What to Watch Verdict
Uncertainty has dogged this season, but Midge makes some bold moves in her personal and professional life that help stick the landing.
The will-they-won't-they choice
Give Luke Kirby the Emmy now
Everything at Carnegie Hall
The Moishe/Abe moment
Unresolved tension between Susie and Midge
The Wolford will be missed if this is the last time Midge performs here
It has been a bumpy season on the whole and the release schedule has not helped the flow
Note: this post contains spoilers for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 episode 8, "How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?"
In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 premiere, Midge decided she would no longer take any job that placed her as the opening act. She has stuck to that plan (the Sophie Lennon incident being a lone exception) throughout the eight-episode run, even turning down a "dream gig" at the Copacabana as Tony Bennett opener on a five-night sold-out run. Her tenacity has got her this far, however, there comes a point when stubbornness and fear are interchangeable. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4 finale reveals a big flaw in Midge’s plan.
"How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?" underscores the limitations of taking jobs that let Midge be authentically her when the Wolford is raided by the cops. Considering how much the audience and production values have grown since Midge came on board — shout out to the stunning choreography in the sexy Rear Window-inspired performance — it is hardly surprising the police have finally come knocking.
The timing is impeccable as Midge has just given one of the most vulnerable performances of her career in reaction to her ex-father-in-law (Kevin Pollak) lying unconscious in hospital after having a heart attack. It takes the audience on an emotional journey (with some laughs) as Midge discusses the men in her life falling apart while the women stand strong. She is told there is a "Stage-door Johnny" waiting for her and an apologetic Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) stands before her.
Midge doesn’t let him off easy as their last meeting when Lenny reacted negatively to Midge's gesture of scooping his drunk body off the sidewalk. A line was crossed into vulnerability and perhaps this step was required for what occurs in the finale.
The pair don't succumb to the flirtatious Miami mood back in season 3, but the police coupled with the snowstorm that has hit New York provides the perfect romantic scenario. Carnegie Hall has put Lenny up in a swanky hotel, which she takes Midge to. The severity of the raid means Midge cannot find as much as a coat to grab and doesn’t have anything to change into. She can only perch on the arm of a chair because of her restrictive show corset. The mere mention of her undergarments sets the already heated room ablaze and another relationship line is approached.
The Midge and Lenny will-they-won’t-they has been simmering since season 1 and the real-person element of this duo has made it less likely that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino would venture into these waters.
"I did not plan this," Lenny says about the hotel room scenario. The same can be said for Lenny’s original role on the series, but there is no denying chemistry and thankfully this set-up is not a tease. Midge makes it clear that she wants Lenny to "never ever forget that I am very, very funny," and this sequence lives up to the crackling anticipation.
In the aftermath, some stark truths are discovered, namely the drugs in Lenny’s bathroom. While this is a heightened version of the comic, there is no painting over the reality of what will happen to him. Luke Kirby won an Emmy for his performance in the season 2 finale and this episode should cement another Emmy nod. Not only does it showcase his ability to capture the essence of Bruce on stage during the Carnegie Hall routine, but he also deftly hits every vulnerable, charming and angry note while talking to Midge.
The latter conversation occurs after the Carnegie Hall show, when Lenny confronts Midge about turning down the Tony Bennett gig. He is furious her rigid plan is undermining her talent and holding her back. He also spills some hard truths about his career ambitions, the darkness within and the hard graft that has got him to this position.
"That should be the goal," he says about making people laugh on a stage this size. The back and forth is a solid indicator that their hooking up is not a narrative mistake. "If you blow this Midge, I swear… you will break my f***ing heart" is Lenny’s parting words. It isn’t a conventional pep talk but it has the desired effect.
When Midge heads out into the blizzard she sees a sign that tells her to "Go Forward," but this marquee is really the Gordon Ford (Reid Scott) late-night banner. It is a hopeful note to leave the season on, as the seemingly aimless journey makes more sense when viewed as a whole.
The double-bill release schedule Mrs. Maisel deployed this season is a first for the show and it has definitely impacted the momentum. Midge’s trajectory has been unclear and season 4 is probably more successful as a binge. A great finale doesn’t make up for the bumpiness of everything that came before, but it's worth noting that the Wolford has been a wonderful setting and I will be sad if we don’t see a glimpse of these incredible performers in season 5.
One unresolved factor is Midge’s strained relationship with Susie. The pair argue about the role the mob is now playing in Susie’s business, which is a legitimate concern and one that casts a shadow to come.
Joel (Michael Zegen) and Mei’s (Stephanie Hsu) next steps are also unclear, though she didn’t seem particularly thrilled when Midge broached the idea of marriage. Maybe she was also uncomfortable about having this conversation with Joel’s ex? While the marriage question lingers, Mei is a tower of support during Moishe’s hospital stay.
Thankfully the Maisel patriarch doesn’t require the obituary Abe (Tony Shalhoub) writes for him. The relationship between these two men has always been combative, but in this moment of crisis, Abe lets his true feelings be known. The moment when Moishe mouths his gratitude to a teary Abe hit me square in the chest. It's another case of this finale hitting the right notes after an up and down season.
With one more season to go will Mrs. Maisel become a household name?
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.