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Josh Reviews The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Three!

In the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge is on tour, opening up for the popular singer Shy Baldwin.  Susie remains at her side, while also working to keep her second major client happy: famous female comedian Sophie Lennon.  Sophie wants Susie to turn her dream of starring on broadway into a reality.  Midge’s parents, meanwhile, are starting to feel the financial crunch with Abe’s having lost both of his jobs, while Joel Maisel pursues his new dream of opening a nightclub.

I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed this third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!  I felt the first season was a very satisfying complete story.  While of course I understand the realities of television, I wasn’t sure any further seasons were necessary.  I enjoyed season two, while also feeling at times that the main story of Midge’s leap into independence and the world of stand-up comedy had already been told.  But season three demonstrated to me that there are still many more stories to be told with these characters.

The show looks amazing.  The production values are top-notch, and I love how the show so effectively recreates a bygone era.  I was delighted by season two’s recreation of the Catskills resorts that were so central to the lives of Jewish families of a certain financial class for so many years.  Here in season three, it was a pleasure to see nineteen sixties Las Vegas brought to such vivid life.  The show’s sparkly clean, peppy vision of the sixties is, in many ways, a fairy tale version of history… but wha a fairy tale!  I am continually impressed by the scale of the series, from the full-blown USO show from the premiere through to the Vegas hotels in which we see Shy & co. perform.

Rachel Brosnahan continues to impress as Midge Maisel.  Ms. Brosnahan has great comedic timing, and she effortlessly sells the series’ distinct (fast) pacing and rat-a-tat-tat rhythm.  There were times in the first two seasons in which I found Midge’s self-absorption to be tiresome, but for the most part here in season three I quite enjoyed watching her journey.  It’s fun to see her able to perform comedy successfully at a high level.  I was annoyed, though, to see the season-ending climax hing upon Midge’s putting her foot in her mouth in a disappointingly foolish way.  I didn’t buy that Midge, at this stage in her career, would be so clueless.

Alex Borstein has long been the series’ comedic secret weapon as manager Susie Myerson, and she got lots more gold material to play here in season three.  I loved seeing how good she was at her job, as she succeeded in the near impossible task of mounting a broadway production for Sophie Lennon to star in.  And it was hilarious to see the usually unflappable Susie scared of the Vegas hotel’s (mob-connected) food and beverage manager.

We met Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) at the end of season two; I really enjoyed getting to know Shy and his bandmates and entourage here in season three.  It was fascinating to get a peek at life on the road for these entertainers.  I spent the whole season waiting to see examples of racism against Shy, but other than one mention about how Shy couldn’t stay at the same hotels where Midge stayed, the series never went there.  That was an interesting choice.  Instead, when the show depicted troubles for Shy, it had to do with his closeted homosexuality.  I can undestand their not wanting to go down a predictable route; but by not ever depicting any aspect of what was surely a part of the life of any African-American performer in the sixties, it adds to the feeling that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is giving us a simplified, fairy-tale version of history.  This is clearly an intentional choice.

I loved the new character of Shy’s tough manager Reggie, played by the great Sterling K. Brown (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story).  I loved how fiercely Reggie protects (perhaps over-protects) Shy.  I loved how he always called Susie “Susie Myerson and Associates.”  Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) was a welcome addition to the ensemble as Gavin Hawk, the big star Susie recruited to appear with Sophie in her play.  It was a delight to see Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander as Abe’s old friend, the playwright Asher Friedman.  The monologue on the beach, in which it’s gradually revealed that Asher’s life was ruined by the blacklist, was a high-point of the season for me.  It was a magnificently-written speech, beautifully delivered by Mr. Alexander.  (I would love to see more of this character in the future!)  Liza Weil was strong as Carole, a female musician in Shy’s band with whom Midge becomes friends.  Carole gives to Midge a vision of what a life spent on the road might be like.  I also enjoyed Stephanie Hsu as Mei Lin, Joel’s enigmatic new girlfriend.  She was very funny as Joel’s Chinatown genie, but if we see her again in season four, I hope they develop her more deeply as an actual character.

I have mixed feelings about where they’ve taken Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) here in season three.  Mr. Zegen is terrific, but Joel’s new obsession with opening a nightclub in a Chinese neighborhood seemed somewhat out of left field to me.  Joel acted like an asshole in season one, but they spent season two rehabilitating him and developing sympathy for him.  For the most part, Joel continued to act like a good guy for most of season three, fully supporting Midge’s leaving on tour and carrying the burden of looking after their kids.  But after their great night together in Vegas, he acted like an asshole again.  I guess the writers want the audience to understand that these two characters aren’t supposed to wind up together.  Which is weird because, for the most part (and once Joel got over his jealousy that Midge succeeded as a comic, while he failed), they seem made for one another!  Also, Joel and Midge’s getting drunkenly married in Vegas was silly; they already did that story with Ross and Rachel on Friends.

Midge’s parents living with Joel’s parents was as funny and painful as I’d have hoped. All of those sequences were great. I love Marin Hinkle and Tony Shaloub as Midge’s parents, and I have enjoyed how the show has given them lives of their own. If anything, I’d love to spend even more time with them.  Rose’s visit to her rich oil family was very sad, an interesting look into that world, and a reminder of how women were often treated, even in the sixties. Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron, meanwhile, continue to be absolutely hilarious as Joel’s impossibly frustrating parents.  (I really loved the surprising scene between Midge and Moishe in the finale, in which Moishe had a lovely human moment, apologizing to Midge for his son Joel’s behavior.)

I was happy to see Luke Kirby back for several episodes as Lenny Bruce. Mr. Kirby is magnificent as Lenny.  I enjoy his friendship with Midge.  (I was glad that she stopped things from shifting into a romance after their night together in Vegas.). This season allowed us to start to see things starting to go badly for Lenny; his real-life tragic fate hangs like a cloud for me over all of his appearances on the show.  I was also glad to see Zachary Levi back for a few short appearances as Midge’s ex-fiance Benjamin.  I was surprised to see his character abruptly dropped at the end of season two, so I was glad to see those loose ends addressed here at the end of season three.

I’m a little surprised how much I am continuing to enjoy this show!  Amy and Dan Sherman-Palladino have created something special.  At only eight episodes in length, the season never overstayed its welcome.  I await season four.

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