The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns in its second season: confident, self-assured, and ready to take the microphone. The show has a lot to say, and it says it fast. It continues to be one of the most solid and downright impressive shows in its second year, exploding with a defining voice and tone. It allows its style and character to marry in the middle to create a wonderful story where its stars are illuminated and provides one of the year’s best in television.
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the second season finds Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) beginning to tighten her hold on her career as a stand-up comic with her manager and friend Susie (Alex Borstein). Her murky relationship with split husband Joel (Michael Zegen) and parents Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Rose (Marin Hinkle) are kept at arm’s length from her double life, allowing a lot of moving pieces as things begin to grow.
Its characters are settling into their newfound roles and lives with the pepped up and excited vibe only a Sherman-Palladino show can provide. The lives led are fragile, some by complacency and others by the aforementioned double lives, these episodes allowing them to find themselves and follow the paths they were meant to go down. Midge as the rising star at center stage casts a large shadow, her actions rippling down on others in ways the first season never got to touch on. It’s a fascinating approach, but one of many avenues the show takes to broaden its scope.
This scope gives the show a more ensemble feel than before. The attention and the detail given to this ensemble is exceptional, as they are given the time they deserve and allow the cast to settle into their roles not on the sidelines, but rather as part of the team. Rose comes into her own, thus able to bring Abe and Midge on a different path for a short time in the season and allow Hinkle to explore the character more deeply. The fourth and fifth episodes, the best of the series so far, are set in the Catskills and are the most explosively funny moments the show has offered so far, placing these characters in a different style than we are used to and allowing them to let loose.
The cast is stellar. Brosnahan is just as perfect as Midge as she was in the first season, this time with an air of certainty behind her which really gives Midge a glow. Her performance is hysterical and so specific, dialing into her persona to effectively highlight every facet of what makes her tick. There are moments of pain and panic where Brosnahan is able to go from excitable to emotional, and she plays it all with such expertise and grace, it’s hard to imagine a tougher act to follow come awards time.
Borstein is genius as Susie, a big role with big lines that Borstein delivers without skipping a beat. Her chemistry with Brosnahan leads to some great back and forth, and she gets some story of her own where Susie has more room to breathe and be a funny character on her own. Borstein is a great comedy actress and shines as brightly in this show as its main lead. It would be impossible not to mention Shalhoub as Abe, Midge’s father. Not only does he get the best lines, he almost steals the whole show. Shalhoub is a joy to watch, game for whatever is next to annoy or flummox Abe and his particular livelihood. Zegen plays a more present character this season in where Joel’s story goes, given more to work with and excelling in taking on a different side of his character, and Hinkle as Rose, Midge’s mother, is also given more time to shine.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is tough to compete with in the pleasantness department. It’s always fun to watch, never sacrificing itself and always in tune with its characters and the trajectory of their lives. Sherman-Palladino is an ace at creating pleasant television and has outdone herself with Maisel, especially in its second season. It’s chock full of little moments and details on the fringes of the story at play, those alone exciting and fulfilling. But it’s the center, the monstrous talent and heartfelt story, where the show truly dazzles. The second season is masterful and demands your attention.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns to Amazon’s Prime Video on Wednesday, December 5th. Five of the ten episodes were provided by Amazon for review.
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