We’ve come to the end of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in a journey that’s seen Midge do everything she can to seize her moment. From her earliest arrests with Lenny Bruce to tanking her relationship with Shy Baldwin, the comedian has come a long way in both building her career and burning bridges along the way. Stumbling forward, yet always arising to the occasion, in a will-she or won’t-she storyline that takes audiences on a journey of actualization: that the path to success is rarely ever straightforward.
Much like Madmen before it, this period piece of the 1960s will be talked about for years. As not only is ‘Four Minutes’ a perfect series finale, but it also ties this entire journey together, this female empowerment story, this breaking tradition, and conventions in the hopes of making those dreams a happy reality.
In this case, this season has represented it in the form of Midge’s performance on the Gordon Ford show. An impossibility all throughout the season, yet connected in an opportune moment that only comes right now. In a simple, yet impactful, stand-up routine. We break down the episode’s beats below.
FOUR MINUTES REVIEW
Tugging at the heartstrings immediately, the episode begins with Lenny Bruce doing standup. At a west coast club where he does nothing on stage but complain about arrest records from a grand jury. Untraditionally, Bruce is very much bombing on stage in complete forgetfulness on how to do a comedy bit. Dancing on stage for the audience, Bruce is showcasing his now failed career as a comedian.
What’s fantastic about this is how it plays in such a contrast to the episode set in Carnegie Hall where we’d seen Lenny Bruce perform at his prime. This opening, is also in fact, an homage to Bruce’s penultimate performance at San Francisco’s Basin Street West. It’s all done in a gesture of symbolism that shows the failures of a legend. How Lenny had become un-bookable across the US and having been pushed so far west to try, because of him being canceled by just about every talent and booking agent in the business. He’s offensive. He’s reckless. He’s Lenny Bruce. And despite how funny he was the world knew… he brought trouble.
Susie talks with him after his set but at this point the writing is on the wall. It’s an important mark in the history of the comedian, as despite trying to convince him that she can help, it’s sort of tragically obvious he knows that this is his end. It’s so terrible that even Midge refuses to see him. It’s also how we the audience know that his death would arrive shortly after this performance. The scene giving a forewarning about the dangers of success, and most of all, failure. Letting the audience see what’s a stake regarding Midge Maisel’s career.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Midge’s kids fake an illness to skip school as Abe leaves Rose to handle it to head into his writing job as at Theatre Critic . At that same time, Midge kept getting repeated phone calls, not realizing until she gets to the office that it was Mike Carr who kept calling the house. Mike tells Midge that Gordon Ford has some news and when she meets Gordon in his office, she learns to her excitement, that she’s finally getting what she wanted: an appearance on the show. At Susie’s office, Midge shares the good news with her manager. It’s obvious, that this is only happening due thanks to Hedy’s intervention from last week.
At that moment, Joel is visiting his father’s textile factory where it’s revealed, in a rather hilarious fashion, that apparently he fell in the shower. Though his wife Shirley tried to help him, she also fell, forcing the two to sit down and talk about… well, their lives. They acknowledge that he’s going to retire and sell the factory.
Over a call, Midge tells everyone she knows that she’s going to be on the show tonight as the comic. Joel tells her that it’s okay to talk about him and by now, it’s obvious she likes him there. That the two of them, while still divorced, seem to really love each other.
To prepare for the show, Midge keeps trying to change dresses. First, because she’s in a work attire, but then, because of the pigeon poop she caught on her dress while visiting Susie’s offices. When doing a dress rehearsal moments later, Midge goes over jokes with Susie, as Dinah surprises the girls by present Midge a new dress to wear for tonight.
Meanwhile, Midge is trying to reach Abe to share her news. In a heartwarming, surprising scene, Abe tells her that he thinks this is wonderful. Her father later shares the news to his wife, Rose, who has been ignoring phone calls from just about everyone not realizing the phone was left off the receiver. Finally realizing how big of a moment this is for her daughter, despite initial reluctance her and Abe try to attend though every cab in NYC seems to be taken. All for what’s a wonderfully New York external shot that films around the magnificence of the city.
Back at the Gordon Ford show at 30 Rock, it’s learned that astronaut Alan Shepard is on the show tonight along with Carol Burnett, who are two major guests in appearance. At this point we’ve established just how big a deal this is for Midge, but her hopes get suddenly dashed when Gordon Ford reveals that she is only coming on as a special interest piece as a writer.
Surprised by this, Susie starts screaming across the offices at Mike, who’ll try and see what he can do. It’s obvious Gordon changed Midge’s role at the last second out of spite, and at this point behind his behavior here and the possessiveness he had over Midge hearing out another offer for a different show, he’s proven himself to be a very jealous person. In fact, they don’t even say Midge’s name in the guest announcements during the show’s opening.
With the final show underway, we see everyone that we’ve come to love as a character in the series suddenly appear in the audience stands. Still, when she gets her moment, Gordon Ford barely gives Midge a second to speak, in a mean spirited belittling of her character. When she does showcase her witty tongue in conversation, Ford cuts to a commercial, with four minutes of show left. Which has everyone panicked as minutes of airtime meant so much more back in the day, given the larger audience reach compared to today’s times.
The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For…
And this? This is what it all comes down to… four minutes. You see, this is what the show’s been all about all along. That moment you take when given the call, whether approved or not. It’s the shot you take despite all odds working against you.
In the best scene of the series, time comes to slow… where just like that, Midge sees the microphone. Her destiny. Her moment to shine. Silence stills the room. The crowd stands in eager await with her family, friends, and loved ones there in complete approval and pride of Midge. She knows with determination what she’s supposed to do. Then, in such a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel way, she asks Susie if this is what it takes, knowing that she can do something that’ll ruin them. They know. Everyone knows. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for the entire series. The big break, beyond everything that we’ve seen her do: the spotlight in America’s number 1 talkshow. The moment millions give our girl the recognition she’s fought tooth and nail to deserve.
Midge, in the best ways, admits she’s just never been great at following rules. Then it happens. Slowly but subtly at first, a routine that’s not only funny… but culminates in the best of everything we’ve seen thus far, and more. I won’t spoil it because I think everyone who watches TV should see this moment, but it’s hard not to stress that magic of the shot. The routine. That moment that makes a career. It’s… by all means beautiful. And I think something that’ll be remembered in the hearts of TV history.
In the end, there’s just something about reaching your dreams. In overcoming all the trials. And most importantly, seeing what the struggle was for…
This is the episode that does that.
And it’s nothing shy of funny, and honestly, beautifully well done. The team behind Mrs. Maisel, Rachel Brosnahan, the cast and crew, and Amy Sherman-Paladino should feel proud. They didn’t make TV tonight. They made art.
Perfect Score all-around.