rachel brosnahan, alex borstein

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Returns for a Smashing Season Two

Rachel Brosnahan shines in the swoonworthy and self-assured second season.

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Miriam “Midge” Maisel, like the show she inhabits, is wickedly smart, self-assured, and capable of commanding the room. And both she and the series are back with a second season that capitalizes on everything that made the first season such a delightful success. Expectations were no doubt high for season two, after the first season saw its stars racking up awards, including Emmy and Golden Globe wins for Brosnahan’s performance and for the series itself.

But forget any worries over a sophomore slump: Mrs. Maisel returns with confident ease and plenty of ambition. The series picks up right where the first season left off, as Midge is forced to deal with the fallout of her estranged husband Joel (Michael Zegen) discovering her secret life in stand-up comedy. Joel, realizing that he can’t handle being with a women who is funnier than he is, stops pursuing a reconciliation with Midge, and the season sees them struggling to adapt to their new roles as co-parents.

In addition, the Maisels must contend with their new, separated status and the judgment and ostracization that comes with being a divorced woman in the 1950’s. It’s easy to dislike Joel for all he’s done to Midge, but Zegen infuses the character with plenty of remorse and understanding. Both Midge and Joel love each other deeply, and that intimacy is still there despite them going their separate ways. Joel also becomes an unwitting ally in Midge’s stand-up career, as she struggles to keep it hidden from friends and family.

Season two is a liberating one for Midge, as she fully commits to pursuing a stand-up comedy career with the help of her trusted manager Susie (Alex Bornstein, fresh off her best supporting actress Emmy win), who is still trying to do damage control after Midge’s disastrous set mocking Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch). In a show filled with terrific one-liners, Borstein continues to shine in a career-best performance. We follow Midge’s slow but steady rise in comedy, where she must contend with sexism and gross male comics.

Mrs. Maisel expands its world outside of 1950’s New York City with a trip to Paris to bring home Midge’s mother Rose (Marin Hinkle) who has run off to be an artist. So much of the show is about the restrictive boxes placed around women at the time, and its thrilling to see the conservative Rose crave more to her life than just being a dutiful wife and mother. Tony Shalhoub continues to be excellent as Midge’s neurotic and fastidious father Abe.

We also get a family trip to a Catskills resort (very Dirty Dancing) where Midge sparks a connection with aloof doctor Benjamin (Zachary Levi) as they enjoy a Pride and Prejudice-inspired romance. Levi and Brosnahan have a natural chemistry, and he fits nicely into the stellar ensemble cast.

Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino have created a lush, pastel-colored fantasy version of the 1950’s, with stunning set design and costumes that create an entire world. The show’s high production values exemplify prestige television at its finest, creating beautiful vintage tableaus in every scene. It’s thoughtful production, brilliant writing, and powerhouse performances make The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel an absolute delight to watch, and quite possibly the best show of this decade. If you’re a fan of the first season, you’ll love this one, and if you haven’t watched it yet, honestly, what on earth are you waiting for?

(image: Amazon Studios)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.