If you don’t like chicken soup, there’s something wrong with you. It’s comforting, warm and has a healing power. By the same token, if you don’t like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime, you’d better schedule an appointment with your cardiologist. The whole show, after all, is like a comforting bowl of bone broth. After the show’s first season earned a slew of Emmy Awards, there may have been fears of a sophomore slump in the new season.
But, alas, no need to worry.
Season two brings back the hilarious Jewish characters with quirks, idiosyncrasies, and superb chemistry among the actors. There are belly laughs and knee slappers. A woman wears a fur coat in the summer because she might get cold if she takes it off and a father asks a suitor for 25 character references. A woman carries around a plunger to dupe staff and guests of a Catskills hotel into thinking she works there.
But the fuel that drives the fire is Rachel Brosnahan. She is a dynamic dynamo with the surefire skills to present Miriam “Midge” Maisel as a woman boasting beauty and brains. She can knock out a man with her looks or her wit, as she does in one scene where she roasts male comedians who hope for her failure on the comedy circuit.
Last season, she dealt with the trauma of her husband’s affair and the thrilling power and independence of a possible career in comedy. This season shows her effort to prove she isn’t simply a one-hit wonder and can handle any venue and any audience. She doesn’t need any man to succeed.
Or does she? On a trip to the Catskills, Midge meets — wait for it — a nice Jewish doctor! The difference here is that he isn’t head over heels for her. Zachary Levy brings the right amount of arrogance and sensitivity to the role of a man who thinks he deserves the best. One of the best scenes is when he and Brosnahan have their characters engage in a rapid-fire verbal joust on a rowboat.
We first see Midge in Paris, after her mother runs away from their Upper West Side apartment to find herself, giving us a glorious glimpse into 1950s France.
A common theme of the show is that characters want to be heard. The father, Abe Weissman, played with impeccable comedic timing by Tony Shalhoub, loves the fact that his Ivy League students hang on to his every word. (Be forewarned that in one episode, he works out in an outfit that you have never seen and will likely never see again.) Midge’s mother, Rose Weissman ( played by Marin Hinkle) wants her husband to be more caring and she wants her daughter to find a better husband than the first one.
That husband, Joel, played by Michael Zegen, wants to redeem himself for stepping out and needs people to hear that he is not a bad guy. The problem is that he’s not sure how exactly he can do that. He hopes that getting his family’s company in order may help to a certain extent. Zegen gets time to shine here and he showcases a boyish charm but also a man’s mettle when his character punches a club owner, coming to his wife’s defense. Midge wants be heard on stage and this vehicle is empowering. The one trying to get her gigs, despite blowback from the powerful powers that be, is agent Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein). Bornstein won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for her work in season one, and it’s safe to say she is even better this season, stealing scenes and dropping bombs when she illuminates Midge about some of the harsh realities of life.
Amy Sherman-Palladino and the other writers are able to put the actors in the right place at the right time. The only flaw is that a little too much time is spent on the character of Sophie Lennon, a comedian who feuds with Midge. Though Jayne Lynch is bombastic on stage and ruthless in her calm threats, her character is less interesting than the other ones. Also, the idea of Joel’s parents hiding cash around the house and at the clothing shop is funny at first but becomes tiresome.
Besides great costuming, a dose of nostalgia and well-worked dialogue, the show makes you feel for the two main characters. You can’t help but root for Midge when she kills on stage, and when Joel hits baseballs into the night and looks lost, you can’t help but hope he finds himself. A surprising flashback that shows how Joel first proposes is a bit magical, but it makes his later actions seem all the more stupid. The last scene of the finale is a well-constructed tease for a third season — it’s already reportedly been renewed for a third — and gratefully so, because we’re already looking forward to that!