Caloo, callay, hurrah, hooray! After what seemed like a wait as excruciating as a Central line commute during this summer’s heatwave, Mrs Maisel returns to us. Like a refreshing blast of blissful air conditioning and a Solero, the divine comedy from Amazon Studios bursts back onto our screens with all the fizz and pop of an Aperol Spritz. It may be cold outside, but The Marvelous Mrs Maisel will put a spring right back into your step.
Following on from Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) triumphant gig closing out Season 1, Season 2 opens with our cast flung across boroughs, parents’ bedrooms and even continents, with the immediate fallout behind them and the dust settling on the strange new world where some of the cast – namely Midge’s failed comic husband, Joel (Michael Zegen) – know of her talents.
As the budget inevitably got bigger after all those awards, so did the opportunity to take Midge, her family and her fabulous pastel wardrobe to a wider public. And having spent time establishing Midge’s worldview in the previous season, this new run expands and broadens its horizons in ways both psychological and geographical for all concerned.
Glamorous locations such as Paris add to the dramatic potential (because if Midge’s fantastic pastel wardrobe was going to look even better anywhere, it was the land of Ladurée), and fantastically paced set pieces give the whip-smart scripts and the flair of the direction yet another chance to shine. But under the lightness of the action, a more serious tone lurks.
Midge’s quiet revolution in Season 1 was captivating enough, but the complexities that come with combining her public life with her secret one, and the inevitable fireworks when her rising star goes stratospheric and her name becomes known, add a more interesting slant to the series.
This slant, of course, lets the formidable Rachel Brosnahan shine even brighter in a role she was born to play. Her comic routines are made effortless by her effervescent energy, but her tender emotional moments (notably a long-distance phone-call with estranged husband Joel) deliver their own kind of one-two-punch.
Brosnahan’s accepted brilliance aside, the real strength of the new season is that the spotlight on her has become a floodlight on all the characters around her, all of whom benefit from additional nuance being added to their roles. This is most notable with Joel – though, naturally, still in many viewers’ doghouses for letting our girl waltz alone and still slightly off tempo as a character – who refocuses after his quarter-life crisis to save his parents’ business, and also with Rose (Marin Hinkle), Midge’s mother, whose arc adds a phenomenal new energy to a show with female identity at its centre that elevates the entire ensemble.
Once again, our more traditional leads are complemented by the show’s original quiet rebel, Susie (Alex Borstein), gliding perplexedly through Midge’s world, in quiet contrast to the whirling-dervish way Midge crashed onto the comedy scene in the first season, and continuing to claw her way to the top in the brutal world of showbusiness. But Susie’s presence – though fun, familiar and essential – provides a backdrop to the more interesting narrative happening at the heart of this season.
If the first was about women’s creativity flourishing in secret, the second sees both Midge and Rose flaunt theirs openly to the confusion and crises of their husbands, estranged or otherwise. Just as Midge’s comic wit goes in for the kill on the traditional masculinity of the comedy scene – and, as we saw at the end of the last season, so stung Joel by its very existence – so Rose’s own temperaments have some tough questions for Abe (Tony Shalhoub) about his own noble pursuit of glory and his sense of self-definition.
Bringing her to the fore for this new season is one of the writers’ smartest decisions, and long may it continue, as the swinging 60s approaches and the roles of women across the generations enter a new flux. With that flux comes a crisis of identity, as Midge struggles to reconcile her thirst for material with her suitability to continue to play her society role, and she and Susie look to turn their motley arrangement into a legitimate business, with all the politics attached.
The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel Season 1 and 2 is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.