“Midge” (Rachel Brosnahan) and Rose (Marin Hinkle).
If you have yet to see the second season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," do it now. That's an order. Just when you thought the show could not possibly get any better, it does. This season has everything. A trip to Paris? Check. Fabulous outfits? Check. The CIA? Check. Columbia professor Abe Weissman dressed in a one-piece, exercising at dawn in the Catskills? Check. If that has not convinced you to watch the show, perhaps nothing can.
For a second time, Golden Globe winner Rachel Brosnahan delivers a brilliant performance as the vibrant comedienne Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a Jewish housewife (or rather, ex-housewife) living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The new season picks up where the first season left off, with Midge honing her act with the help of the down-to-earth manager Susie Myerson, played by the hilarious Alex Borstein. As Midge's career is blossoming, however, she must come to terms with a marriage that has been falling apart ever since her husband, Joel, had an affair with his secretary. To make matters worse, the secret of Midge's new interest in comedy has become more difficult to hide from her parents.
The first episode of the new season begins with a quick-moving, intricate shot filmed in one take. The continuous shot captures the B. Altman department store where Midge works, and then our protagonist herself as a successful switchboard operator. The perfectly choreographed scene, with extras smoothly "dancing" in and out of the frame, reveals director Amy Sherman Palladino's love for elaborate movement (which can be explained by her background in dance). These long shots are a defining characteristic of the show's cinematography, perfectly complementing Midge Maisel's lively personality and fast-paced, spontaneous comedy. Accompanying the scene is Barbra Streisand's “Just Leave Everything To Me,” which aptly references Midge's newfound strength and independence.
Indeed, in addition to excellent cinematography, the soundtrack perfectly sets the tone for the show. Hits by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, among others, allow the viewer to travel back in time to the 1950s. And, if you find that the show has a Wes Anderson vibe, you're not alone. The tracking shots, symmetrical frames, and the colorful world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—combined with a classical piece which you may recognize from Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom—contribute to this aesthetic.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the show, however, is the development of Midge Maisel herself. Although she is portrayed as a vibrant and confident woman, there are nonetheless instances where we see, in sharp contrast, her loneliness. No moment highlights this better than the scene in which she walks along a bridge in Paris, surrounded by embracing couples. The camera isolates Midge among them, revealing her solitude. Indeed, loneliness acts as a prevailing theme in the new season. As a parallel to Midge, comedian Lenny Bruce (a character based off of the real-life person) performs his skit "All Alone." As the title suggests, this isn't the most cheerful performance, as it brings to light the solitude that comes with fame. Thus, although the series is a comedy filled with breathtaking outfits and vivid colors, this season certainly contains darker undertones.
The disenchanting reality hidden behind the clever, misleading lightheartedness of the show extends into the depiction of extreme misogyny and sexism in the fifties. The male comics that Midge meets at clubs devalue her work, but—in what is hands down my favorite scene of the entire season—she makes fun of them on stage, calling them out for their arrogance and disrespect. Despite being repeatedly pushed down and humiliated, Midge nonetheless picks herself up; seeing her throw clever insult upon clever insult at each of the male comics will fill you with pure joy. The strength, panache, elegance, and occasional chutzpah of the truly marvelous Mrs. Maisel—combined with the modern context of a growing feminist movement— make for an incredibly successful show. Ultimately, this is a show about a woman's voice: one of the many voices that are finally being heard.
So, as Midge would say: "Tits up!"
Berman is a Comparative Literature Freshman.
PC: Nicole Rivelli/Amazon.