What to Watch Verdict
'The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel' takes a step back when it leans into old habits.
The Wolford continues to deliver
How Midge uses personal experience in her stand-up material
Jason Alexander's return as a guest star
Abe is insufferable this week.
The Susie storyline should be explored further and not dismissed
Some of the snappy dialogue misses the mark
This post contains spoilers for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 episode 4, "Interesting People on Christopher Street."
Midge’s (Rachel Brosnahan) love life has gone through its fair share of ups and downs, beginning with her finding out her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) was cheating on her in the pilot. This is the catalyst that led Midge to comedy and has also informed the observations she makes in her material. The date she goes on in this episode quickly becomes a source of new material to be workshopped into her act.
Things start off with Midge describe to Wolford’s mostly male audience how wise their wives are to their antics. She also gives some helpful pointers to the female employees of the club who hang on her every word. Now that her mic is almost working on stage she is being heard loud and clear — which is a double edge sword for club manager Boise (Santino Fontana).
After the performance, the handsome doctor Midge is on a date with won’t let her forget that he lived in Spain for a year because every other sentence he utters is in Spanish. Susie (Alex Borstein) comes to Midge's rescue, as she provides the exit needed and they return to the Wolford for its movie night.
Easter Parade plays in the background with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire singing “A Couple of Swells” when Midge asks Susie about when her last relationship was as she hasn’t dated in the entire time they have known each other. “My life is you. That’s it. Thinking about you, talking about you, waiting for you, rescuing you from bulls*** dates. I don’t have any time for anything else,” Susie defensively replies.
The following day, Midge heads down to Christopher Street in the Village to seek out the kind of drinking establishment that Susie might find love in. This neighborhood is the heart of the LGBTQ+ nightlife scene (the Stonewall Inn is situated here) and Midge’s sexuality speculation matches real-life discussions about Susie. Borstein has discussed this in the past saying, “I like that she’s never had the luxury of having a relationship or even exploring it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s never even had her first kiss.”
The reason I bring this up is that this storyline — and particularly Susie’s reaction — feels like a direct reference to the ongoing conversation about how the writers refuse to confirm this character’s sexuality. Midge goes about it in typical enthusiastic fashion, stopping passersby to get lesbian bar information while pleading she is not a cop. After a string of rejections, a well-dressed man offers his assistance and provides the location Midge is looking for. Legendary filmmaker John Waters plays the helpful guide and the pair bond over the Dior they are both wearing.
Meanwhile, Susie has not only scored a steal of an apartment from her mobster friends that boasts a view of Times Square, but the space is big enough to serve as her office. She seems unconcerned that she will be paying a percentage of her earnings to organized crime and there is no way this will not come back to bite her.
When Susie meets up with Midge, she is so giddy about this big real estate opportunity that she initially doesn’t notice what kind of bar they have entered. “Why would you do this?” is Susie’s reaction when she clocks the clientele, far from thrilled. Midge explains she didn’t have a plan other than to give her an option and to “check out the scene.” But Susie makes it clear that she is well aware of the scene having lived in the Village for years. Midge doesn’t want Susie to be alone and her matchmaking heart is in the right (if not misguided) place.
Susie’s focus is on her business — she has even agreed to work with Sophie again — and this talk of romantic relationships is galling to her. This pointed reaction to Midge’s gesture could be a less than subtle way of telling the audience who have been asking whether Susie is gay to take a seat or that the subject is now closed. It feels unnecessarily defensive and it would be disappointing if everything about Susie is tied to her work, particularly after they made a big deal about Susie discovering who Jackie was after he died.
Meddling in relationships is a theme of “Interesting People on Christopher Street” — a lyric from the Leonard Bernstein 1953 musical Wonderful Town. Joel is fed up with the dates his mother is forcing onto him and thinks it's time Mei (Stephanie Hsu) met his parents, which will put an end to this futile charade. Mei disagrees because she has experienced enough racism to know how they will react when they meet her. Joel brushes this concern aside and minimizes Mei’s concerns with jokes. It's frustrating and no surprise she bristles later when Midge shows up to work on her act.
The other storyline that tips into The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's bad habits is when Abe’s petty jealousy rears its ugly head. Whereas his pompous attitude was tolerable and even amusing in the episode 3, here it is this character at his most insufferable.
His old college friend Asher (Jason Alexander) comes to town after Abe publicly references the time they committed arson in a federal building. The investigation is a formality, but Abe throws his friend under the bus after he found out that Asher had a relationship with Rose (Marin Hinkle) decades ago. At no moment are we meant to be on Abe’s side, but it also doesn’t add anything to the episode beyond a good turn from guest star Alexander.
After "Everything is Bellmore" took a step forward, this episode is retreading (or even avoiding) character growth. However, the scenes at the Wolford bookending “Interesting People on Christopher Street” show Midge’s impact and highlight the benefits of this new location. It's been an up and down affair thus far in season 4; releasing the episodes in pairs only emphasizes the highs and lows.
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.