-up montage shows us some of Midge’s shows, and she is legitimately fun to watch, riffing on motherhood and the horrors of spending the apocalypse with one’s judgemental parents. Where is our full Midge Maisel comedy special, Amazon?
Although Midge’s shows are going well, Susie reminds Midge they’re not exactly rolling in the dough just yet. In another necessary reality check for Midge, Susie reminds her client she’s not worried about the UWS princess remaining financially solvent with her wealthy parents, childcare, and “18-room apartment.” It’s Susie, now eating compromised apples out of garbage cans, who actually needs the cash. It is a balm for the soul to finally hear Midge admit, “I get it. I’m lucky.”
Midge is so lucky, she finds $2,135 stashed in her family’s coat closet; the cash was left there by Moishe and Shirley (Caroline Aaron). Shirley’s wacky accounting and money management practices have become one of Maisel season 2’s most fun quirks. This discovery finally brings Midge and Joel into a plot line together since Joel spends most of “Punishment” trying to stop the bleeding of his parents’ finances. That means getting them a loan from an actual bank and locating the many bags of money Shirley has hidden around her favorite spots, the Weissman home included.
Towards the end of the episode, Midge brings Joel the bag of hidden money, and you can still feel the chemistry between the estranged couple. I want these two crazy kids to work it all out. While a reconciliation doesn’t seem imminent, Midge at least helps Joel find a new apartment hiding under his nose. Shirley hid another money bag in a never before seen loft-like space in the clothing factory, which Midge tracks down from one of her mother-in-law’s cash maps. The room is huge. Joel, you adult man with two children, you are finally moving out of your childhood bedroom.
P.S. Shirley happily wishing Joel and Archie luck with their “sword fights and whatnot” is a perfect moment.
The most AS-P line of the episode: “Moishe, did you bring the bag of money we use to bribe people? There’s a bag of money we use to bribe people.”
Episode 4 — “We’re Going To The Catskills!”
Welcome to Marvelous Mrs. Maisel at its most Amy Sherman-Palladino. You’re in for a fixation on Midge’s size and beauty, many outfit changes, a dance sequence with lots of spinning, and the introduction of hot jerk who might actually have a heart of gold. Rory Gilmore (Emmy-winner Alexis Bledel) would love this episode.
As the title suggests, “Welcome To The Catskills” follows the annual Weissman family trip to the Catskills, a tradition that is almost exactly as old as Midge herself. It is a two-month vacation. Susie’s spit take over the news is warranted.
Even with Susie’s protests against Midge leaving the NYC stand-up game the moment she’s getting hot — an apt metaphor for Maisel’s own tangents this season — Miriam heads to upstate New York. Eventually we find out Susie followed her “only star/client” upstate and is posing as a plumber at the Weissmans’ summertime home, Steiner, a resort that caters to Jewish families. Susie even brings a prop, her trusty plunger.
Like all good AS-P flights of fancy, the world of Steiner Mountain Resort is extremely specific. The resort serves unlimited tomato juice, which Abe is obsessed with. It hosts multiple yearly beauty pageants, which Midge always wins. It has a multi-part welcome song, complete with a note-holding challenge every single Steiner veteran knows about. This is where Abe has the chance to wear his signature, skin-tight callisthenics romper. You will be left wondering when Abe first bought the romper and whether he has had to replace said romper over the years.
As one would assume about a summer camp filled with annual regulars, the Steiner residents are a gossipy group. This makes Midge and Joel’s post-affair split a leading topic of conversation. One awful woman, Alya Feinberg (Ariana Venturi), tells Midge she and her husband are taking Joel’s side. The manager of the resort, Pauly (Saul Rubinek) informs Midge that due to her status as a not-quite-married woman, she can no longer compete in the Mrs. Steiner pageant (having technical husband Joel accompany her, as is tradition, “might cast a pall”). Midge is also barred from the teen and ingenue races due to her age and past marriage. Instead, she must be Sash Girl.
The entire Steiner situation becomes so fraught that Joel is forced to jump on stage and confront the issue head-on in front all of his fellow guests. He demands everyone stop staring at him and his wife and shames Pauly for kicking Midge out of the pageant. Joel even reveals Midge donated her swimsuit competition winnings to an orphanage in the Bronx during her eight-year winning streak. “This year, thanks to you, some orphans are going hungry,” he spits at Pauly. It is the most powerful and competent Joel has ever looked.
Maisel continues to make the case for Joel later in the episode when he and Midge share a magically lit slow dance at opening night dinner.
But, before Joel is able to win his wife back with bold statements and a few twirls, a challenger rises: Benjamin No Last Name (Zachary Levi, Alias Grace scamp and forgotten MCU member). As I have said many times, a lack of a last name means this very good romantic option is not end-game. Sorry, Benjamin, you tall, handsome, accomplished surgeon who has never rented.
Midge and Benjamin don’t exactly meet cute. Rather, Midge listens to her mother talk about Ben’s potential for days until she finally tracks the doctor down and demands they do something public together. Midge isn’t interested — she just just wants Rose off of her back. Midge and Ben go boating, and Benjamin immediately proves to be a walking archetype of the lovable, sardonic rich asshole. He gets on a rowboat with Midge but refuses to row and reads her the most depressing news possible when she’s trying to pretend to laugh. If Benjamin didn’t look like Zachary Levin in perfectly cut vintage slacks, we would all hate him.
However, his undeniable comic timing with Midge suggests a relationship is looming in the future.
This is why “Catskills” ends with the rudest image in all of Maisel, as Benjamin and Joel both take in the opening week fireworks show from a porch. Benjamin absolutely dwarfs poor, newly thoughtful Joel. Are you ready for a love triangle?
The most AS-P line of the episode: So many to choose from. We’re going to settle on “It’s my Mamie Van Doren,” though.
Episode 5 — “Midnight At The Concord”
It happened everyone, it finally happened. Midge Maisel’s comedy “secret” is no longer a secret. Abe was an accidental witness to his daughter’s dirtiest sow yet, and it was as Chrissy Teigen cryface-worthy as you would expect.
“Concord’s” cliffhanger of an ending packs even more of a punch than one would expect since most of the episode is a light and airy confection without a single whiff of doom. In fact, it has one of the funniest openings in all of Maisel, with Joel’s parents descending upon the idyllic quiet that is Steiner. Before we even see Moishe and Shirl, we hear them. Moishe honks the car horn the entire way up the winding Steiner’s driveway. Then when they emerge from the vehicle, it is a sight to behold. The Maisel car is filled with loose items, and Shirl refuses to remove her humongous fur coat, even in the Catskill summer heat (“She’s got our silverware sewn into the lining,” Moishe announces to whomever is listening).
With the older Maisels settled into Steiner, it’s time to see if the younger Maisel couple can actually move on from each other. The answer seems to be yes, even though Joel, whose parents keep urging him to take a look at the many “nice girls” at Steiner, seems less than enthused about the prospect.
On the other hand, Midge and Benjamin are inevitably thrown together. We can blame it on the fact that Midge can work the Revlon counter at B. Altman if she makes it to the city on time, and Benjamin just so happens to be heading that way. Something was always going to bring these two together,though. Otherwise, they would have ended up locked in a room together or tied up in a three-legged race or, really, anything.
Since Midge needs to get to NYC and Benjamin is her sole option for a ride, they end up stuck in a very sexy hot rod together for about three hours, at least according to Google Maps’ calculation. At first, the forced hang out session is as boring and awkward as you would expect. Then, with Midge being Midge, she starts to do a bit and gives jokey radio announcements. This is charming until you realize Midge definitely rattled off the fake reports for the entire trip. That’s 180 minutes of made up news. That’s too much comedy news.
Somehow, Benjamin leaves this experience smitten. He asks Midge on a date for the next night since he has tickets to The Legend Of Lizzie on Broadway. Lizzie, for the record, was a real play that ran from February 1959 to February 1960. Midge and Benjamin both hate the show, so Midge takes her new love interest to a nearby comedy club. What do you know — gorgeous, tall Lenny Bruce is performing. He is good, and we are blessed.
Sadly Midge does not run off with Lenny Bruce. She takes Ben to her and Susie’s favorite diner, where it is very obvious she knows every showbiz person in there. Benjamin has thawed and admits he likes Midge. He asks her on a real date, the kind with pesky bathroom attendants and fancy napkins. “I’m a comedian!” is Midge’s unexpected answer.
Benjamin reacts well. Far better than Joel did. He mumbles, “Weird,” with a smile. Remember last episode when Ben’s mom said he wanted “weird?” He’s found it.
After Midge’s good date, Susie calls her in a rage, rightly irritated her client left Steiner without telling her. Even though Susie is peeved, she informs Midge she got her a great booking back in the Catskills. Enter Midge’s brother Noah (Will Brill), who is usually forgotten by Mrs. Maisel and Mrs. Maisel. Noah drives Midge to the gig, not knowing he’s driving his sister to a gig. He is also probably too distracted by the horrible paste his wife Astrid (Succession’s Justine Lupe) is using as a fertility treatment to care where Midge is going or why.
This is where Maisel sets us up for the big surprise, we simply don’t realize it at first.
Midge arrives on time for her set at the Concord, a walkable distance from Steiner, where she will be performing for her biggest crowd to date. At the same time, Abe decides he can’t go to Polynesian night at the resort because Moishe is simply Too Much. “I can’t listen to his litany of ‘lei’ed’ jokes.” Abe complains. Rose sets off for Polynesian night alone to contend with Moishe’s racy dad jokes and Shirley’s refusal to remove her silverware laden fur coat. The last we see of Abe at Steiner, he’s walking off into the night.
Then we switch back to Midge, who is about to step onstage. After about five minutes of a profanity-filled, family-dragging, sexual history-revealing set, Midge realizes her father is sitting about a yard away, frozen in anger. This is where his walk ended. After nearly passing out onstage, Midge starts word vomiting about secrets and father-daughter relationships. Eventually, her act takes a turn for the better with a joke about Abe’s penis. He does not laugh. Everyone else at the Concord does. As we see in Midge’s last joke of the night, she killed.
With the tense set over, Rachel Brosnahan does some great work for her Emmy reel, tearfully breaking down as Susie celebrates the successful evening and the Concord manager begs to have Midge back. Midge’s world is breaking apart and no one notices. Soon enough, Abe appears backstage to put on his straw hat and tell his daughter he’s taking her home.
In the silent car ride home, Susie asks if they’re in trouble. All Midge can do in response is quietly nod yes.
The most AS-P line of the episode: “Bald men can be attractive. With the right hat.”
Episode 6 — “Let’s Face The Music & Dance”
“Music” isn’t the Maisel-Weissman family explosion I was expecting. Yes, Abe now knows his daughter tells dirty jokes on stage for money. But, the rest of the family does not. We all remember how well Abe hiding Midge’s more scandalous secrets went last time: awfully. It went so awfully, this season had to start in Paris.
The reason the Midge Stand-Up Bomb hasn’t truly hit the Maisel family yet is because Abe doesn’t seem to know how to process the information. Rather than scream over this unexpected revelation — one that is even more shocking for the 1950s — Abe represses everything. He’s terrified of blowing up the Weissmans’ life for something Midge might not even permanently pursue. Why upset Rose if Midge could give up comedy tomorrow? After all, from Abe’s limited perspective, she made a big show of preparing to get back with Joel last season and then nothing came of it.
Everything is so bad, poor Abe can’t even enjoy his beloved Steiner tomato juice.
Things start to look up for the academic when Bell Labs calls. The funding for Abe’s project has been approved. Hooray! Now Abe must head back to the city to discuss the research in person and convinces Noah, a fellow genius, to join him. When we arrive at Bell Labs it becomes obvious Abe has mentioned his rising star son to every single person at his place of business. Abe really wants Noah to work at Bell. He becomes so insistent, the Weissman men are eventually dragged into a “secure room” to discuss why Noah can never, ever work at Bell.
Apparently, Noah, supposedly a mere university researcher, is just too important. Noah is so important, Abe’s security clearance is too low to know what his son actually does, even. (“I’m pretty sure the janitors have a higher security clearance than you,” Bell’s government liason Martin says.) From the little information viewers get at Bell, we can glean Noah is involved in the most top-secret and extremely sensitive government project around. Here is your Maisel reminder we’re squarely in the midst of the Cold War.
Towards the end of “Music,” Rose gets some very alarming details about Noah’s moonlighting from a woozy Astrid, who has been religiously fasting for at least a day. Noah travels often to unknown locations and usually comes back with sand in his shoes. If an emergency were to occur while Noah was on a trip, Astrid would have no idea how to contact him. He also carries a gun. He works for the CIA. Rose suspects that Noah was secretly recruited during college and I agree.
Not only is Abe’s daughter lying about who she is, but, now, so is Abe’s son. The one child Abe thought he could definitely trust. To deal with the shock, Abe puts on his delightful romper for one last time to brood on the dock. His early morning sulking doesn’t help much as Abe is still gruff at the last dinner of the summer. Surly, he complains about everyone around him doing what they want.
The most powerful part of this little family melodrama is when Abe asks if Midge is as good as the comedian Steiner booked for the farewell dinner. She solemnly says, “Yes,” and Abe believes her.
While a shocking amount of this episode revolves around Abe’s disillusionment in regards to his children, there are also some romantic advancements for Midge and Joel. Midge and Benjamin spend the meteor show watch party together, which Joel notices and doesn’t particularly enjoy. It’s difficult not to wonder if Midge is only so public with this budding romance since she saw Joel flirting with a younger version of herself in the Steiner clubhouse. Joel also attends the meteor party with the girl, Leah (Molly Brown), but doesn’t look all that interested.
Even with these side romances, Joel asks Midge to share the last dance of the summer with him. It’s adorable. As the song wraps, Joel questions whether it’s time for both halves of the couple to “dance with other people.” Midge agrees and they part ways. She ends the episode slow dancing with Benjamin while Joel finds Leah. Still, considering Maisel’s investment in Joel, it doesn’t feel like this relationship is over.
Even though this doesn’t fit into all the Weissman-Maisel family turmoil, it’s important to point out Susie’s journey as a fake Steiner employee has proven to be both heartwarming and hilarious. When the other employees think the “plumber” got lost in the woods, they enact a widespread, earnest search and rescue mission. The permanently shirtless hunk lifeguard (Awkward alum Nolan Gerard Funk) is especially concerned about Susie’s well-being.
Plus, Alex Borstein shimmying as part of the annual employee show will go down with Abe’s romper as one of Maisel season 2’s best gifts.
The most AS-P line of the episode: “So what did you do with our Abe, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?”
Episode 7 — “Look, She Made A Hat”
Welcome to what will surely prove to be the biggest Maisel episode of the season. Midge finally comes clean about her career. It’s Yom Kippur. Rufus Sewell shows up as a debauched artist and gives Lenny Bruce a run for his money in the leading Maisel bae competition. What a time to be alive!
“She Made A Hat” opens on Midge staring at a painting. Not only is Benjamin a doctor who loves the opera, he’s also a capital-A Art collector. That’s why he brings Midge to the opening night of Solomon Crespi, a seemingly fictional painter, after he already went to the pre-opening night and bought three paintings. Benjamin refers to himself as a “serious” collector and starts talking like he popped “one of mama’s diet pills,” when he thinks about art-based revenge. I reiterate: We would all hate Benjamin if he weren’t a 6’3 surgeon.
Although Ben can’t stop talking about Crespi, Midge — because she is our magical leading lady — wanders to a back room and finds a beautiful painting of a woman for $25. Benjamin doesn’t appreciate it, but Midge does. When the couple heads to artsy bar the Cedar Tavern, which was real, we find out famed artist Declan Howell (Sewell, consistent sexy British baddie in every movie ever) is also a fan of the piece. And Midge. Declan is definitely a fan of Midge.
While Benjamin spends five minutes explaining to Midge how averse Declan is to letting people see his work, let alone sell it, the moody painter immediately invites Midge to his studio. It’s suggested Declan only wants to sleep with Midge (“It’s like Vermeer painted you or you swallowed a lightbulb,” he boozily gushes) but the invite is still an impossible feat she makes look easy.
Later, Ben tells Midge she is “spectacular,” lest we forget Midge is the most marvelous woman in all of New York City, if not the world. Then the stand-up leads the way into Benjamin’s apartment. This is Maisel’s way of telling us Midge and Ben are going to sleep together for the first time. What a classy move.
As Midge enjoys a lovely and eventful date on the anniversary of Joel blowing up their lives, Mr. Maisel gets good and hammered at a company party he throws in celebration of buying the Maisel factory’s building. Three women wait out the end of the bash hoping to sleep with Joel, but he is either slumped over and slurring or fully passed out. It becomes Archie’s job to hand out taxi reimbursement cash and send the girls on the way. Mrs. Moscowitz (Cynthia Darlow) simply warns Joel about not getting an STI. Would any of us be surprised if she showed up the next day with a box of condoms to give her free-wheeling boss?
Midge has no idea Joel is self-destructing like this and is instead focusing on getting Ben a Declan Howell. After assuring her doctor beau she has perfected the art of deflecting men’s advances, Midge and Benjamin head over to Declan’s sink-less studio. He repeatedly tries to seduce Midge and refuses Ben’s attempts to buy anything. Then, when Ben leaves, Midge and her new artist friend have a heart-to-heart about the painting she bought a day earlier. Midge’s explanation for purchasing the piece in hopes of finding out the smiling subject’s metaphorical secret is moving. So moving, in fact, that Declan lets Midge see his famed masterpiece.
Maisel smartly never shows us the painting and simply allows us to see Midge’s awed expression. In one of the most important conversations of the series, Declan reveals he lost something in making a true work of art: a “normal” life and the family that goes with it. This sounds like some foreshadowing for Midge’s own career. Declan then tries to seduce Midge one more time, but she rebuffs him and leaves to tell Benjamin he can take one Howell piece for his collection. It’s impossible not to wish Midge would have just hooked up with the tortured sexy artist who apparently created the greatest painting ever made.
After all of these antics, “She Made A Hat” still has time for Midge to spill her stand-up secret. Abe gives his daughter the okay after she asks him to join her in an elaborate scheme to escape the Weissman home during Yom Kippur break fast. Since Abe can’t lie to his wife again, he tells Midge to just tell everyone already. She does and all hell breaks loose, as everyone has always expected.
Moishe is convinced Midge isn’t all that funny. Rose is fixated on the fact Midge’s manager was the plumber at Steiners and refuses to accept the resort job was a ruse. Abe needs everyone to believe he had no idea about Midge’s career. The infamous rabbi leaves without even eating the lamb Rose picked out just for him. Shirl can’t even understand what’s going on or remember the location of her geriatric mother. Zelda just wants to serve dinner.
Despite the high-intensity situation, Midge exits dinner fairly unscathed and heads out to the Gaslight for her big gig. We don’t see her performance, but everyone agrees Midge was on fire for the booker who came just to see her. It’s time to take this show on the road, folks. Literally.
The most AS-P line of the episode: There are tons of choices again, but we’ll go with Miriam’s near-uninterrupted baroque scheming monologue: “Right after dessert, I’ll suddenly get a headache. I’ll go lie down and you’ll propose everyone play a game … Gather everyone in the living room and say you want to go first, then position yourself right front of the fireplace that way, they’ll have to face you and they’ll have their backs to the front door. That gives me a chance to slip out unnoticed. Now, earlier, you would’ve cracked the door open and put a pair of my shoes outside so I can tip toe out barefoot and no one will hear me. Later when I get home, I’ll make an owl hoot sound and you can come downstairs and let me in through the service entrance. And then we can...”
Please consider how much time Midge gave to this plan.
Episode 8 — “Someday…”
The Joel Maisel Rehabilitation Program has been going on for two years strong, following Joel’s very cliché affair announcement. With “Someday,” it reaches its zenith. Towards the end of the episode, Joel punches a jerk in the face for Midge (and Susie)! As Susie says, the move puts the former philanderer in a whole new light. I am a Joel Maisel apologist.
“Someday”’s Joel-heavy turn comes as a surprise, since most of the episode follows Midge and Susie’s short east coast tour — which comes with a technically stolen vehicle and definitely stolen license plates. Midge starts off with a show in Washington D.C. The show goes smashingly until a fire breaks out in the kitchen. Susie is so proud of Midge’s performance, she’s almost ready to have her finish the set, even if that means also dying of smoke inhalation.
With the performance done, Midge and Susie retire to their motel. While Maisel will never stop treating its heroine as the most special woman who has ever lived, it does sometimes manage to wrangle with Midge’s boundless privilege. Take her reaction to sleeping in a motel. Midge seriously believes her sketchy motel manager will be bringing her bags up to her room, like they’re still at Steiner, land of tomato juice and house boys.
It’s easy to forget how much of Midge’s life is a life-changing adventure.
The next morning, Maisel gives us a hint of the uber protective and openly hostile Joel we’ll see at the end of the episode. During a payphone conversation between Midge and Joel, he asks to speak to Susie for a moment under the guise of telling her how to change a tire. Before doling out any helpful tips, Joel thoroughly threatens Susie that if anything happens to Midge during their run around the East Coast, he’s “gonna fucking kill” her. The possibility of hobbling comes up. Finally, he barks the steps for changing a tire, should she need to do so. Joel lacks all chill.
After that absolute blast of a conversation, Midge and Susie show up for their Philadelphia gig. No one is there and it’s awkward, but Midge makes the best of it. It is also impossible to make the best of the dirty toilet-having, bug-infested motel room the ladies end up at following the show. My skin is crawling just thinking about that room. Susie’s skin is also crawling, since she wakes up with her face covered in bug bites. She should go to a doctor.
Midge was obviously right to spend her evening standing in the middle of the room. Someone needs to burn that motel down and start from scratch.
After fleeing Philly, Midge realizes she completely forgot Imogene’s baby shower, which she planned. The Weissmans were forced to host the event despite Midge’s absence. Midge calls to apologize publicly and it’s an uncomfortable and painful scene. She is already starting to miss things in pursuit of Declan Howell-level perfection. To add insult to injury, Midge’s scheduled — and in-door — performance for the day of Imogene’s baby shower is canceled due to rain. The audacity.
Midge and Susie head back to New York for the final performance of the tour. Although Midge tried to invite her dad to the local show, Abe refused. At least the people who were in attendance loved the show, even though Midge arrived 10 minutes late thanks to classic NYC traffic. The club’s booker, a self-important wannabe slickster named Ricky (Johnny Hopkins), attempts to use Midge’s tardiness as an excuse not to pay her. Then, he locks Susie in a closet when she tries to get the money owed to her and her client.
This is when Joel enters the situation. It’s worth noting Midge did not even consider calling Benjamin, who finally got a last name in the last episode (it’s Ettenberg). Joel gets Susie out of the closet and demands the money. When Ricky begins to say something rude about Midge, Joel punches him in the nose before he can finish. Within seconds, the owed money materializes. Joel ends the encounter telling the owner that Ricky doesn’t deserve his job (of course, nepotism is to blame).
“That’s talent,” Joel says, pointing to Midge. “She could put this shithole on the map someday.”
Joel offers to take Midge home via cab, but she says she wants to finish the trip with Susie. It’s a sweet move, especially since Susie is self-conscious about needing Joel to come to their rescue. But Midge is right when she says sometimes men’s support is necessary in a man’s world, which comedy happens to be.
Rose likely doesn’t care about any of this. When Midge comes home, she finds the remnants of Imogene’s bungled baby shower all over the living room, old plates of food included. Midge asks why Zelda didn’t clean up the disaster and Rose says the whole thing is her daughter’s mess to fix. Someone isn’t happy about Midge’s stand-up announcement.
Maybe she should have accepted Joel’s apartment offer earlier this season?
The most AS-P line of the episode: “No, you were a damsel in di-closet.”
Episode 9 — “Vote For Kennedy, Vote For Kennedy”
Due to the demands of TV writing and recapping, I ended up watching this episode at about 4:30 a.m. during the early morning of Maisel season 2’s release. I has\d skipped the prior three episodes to ensure I would know how the new season wrapped and could therefore write about it. I was immediately struck with the feeling that I’d missed something — something that would likely be filled in by the 180 minute-ish gap I had created for myself in the Maisel world.
Well, I returned to “Vote For Kennedy” after watching episodes 6 through 8 and it still feels like a major puzzle piece just disappeared. All of a sudden, Abe’s recently approved Bell Labs project has stalled and Maisel acts like we should already know this. Even worse, Abe’s Columbia math class has crumbled; students have transferred out en masse and Abe hates all the remaining young men in very transparent ways. Soon enough, Abe’s boss is showing up at the Maisel home to inform Abe everyone from the parking attendants to the trustees at Columbia is “sick” of him and is essentially demanding that he take a sabbatical. Noah tells Abe his Bell Labs project isn’t momentarily delayed — it’s actually been canceled. Weren’t we just in the Catskills?
Elsewhere, Midge and Benjamin are more serious than ever. While the duo only got two true date episodes this season — and Midge phoned Joel last episode for an emergency — Ben is now talking seriously about marriage. He wasn’t even invited to Yom Kippur break fast and Joel isn’t quite sure his wife is in a relationship, let alone the kind of relationship where marriage is a part of the conversation. But, okay.
At least all these stories moving at breakneck speeds set us up for an exciting end to season 2.
When Midge isn’t considering becoming the Marvelous Mrs. Ettenberg, she is preparing for her first-ever TV gig. A telethon for arthritis and rheumatism is coming up and Midge is going to perform. Her parents plan is to either shame Midge for the job or convince her not to do it. Benjamin, on the other hand, is very easily impressed by Midge’s joke prep at the Gaslight and seems excited for her. Watching Susie attempt to connect with Ben is an uncomfortable joy. If it weren’t for Midge’s stand-up career, these are two individuals’ paths would have never crossed in a million years. They talk to each other with the awkward energy that comes from that fact.
The next time we see Midge and Susie, they’re entering the telethon and Maisel is reminding us of just how good the show is at set design. When you watch footage from this era even the most glamorous moments are stripped of their color, pop, and grandeur. Everything looks small and squished and gray. But this telethon isn’t gray at all. Upon arrival, Midge and Susie find a candy-colored stage that will only get glitzier as the episode continues.
Originally, Midge is scheduled to go on the telethon during the plumb time of 9:50 p.m., or 2150 if you do military time like the production crew. Her act will be a tight five minutes. Sounds easy. Then, Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) shows up. Sophie has not forgotten her grudge against Midge. In fact, it seems Sophie’s resentment of Midge, who revealed the wealthy woman is lying about her entire working class comedy persona, has only intensified.
One of the goons who kidnapped Susie in the premiere appears to tell Susie and Midge that Sophie says “hi.” There is nothing benevolent about that greeting. Minutes later, Susie finds out Midge is now scheduled to go on at 11:55, the absolute worst slot of the special. She’s also effectively off-camera as a member of the phone bank crew and her phone line isn’t even working. Sophie should be too busy perfecting her caricature of working people to have time to come up with so many petty jabs.
Finally, Susie finds her way into Sophie’s dressing room to tell off the older comic and stand in front of Sophie’s beloved steam. Alex Borstein gets to give a great monologue about Susie’s plans for Midge here — she yells about punching Sophie’s fake boobs so hard that her real one “will feel it.” Although Sophie claims Susie should have had Midge apologize months ago, Susie still tells her to stuff it and storms out of the dressing room. Even Sophie can’t help but be impressed. Susie won that battle; let’s hope she wins the war.
In good news for Sophie and Midge, other stars are aligning to suggest Midge’s future is aces, even with the terrible time slot. The stand-up meets the very In singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) in the women’s bathroom and he’s instantly a fan because no one isn’t a fan of Midge Maisel on this show. The two performers quickly bond over hating Sophie’s so-called “comedy” and Shy’s appreciation for genuinely good comics. You know, he always has a stand-up open for him during a tour. You don’t say.
If Shy had any question about Midge’s talent as a prospective opening act, those fears are assuaged by her barn burner of a telethon-closing set. She’s laugh out loud hilarious, self-effacing, and finds time to pick up the last few calls of the night. Ginger from work is astounded to realize her Mrs. Maisel is in fact the Mrs. Maisel she has been reading about in the papers. Rose and Abe, who can see their neighbors watching the telethon, are solemnly awestruck to realize Midge’s comedy career “is really happening.” Joel takes Midge’s star-making appearance as an excuse to be rude to his latest one night stand. (By the way, speaking of Joel, his dad gives him $60,000 in a bid to get his son to leave the family manufacturing company and follow his dreams.)
Although the telethon is a win for Midge and Susie, the two women end the episode on the outs. Midge learns Susie confronted Sophie when they had agreed to let the one-sided feud go. After all the progress our two heroines made over season 2, Midge doesn’t see the point in antagonizing one of comedy’s most powerful forces again. Susie claims she was just finishing a fight Midge started. Midge doesn’t agree and turns her manager down for a celebratory night cap.
Can these two save their relationship before season 2 ends?
The most AS-P line of the episode: “I bumped into her in Paris. I swear, a dozen diamonds fell out of her ass.”
Episode 10 — “All Alone”
We did it, friends. We made it to the end of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2. This is an episode about people who are trapped between the life they believed they wanted to live and the life they actually do want to live. So let’s break this finale down character by character, saving the best, Midge Maisel, naturally, for last.
Abe has gone through a lightning-fast personality transformation. As we found out in the last episode, Abe was a bit of an activist in his 20s before meeting and marrying Rose. Once he settled into this upwardly mobile relationship, the academic became fixated on the tenure track and the shiny science coming out of Bell Labs.
Now, he is questioning that choice, following a bizarre and accusatory conversation with the Bell Labs head honchos. As Abe finds out in “Alone,” his Bell inquisition began when Midge merely made a joke about her dad listening to a bathroom-related children’s album as part of his work. Bell Labs considers the fact Midge knows about this project, and is telling rooms of strangers about it, a security risk. They are not exactly wrong. However, Abe is upset the company recruited him for his expertise and is now treating him like “a criminal.” The Bell execs inform Abe the company owns his expertise due to contractual obligations and he starts screaming.
Towards the end of the finale, Abe tells Rose the rude conversation has made him rethink how he sees his life and purpose. He wants to leave Columbia and Bell Labs. Rose reminds him leaving the tenured life at Columbia also means giving up the Weissman apartment. Despite Rose’s very good point, Abe ends the season meeting with Michael Kessler (Max Casella), the son of a friend and a lawyer who’s up for a good fight.
As commenters pointed out, Kessler isn't a new character, as I originally said, but Midge's lawyer from back in season 1.
This veer in Abe’s storyline is very abrupt and kind of strange, but at least it promises to give us a more intense season 3.
Joel is upset he blew up his life a year ago and now has to live with the consequences. The existence of Midge’s “new friend,” aka Benjamin, and the knowledge that Ben met the Maisel kids drives Joel to angry late-night baseball playing with Archie. During his aggro batting practice, Joel decides to take the $60,000 his dad gave him and open a club. This is how he will deal with not being “Midge funny.”
Joel, and therefore episode writer-director AS-P, appear to explain away his sudden course correction with a never-before-heard story from his childhood. The decision is out of left field, but thematically appropriate. The men of Maisel are really going through it right now.
Susie has been itching to fight Sophie Lennon all season. But, now she has a job offer from her. Following Susie’s threat-dripping dressing room visit in the prior episode, Sophie, who is living her own unfulfilled life, has decided she wants someone with that much passion in her corner.
It sounds like Sophie also wants to ditch her offensive “Put That On Your Plate!” persona and believes Susie is the only one who can help her do it. Since Susie doesn’t share this news with Midge, and purposefully hides it from her primary client, we can assume the manager is seriously considering Sophie’s controversial offer. Yikes.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel starts the episode telling us Midge and Benjamin aren’t going to get married. Rose’s psychic (Katrina Lenk), sees Midge in front of an big adoring audience while talking into a microphone. This predication is obviously supposed to suggest success in Midge’s comedy career. Rose takes this as a promise Midge and Benjamin will wed and her daughter will give another speech at her wedding.
The finale then does a lot of work for a very long time to convince us Rose’s sweetly delusional outlook might hold water. Benjamin shows up at the Weissman home early in the morning to go over his son-in-law application. He hands over tax documents, bank statements, and goes through an interview process. This is only the first step in getting Abe’s permission to marry Midge. No one mentions that Midge is still very much married to Joel or that Benjamin has never met the Midge’s kids on purpose. Benjamin does have to confirm this quick courtship isn’t the result of an accidental pregnancy, though.
Later, Abe grills Midge about whether Benjamin has any cutesy nicknames. Like with the question about a possible pregnancy, the answer is no. Still, Abe cannot sanction this union yet. To explain why Midge should really wait on her dad’s decision, Abe reminds his daughter that Joel didn’t seek his permission (as we saw with a very cute flashback of Joel’s proposal so many years ago) and we all saw how that crashed and burned.
Finally, after tracking down Benjamin’s vaccination records and patient survival rate, Abe gives the big okay. Midge can marry Benjamin.
The only problem is, Midge completely forgot about Benjamin. In the last act of “Alone,” Bruno Mars protype and superstar Shy calls Midge to ask her to open for him during his upcoming European tour. The moment we saw these two in a bathroom together last episode, this was inevitable. Midge says yes without a second of hesitation. Then she goes and tells Susie the good news, quietly ending their tiny feud, and leaves for a designer shopping trip on Shy’s dime. It’s not until Abe tells Midge she can marry Benjamin that she remembers her soon-to-be fiancé even exists. It’s a bad sign when someone starts preparing to move to Europe and doesn’t think to tell their partner.
In a single moment, Midge knows she can’t marry Ben. In that same moment, Abe does too. All he can say is, “Shit.” Rose isn’t going to like this.
Midge doesn’t have time to wallow in this romantic curveball and leaves to see support a forlorn Lenny Bruce for his late-night Steve Allen appearance. The gig is part of his comeback tour as the controversial stand-up is plagued by arrest warrants for his boundary pushing comedy. At Steve Allen, he plays very nice, making jokes about failed relationships and sings about the sarcastic benefits of being alone (you can watch the real Lenny Bruce’s rendition of “All Alone” here). It’s a mood killer of the highest regard, and we’re reminded of artist Declan Howell’s belief that to be truly successful, one must be all alone.
All of this talk of loneliness drives Midge to Joel’s office-apartment. She knows if she wants the kind of success that ricochets her past open-for-Shy Baldwin famous, she will eventually be as alone as Lenny’s heartbroken comedy character. “I can’t go back to Jell-O molds. There won’t be three [babies] before 30 for me,” she tells Joel. But, she doesn’t want to be alone tonight. That’s why she’s in Joel’s apartment. “Tonight — just for tonight — I really need to be with someone who loves me,” she admits and Joel walks around his desk to kiss her.
That’s it, fade to black. Considering Midge’s depressing speech, we shouldn’t expect to see the Maisels’ traveling Europe together and in love come season 3, but at least they’ll have this night together. That’s good enough for me.
Thank you, and good night!
The most AS-P line of the episode: “If she hadn’t bumped me, I never would have gone on at midnight and Shy never would have seen me and I wouldn’t be assembling a fabulous travel outfit in my head right now. I see a blue hat. With feathers.”
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