If you listen to Midge Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) evolving stand-up act in Amazon Prime's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you'll notice that she is obsessed with sex. As Midge’s dad Abe (Tony Shaloub) says at one point in Maisel season 3, “The last time I saw you [perform], it was all penis and sex and fuck and balls and penis and tits.” Abe’s not wrong. Yet, when you really think about the Amy Sherman-Palladino series, it’s a fairly chaste dramedy. There are no penises or balls to be seen. Even a thrust in the bedroom is rare.
Other than some ill-advised ex sex, the closest Midge gets to doing the deed in season 3 comes in fifth episode “It’s Comedy or Cabbage” after a sultry date with fellow comic Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby). The pair share the kind of evening that will leave fans wondering if these two good looking individuals will ever get together.
The good news is, there’s still a huge chance to see Lenny and Midge hit the sheets.
The final act of “Comedy or Cabbage” works hard to establish Lenny and Midge as a legitimate prospective romance. First, Lenny takes Midge to the tapping of Miami After Dark, a Watch What Happens-like local late night show (which appears to be totally fictional). When the show is filming, Lenny uses his clout to get Midge onto the stage with him. They immediately fall into an incomprehensible-to-anyone-but-them bit about being a brother/sister married duo. It’s a move that helps introduce Midge to a wider audience.
It’s also foreplay for someone as comedy-obsessed as Midge.
Then Midge and Lenny head to an after hours club and cocktail lounge. It’s a smokey and genuinely sexy scene, as the camera languidly circles the pair, who are sitting opposite each other. Neither person can take their eyes off of the other. “You’re still staring,” Midge tells Lenny, who has never looked more dapper than this moment under the club’s pink lights. “So are you,” he responds. A minute later, they’re dancing with Midge’s head resting on Lenny’s chest. This is a scene unabashedly brimming with sexual tension.
The pair, of course, end up at Lenny’s apartment/hotel room, which is a swimming pool’s length from the club. As they stand in the entrance of the space, the question, “So are we really going to have sex?” hangs above them. Midge decides the answer is no and gets a cab. As she leaves, Lenny calls out and asks, “Maybe someday? Before I’m dead?” The suggestion is that the rest of the statement is, “Maybe we can finally do this?”
“It’s a date!” Midge calls as she walks away.
Some may find this interaction swooningly promising. Others may see it as morbid since the real-life Lenny Bruce famously died young. When you hear Lenny bring up his mortality, you may assume the comic's death is imminent and this is our harbinger of tragedy. After all, there are still three episodes left in Maisel following “Comedy or Cabbage.” It’s possible the series could be planning to kill off the fan-favorite as a late-in-the-season gut-punch.
But, mercifully, that’s impossible. Lenny Bruce didn’t die until 1966 due to a tragic accidental morphine overdose. Bruce's death after followed multiple career-destroying obscenity arrests for his boundary-breaking live shows. That leaves Maisel years to explore what a romance could look like between its leading lady and her tall prospective paramour.
However, it is important to note that Bruce’s slide into chronic substance abuse began in earnest in 1964. That means the series is about four years away from Bruce’s darkest period. On a show as confection-sweet as Maisel, the series may never force audiences to reckon with the ways comedy can ruin lives as much as it can make them.
If Maisel does decide to truly deal with the tragedy of Lenny Bruce, there is a very macabre way for art to imitate life. When Bruce died, he was dating Lotus Weinstock, a young comedienne. It’s possible the Amazon series could swap Weinstock out for Midge in future seasons, should creator Amy Sherman-Palladino choose to grapple with Bruce’s painful death.
Yet after a divorce, a crash-and-burn engagement, and multiple career kerfuffles, the last thing Midge Maisel needs is true trauma in her life like the overdose of a boyfriend. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has always skirted the grimmest parts of its era without fully falling into them.
It's time to see how it handles the biggest threat to that comforting status quo.