The second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” ended last year with a bang. The star of the show, Miriam “Midge” Maisel looks at her ex-husband and confidently tells him she wants to be with him—but just for one night.
The third season, which dropped in full on Amazon Prime on Friday, picks up the morning after with Midge giving her ex, Joel, a peck on the cheek as she says goodbye. She’s got no time to stay for coffee. Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge, the perky and peppy protagonist, an empowered Jewish woman ready to catapult her comedy career to the next level, which this season means performing opening acts for the talented singer Shy Baldwin. But does she have feelings for her unfaithful ex-husband? What about Benjamin, the tall handsome doctor she was engaged to and who seemed like a perfect partner? There’s also the charming and daring Lenny Bruce, who takes a liking to her.
In the first two seasons of the show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino proved her genius, combining idiosyncratic Jewish characters with strong desires, strengths and flaws, all while evoking a great feeling of nostalgia for the world of the late 1950s New York. Produced by Amazon Studios, the show has won 16 Emmy Awards since the first season was released in 2017. Now there’s more than enough room to take risks with the characters and plot — which the creators do, but only to an extent. The costumes, set cinematography and musical score, however, are impeccable.
The insertion of race is a welcome one in the form of Baldwin, played with great grace by Leroy McClain. Some original songs like “One Less Angel,” sung by Baldwin, work well with classic standards and will get you snapping and tapping.
The acting is once again stellar and there are still good laughs, but there isn’t enough tension. Emmy award-winning Brosnahan is very strong in the title role as the woman who wants to prove herself. But is seems like Midge is just coasting with few signs of apparent vulnerability. When Benjamin finally appears to confront Midge, for example, it appears that we’ll get the conflict we’ve been missing, but the scene ends just when it starts to sizzle and before any real confrontation takes place. Actor Zachary Levi packs a punch as Benjamin, but he’s barely in it for a round.
Characters move on, but not necessarily forward. Joel, for example, played by Michael Zegen, decides to open a nightclub and date a woman for no apparent reason other than that his father tells him about the space.
Midge’s father, Abe Weissman, played by the magnificent Tony Shaloub who won an Emmy for the role, is still deep in the throes of a mid-life crisis after losing his teaching position at Columbia University. He takes a stroll and finds himself at the university where he apologizes to his former students for causing them tsuris.
Alex Borstein plays Susie Myerson, Midge’s tireless manager, and won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress two seasons in a row. She should definitely win again. She drives the show as the talent agent trying to make sure that Midge doesn’t mess things up. While this season gives Susie a share of the spotlight, showing her make a consequential mistake, we don’t get to see the ramifications of that decision or enough of the pain. It would also be great to see a love interest for the character, but, alas, we don’t.
Myerson’s delivery is a sight to behold and she and Brosnahan have great chemistry, especially in a pool scene where one is teaching the other to swim. The joke about Susie being a man, however, is tiresome and needs to go.
One great touch is the addition of Jason Alexander, showing a little bit of George Costanza and a lot of communist as one of Abe’s friends. A scene where the two argue is perfect. Kevin Pollack is on point as Moishe Maisel, Joel’s father, who for some reason doesn’t like to wear his pants on Thursdays but is sincere and sorry that his son ruined a marriage with a good woman.
A subplot with a play called “Miss Julie” starring Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) is not a good use of time. I would rather have seen other characters like Levi, Zegen, Lenny Palmieri (who plays Bruce) get more screen time with Brosnahan.
A slew of funny jokes at a bris helps to redeem any insufficiencies in one scene, as well as a great scene at The Fountainbleau hotel in Miami Beach. There, Susie can’t take the heat in the Sunshine State and opines: “Why do Jews do this to themselves? Why do they find terrible places and go live there? ‘Here’s a piece of the dessert surrounded by people who hate us. Where do I sign?’”
There will almost certainly be more seasons of the show, and deservedly so. It does many things historically well and introduces us to wonderful characters. It’s still must-see television, but it could use a greater sense of urgency.
Related: We spoke to some “Mrs. Maisel” cast members ahead of the new season’s release. Read the interview here.