*This article contains minor spoilers for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2.
For Hanukkah this year Amazon gave a us season two of their award-winning show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. From the creator of Gilmore girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Mrs. Maisel follows the life of Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), who goes from a ’50s traditional Jewish housewife to stand-up comic after her husband leaves her. Season two picks up with her and her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), officially deciding not to be together, but with Midge working harder than ever to achieve her dreams of being a comedian.
Season two starts off a little rocky with an unusual episode in which Midge and her parents go to Paris, but never fear, episode two puts the show back on track, and reminds us why we love it. The quick, witty banter is just as funny as ever – what Sherman-Palladino’s known for – but the season also has a lot of heart, with all of the characters going out of their way to take care of each other.
Midge faces many obstacles as a female comic. A recurring bit this season is every time Midge introduces herself as a female comic, people ask is if she’s a singer. The implication is clear. Pretty women can sing, but they can’t be funny. Midge doesn’t let this deter her. She always kills it on stage, proving everyone wrong. The smart club managers beg for her to come back, the stupid ones continue to insult her. One night, the men who keep taking her slot, and bumping her down to the last slot of the night, also hang by the bar all night harassing her, and stay late to see her bomb. She fires back by heckling them until their all ready to cry. “Now think about this,” she says that night. “Comedy is fueled by oppression, by the lack of power, by sadness and disappointment, by abandonment and humiliation. Now who the hell does that describe more than women? Judging by those standards, only women should be funny.” This is only the tip of the iceberg of the the sexism Midge has to deal with this season.
Luckily, Midge has her trusty manager, Susie (Alex Borstein), by her side, who fiercely defends her client, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make Midge a star. Susie and Midge are as different as possible, but that’s part of what makes them work. They complement each other, and can call each other on their bullshit. This is particularly true in that Susie often has to remind Midge how privileged she is. We get to learn a lot more about Susie this season, including meeting her family, and it’s only to the show’s credit. While comedy can get bogged down in stereotypes, and Mrs. Maisel can sometimes fall into that trap as well, it truly succeeds when it creates complex and nuanced characters, and uses that to fuel its humor.
One character that becomes much more complex this season is Joel. In season one, Joel was a weak character who was going no where in life, and took Midge for granted. Season two Joel actually has some balls, and steps up to take care of Midge and his family this season. He becomes a man of action, and it makes him actually likable. He stops at nothing to save his family’s business, and is willing to do anything to help Midge. He supports her career as a comedian, beats up a club owner who refuses to pay Midge (I told you the sexism only gets worse), and gets up on stage while on vacation in the Catskills to yell at everyone to stop gossiping about him and Midge. It’s a mighty redemption arc, and a pleasure to watch.
Of course, a center-point of the show has always been Midge’s family. They are back in full force this season, and wackier than ever. Things come to a head on Midge hiding her life as a comedian from them. Her parents struggle to grasp this new information, particularly Midge’s father Abe (Tony Shalhoub). However, even as upset as he is about Midge’s new life, he never stops supporting her. Midge’s mother, Rose (Marin Hinkle), has her own arc this season, as she pursues the things that make her happy, like travel and painting, but still has time to do the more traditional things like looking for a new man for Midge. It’s a mother’s prerogative (and Midge’s dating life is something you won’t want to miss this season. I only have four words for you: Zachary Levi guest stars). Midge’s family is relatable in that they run around like chickens without heads, snipe at each other, and have general familial drama, but love and support each other through it all.
Season two proves once again that this show is a force to be reckoned with (as if the eight Emmys for season one weren’t proof enough). It is sharp and funny, unafraid to take risks, and keeps its focus on its indomitable characters. It’s also one of the only shows out there about Jews, and has Jewish culture inextricably woven into it. Mrs. Maisel is something special, and if you think I’m wrong, let’s just see how well it does on the three Golden Globes its currently nominated for.