The visual world of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is intoxicating. Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) and her mother Rose’s (Marin Hinkle) chic ‘50s fashion sense makes you want to rush out to B. Altman and stock up on hoop skirts. The peeling walls of Greenwich Village dive bar and Midge’s comedic HQ, The Gaslight, transport you to a subterranean lair where beat poets lounge and weird folk bands are given a safe space. It even manages to make the New York subway seem like a pleasant place to be.
Unfortunately, little else in the first half of season three feels as complete and powerful as the show’s aesthetics. As Midge and her manager Susie (Alex Borstein) join R&B singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) on the road for her rising comedy star’s first tour, jokes become stale, storylines dither, and characters feel shortchanged.
Thankfully, Midge is still as funny as she was in the first two seasons and, after being blackballed by rival Sophie Lennon (Jane Lynch) in season two, it’s heartwarming to see her finally getting the success she deserves. She sparkles on stage in Vegas, LA, and Miami, winning over Shy’s audiences with the same ease and charm that she wins over everyone off the stage.
On the road, Midge meets several new faces and some old ones too. In Carole (Liza Weil), a member of Shy’s band, she finds a kindred spirit – another unstoppable woman who refuses to capitulate to what men or society expect from her. In her old comedy friend Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), who pops up in a prison cell with her father Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and later in Miami, she finds someone to indulge in her sharp-witted back-and-forths and a source of fizzing sexual chemistry.
Despite the main storyline focusing on the tour and Midge’s growing fame, this season takes us back to New York regularly. Scenes are split between her husband Joel (Michael Zegen), who is renovating a club (and the illegal mahjong den beneath it) that he’s bought in Chinatown, and both her parents and parents-in-law. With the amount of screen time Joel is given, you’d expect his storyline to be something more interesting, but seeing him bang nails into a stage floor and woo a new love interest make for some of the most boring moments in the season.
The narrative around Midge’s parents is more bizarre than boring. With Abe having packed in his job at Columbia, they’re now facing financial struggles, which lead to Rose taking a trip back to her family in Oklahoma and Abe, somehow, joining the Communist revolution. Joel’s parents (Kevin Pollak and Caroline Aaron), meanwhile, are having a reverse moment of fortune and move into a big house in Queens, where they immediately annoy the neighbours with their loud and brash ways.
Susie, meanwhile, darts between tour life and New York, frequently summoned back to the city by a surprise new client. No matter where she is or who she’s with, though, the manager is subjected to the same nonsense – namely, everyone mistaking her for a man. By now, it’s an extremely tired joke that’s used so liberally it’s as if the show’s writers think it’ll get funnier every time it clunks into the script. Instead, it just makes it all the more obvious that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s ideas are finite and we might quickly be coming to the end of them.
‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video