As the period comedy returns for a second season on Amazon Prime, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel brings the funny with a superb performance from Rachel Brosnahan.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) isn’t afraid of telling it like it is. This is never more true than in the season’s second episode. While there men have made the argument that women aren’t funny, Midge turns this idea on its head. In telling the bunt truth–even in a comedic fashion–Midge almost loses spot at at a New York club. There’s another moment in which Midge gets kicked off of stage because of talking about pregnancy. This may not be a taboo subject for comedy in 2018 but back in the late 1950s, it was certainly taboo. When she’s on stage, Rachel Brosnahan is in peak form. Executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino are not afraid of taking on such daring subjects.
The second season starts with Rose Weissman (Marin Hinkle) having up and moved to Paris. Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) and Midge travel to Paris with hopes of persuading her to move back home. After some persuasion, things soon get back to normal. Or as normal as things can get for this period comedy. The highlight of this episode is Midge performing at a French club while another woman translates her material for the audience.
As summertime arrives, we find ourselves vacationing at the Summer Mountain Resort in the traditional Jewish summer vacation home that is the Catskills. It was only a matter of time before we started to explore the Jewish summer vacation home outside of Manhattan. If there’s an opportunity for a laugh, the script will find it. Maybe it’s because of the looming divorce between Midge and Joel Maisel (Michael Zegen) but there’s still some unresolved tension in the air. In the meantime, Joel is now working for his father, Moishe Maisel (Kevin Pollak), at the Maisel and Roth garment company. While at the Catskills, Midge encounters a doctor, Benjamin Ettenberg (Zachary Levi). Is there love in the air? Quite possibly.
Abe’s life starts to crack in front of his eyes. It’s not so much in a bad way but there are people in his life that he thought he knew. It just so happens that secrets are being kept from him. Things get tense as the situation unfolds and I’m here for it!
Speaking of the Maisels, one of the most controversial characters this season appears to be the Noah Weissman’s (Will Brill) wife, Astrid (Justine Lupe). It’s not until the second half of the season when we start to learn this information. Astrid is a convert to the Jewish religion. I have nothing against converts in any way. They’re alright in my book but how the show chooses to portray her is problematic on every level. She is written in a way in which she feels insecure with regards to not being born into the faith. I’ve met many converts and people in the process of converting. None of them show any signs of feeling insecure about being a convert. If they are, they aren’t very open about it.
And yet it’s during an episode that takes place on Tisha B’Av in the Catskills in which Astrid is the only member of either family that chooses to fast. If you’re unfamiliar, Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. It’s the day when we remember the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Other atrocities befell the Jewish people on this day. In any event, it’s Astrid who takes a stand by chewing out the family. One could make the argument here that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel decides to play into the stereotype of converts becoming more religious than those who are born Jewish. During Yom Kippur services, she’s the loudest person in prayer outside of the chazzan.
Speaking of Yom Kippur, the break-fast dinner may be the funniest post-fast diners that I’ve ever played witness to in real life or on television. When you’re working on an empty stomach, it’s very easy to get intense while one person is standing in the way between you and food. You never want to be the person who comes between a hungry Jew and their food right after a 25 hour fast!
The acting performances are great–don’t get me wrong–but there’s a lot to be said about the fact that so many non-Jewish actors are portraying Jewish characters. The most problematic character by far is Astrid and it’s mostly due to how she’s portrayed. I hear the “acting is acting” defense being used so many times but having a Jewish actor in a Jewish role helps bring so much more to their characters in terms of authenticity.
As the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel comes to an end, we can’t help but dread the long wait for the third season. The waiting is always the hardest part with shows that are as clever as this. The Palladinos have written The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in a way that not only makes for fun laughs but a quick devouring in viewing.
CREATOR: Amy Sherman-Palladino
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Amy Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino
CAST: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub, Kevin Pollak