A poignant tribute, a new setting and a familiar face all add up to an excellent 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.'
- - A lovely tribute to Brian Tarantina
- - Alex Borstein's performance cuts to the core of this loss
- - Midge and Lenny's chemistry is unmatched
- - Costume designer Donna Zakowska embraces the new Wolford character attire
- - The extremely childlike behavior of Susie in the tea room is a step too far
This post contains spoilers for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 episode 3, "Everything is Bellmore”
Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) is ironing out the kinks of her new emcee gig at the burlesque joint she visited at the end of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 episode 2. While the Wolford isn’t exactly the kind of venue Midge had become accustomed to touring with Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain), it does allow her to be authentically herself — even if the patrons have a habit of yelling “Take it off” when she walks on stage.
Whereas the first two installments were a reset to reacclimatize the audience to Midge’s world, "Everything is Bellmore" finally feels like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is firing on all cylinders rather than purposefully nodding to the past.
The Wolford’s mix of unrefined acts and wise-cracking stage manager Boise (Santino Fontana) ensures The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's version of a mid-century New York strip club is in line with the heightened tone of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s series. Colorful costumes are another vital Maisel ingredient, and Emmy-winning designer Donna Zakowska rises to the Wolford burlesque costume challenge with aplomb. Feathered wings, tear-away ruffled French knickers and tassels are all deployed.
Safety issues at the Wolford are numerous for the women running around backstage and the club's organization leaves a lot to be desired. Midge begs for a written running order, but no doubt the stand-up comic will work her magic. There will be a level of condescension that may grate Midge, however, the surprise arrival of a familiar face points to a few self-confidence issues buried beneath her chipper veneer.
“I thought I recognized that unique combination of lilt and intensity,” says Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) as he steps out from an unseen spot. Lenny has a habit of showing up to offer nuggets of career wisdom when Midge could do with a boost, and this appearance is no different. He never explains why he is hanging out backstage, and this only adds to his mysterious charm.
The last time we saw the pair together was in Miami when Midge did not enter Lenny’s motel room after an incredibly flirtatious evening of dancing, talking and intense staring. Suffice to say the chemistry between Kirby and Brosnahan is so palpable it's impossible to not consider them crossing that romantic line. It might not be where Sherman-Palladino wants the pair to end up but Midge’s bemused yet dreamy gaze in Lenny’s direction speaks volumes.
On this occasion, Midge doesn’t want Lenny to watch her perform because she is “still honing and experimenting,” and his opinion matters to her. Lenny tells a story from his high school years that taught him about ignoring distractions. The delightful back-and-forth continues and of course, Lenny isn’t letting her off the hook that easily. Not only is going to sit exactly where she can see him, he is also going to bring his teenage anecdote to life by throwing (light) objects at her. The episode title, “Everything is Bellmore,” is Lenny’s advice, referring to his his high school. (Don't worry Lenny/Midge fans this will not be the last we see of the famous comic this season).
Whereas Midge is finding her feet, Susie (Alex Borstein) has been set adrift by the news her roommate has passed away. Brian Tarantina, who played Jackie, died in 2019, and this storyline addresses his passing while paying tribute to the actor. Susie consistently butted heads with Jackie, but his sudden death hits her square in the chest. Not wanting to to stay in the apartment where Jackie died, Susie takes refuge at Midge’s where she is uncharacteristically quiet at the dinner table when a chaotic conversation ensues around her.
Later she is furious when she realizes Jackie had a whole life she didn’t know about. This spills out at his funeral service that no one attends (other than Midge, the priest and Jackie’s sister) and Susie gives her emotional eulogy to an audience who are mourning a different loss — interrupting another memorial service is rude but I will excuse the grief-stricken Susie.
Borstein is excellent throughout, even if some of the material grates (such as Susie behaving like a child while Rose goes about her matchmaking business). It is a fitting tribute to Sherman-Palladino regular Tarantina (he also appeared in Gilmore Girls) and the final shot of the episode in the Gaslight is a poignant farewell.
Maisel's musical-like sensibility — replacing characters spontaneously breaking into song with Sherman-Palladino's signature snappy dialogue — continues when the Maisel/Weissman clan head to Broadway as Abe (Tony Shaloub) is tasked with reviewing a new musical for the Village Voice and brings the family along (and Susie).
“They Came, They Danced” is written by Buzz Goldberg (Brandon Uranowitz) and this musical has its roots firmly in the Catskills Steiner Resort that featured in season 3. It doesn’t matter what pleasantries Abe makes to Buzz, it is clear from the jump that he is going to eviscerate the material in his column, which makes him the villain to the Steiner faithful.
Whereas the Wonder Wheel back-and-forth in the premiere tipped into insufferable, a debate over art vs criticism at the synagogue is far more successful — though at no point does anyone think it is a conflict of interest that Abe was assigned this play to review.
The moment Joel (Michael Zegen) pipes up to agree with Abe’s assessment is solid comic timing and the presence of Midge’s ex-husband in the argument is organic rather than forced. Joel and Midge also share a nice unspoken glance early on in the episode when he enters his former abode for the first time since she moved back, which points to the platonic bond that now exists between them.
While Midge is settling into her home and work, Abe is ruffling more feathers than just the Steiner Resort faithful. His review touched on a personal anecdote about the time in his youth when he set fire to a federal building with old pal Asher (Jason Alexander), which someone at the FBI read and now wants to investigate.
Abe has stumbled, but The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is finding its groove.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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