We should have known something was up with the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2 finale within the first five minutes of “All Alone.” While much of the episode is built around an imminent engagement between fast-talking heroine Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) and tall doctor Benjamin (Zachary Levi), that is not the storybook romance the season-ender opens with. That honor goes to Midge and her ex-ish husband, Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), whom we see get engaged in a very swoony flashback proposal.
Then, by the end of “All Alone,” it’s Midge and Joel who are making out to wrap the season. After eight episodes of suggesting Midge might be in a love triangle between her past love and future spouse, Marvelous reveals Benjamin never posed a threat to the Maisels’ very complicated relationship. Yet, that doesn’t mean we should expect to see a reconciled Joel and Midge galavanting around Europe with their two kids come an already-promised Maisel season 3, either.
The real love story here is between Midge and her career.
With the high romance of “All Alone’s” final seconds, it's easy to believe Midge and Joel are finally ready to work on their relationship and family. It’s not like these two ever fell out of love with each other. Think back to the season 2 premiere, “Simone,” when Midge calls Joel from Paris. She is serious about getting back together. Joel is desperate to also save the marriage, but even more desperate not to be the butt of his wife’s jokes for the rest of his life. He turns her down. So the sole reason Mrs. Maisel is open to a new romance with Benjamin is because Joel refused to put his pride aside for Midge. If Joel had simply said “yes” 10 episodes ago, none of this would have happened.
This is how Midge falls into a comfortable relationship with Benjamin, a man whom she agrees “looks great on paper.” Once a love interest is described in such a fashion — even if “off paper, too” is added — you should know he’s not going to get the girl. It is rom-com law.
Maisel season 2 begins planting the seeds of a Midge-Benjamin breakup long before it dawns on Midge that she cannot marry her handsome Jewish doctor beau. The first signal we get arrives in “Look, She Made A Hat,” when Midge sees the all-time great painting made by bad boy artiste Declan Howell (a rakishly disheveled Rufus Sewell). Declan initially created the painting to hang in the home he would have had with his fully functional family. “When I had that life,” he wistfully says. “But that was then and this is now. I will never have that life.”
Midge thinks Declan’s line of thinking is “ridiculous,” until he explains his very depressing attitude. “Everything I have, I put into that [painting]. Nothing left.” he continues. “If you want to do something great … you can’t have everything. You lose family. A sense of home. But then, look at what exists.”
Midge wants to do something great. She says as much repeatedly throughout season 2. The moment in prior episode “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” stands out, as she tells her dad Abe Weissman (Toby Schaloub) she doesn’t want to be some other successful comedian (Milton Berle) — she wants to be her own name. That’s why Midge looks more and more horrified throughout Declan’s depressing “Hat” speech. She knows he’s also talking about her future.
If Declan’s sad boy monologue isn’t enough to convince Midge her professional passion is going to soon eclipse everything else, Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) reminds her. In finale “All Alone,” Lenny sings the episode’s titular song, which the real-life Bruce did back in the day. The song suggests one can find riches and success — in exchange for a lonely life. It’s basically exactly what Declan said put to music. This time, Midge doesn’t disagree with the sentiment.
That makes sense since Midge comes to terms with the fact that she can’t wed Benjamin earlier in the episode. Midge agreed to go on a six-month European tour, told at least one person (Alex Borstein) about it, and bought a new wardrobe for the trip before she remembered her soon-to-be fiancé was a person in her life. And Benjamin only reappeared in her mind because Abe brought him up. Midge was happily living her life solo before she realized it.
When Midge shows up to Joel’s office-apartment, she has accepted her likely lonely future, and she’s excited about it. This is a woman who doesn’t have the time to check in with someone to see if she can go run around Europe for a half a year or whether it’s okay if she goes to support her good friend Lenny during his late-night gig. She simply needs to just go do it, unencumbered. What she plans to do with kids Ethan (Pascale twins Nunzio and Matteo) and Esther during her trip is unclear, but Midge's childcare situation has always been murky. While the freedom of Midge's new path is exhilarating, she is not exactly ready to be “all alone,” as Lenny would say, just yet.
Hence the season-ending Joel makeout scene that almost definitely became a sex scene once the cameras cut to black. While this is technically a love scene between Midge and Joel, it’s also a scene about Midge embracing her own dreams. Hooking up with Joel is a small salve for that that much bigger, more difficult, journey
No, Midge and Joel probably won’t be splitting a giant plate of spaghetti and meatballs à la Lady And The Tramp come Maisel season 3. But, that was never the goal here, was it?
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