If TV shows were foods, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” would be pink lemonade at a sunny picnic — sweet, delightful and refreshing with just the right amount of tart. In the ever-expanding buffet that is modern television, the Amy Sherman-Palladino show finds its place at the table by being strikingly unique and unabashedly innovative. Following a witty, fast-talking 1950s Jewish housewife, the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), in New York City as she discovers her talent for stand-up comedy, the sophomore season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” continues to delight audiences by doubling its recipe for greatness — quick-witted banter, gorgeous backdrops and larger-than-life characters.
A sleeper hit for Amazon Studios, the show’s debut cleaned house during awards season, winning both Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy at the 2018 Golden Globes and Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2018 Primetime Emmys.
There are traces of the show’s successful debut all throughout the newest season, most ostensibly in the new locations the Weissmans find themselves in. The season leads the family to Paris and the Catskills, taking full advantage of the romantic European charm and invigorating mountain landscapes, respectively. With tracking cinematography and saturated colors, the effervescence of the eponymous character and her life seeps into the show’s mise-en-scene.
Picking up in the aftermath of the first season’s finale, this season seems like an expansion of the Maisel universe. Rather than focusing mainly on Midge’s burgeoning stand-up career, the show also delves into Midge’s family life — in regard to both the Weissmans and her former in-laws, the Maisels. It’s a smart, creative choice that allows the characters, particularly Mrs. Weissman (Marin Hinkle) and Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen), to come into their own. With the emphasis on the development of its ancillary characters, it may seem that Midge’s comedic exploits take a back seat. But, the show knows where its heart is and allows for plenty of room to showcase Brosnahan’s excellent performance as Midge, which is best exemplified in her brash, loquacious comedy sets in which she seems to talk at a 100 miles an hour with the delivery of a seasoned comedian.
In a show about the Jewish community in the Upper West Side, there is about as much diversity as there is in Sherman-Palladino’s “Gilmore Girls.” And, especially with the constant hinting about the sexuality of Midge’s gruff manager Susie (Alex Borstein), the show dabbles with queer characters as much as Disney does — barely enough to count. But what the show lacks in representation, it makes up for with its subtle but compelling feminist undertones.
Any female-lead show is already going to be deemed empowering, but “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” makes sure to address the obstacles Midge faces as a woman trying to break into a male-dominated industry. As the show is quick to remind the characters and the audience, she is more than just her looks. Midge’s ambition and successes have to be considered within the context of her wealth and privilege — she is a working girl, but she still largely lives off of her father’s income. But there is something to be admired about how she refuses to be any less than the male counterparts in her world.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is truly one of a kind. From the epic adventures of “Game of Thrones” to the dystopic twists of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” television’s biggest hits today are emotional escapes from the real world. But in a sea of intense programs meant to thrill, chill and keep us at the edge of our seats, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” refreshingly allows us to lie back, relax and enjoy the show.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].