The following is an episode-by-episode recap of season 2. It will contain spoilers. For a spoiler-free review of the season click here.
Ep. 1: Simone
The episode opens with a beautiful segue through the hustle and bustle of the B. Altman store: starting outside, the windows decorated with shiny wintery snowflakes, and then in through the doors and onto busy bustling storeroom – the holiday themed attire and backdrops. This, all while being serenaded by the Barbara Streisand tune “Just Leave Everything to Me” from the movie Hello, Dolly.
The transition takes us downstairs into the basement, stopping at the telephone operator floor. Where we catch Midge, now demoted to operator girl. Yet, even so, she’s still acting quite marvelous at that.
The budget is bigger in season two and it shows right from the beginning. With some seriously detailed set-pieces and costume designs, along with the best camera work in the series to date.
Soon after, Midge receives a call at work from Susie. Opportunities have come once again despite her hiccups at the end of last season. All thanks to her opening set for Lenny Bruce.
But just as we think the comedy is coming…
Her father, Abe Weisman, calls. He’s quite hysterical. Midge’s mother has disappeared!
At least, that’s what they thought. At this point, we should know the Weismann family can be a little… self-centered. Abe can get lost in his calculations. Midge in her comedy. The family lacks a certain type of attention…
Because Rose left an obvious note, in the open, right in front of them. Unhappy and feeling betrayed that her family didn’t need her, Rose packed her things and left for Paris, permanently.
Yet none of the family seemed to take notice.
So the episode starts with a screwball. As Midge and Abe drop everything and head off to Paris. Getting Rose’s address from the housekeeper, they find her happily mingling with new friends, living in a quaint little apartment and caretaking her new dog: Simone.
Most importantly, Rose is happy for once in her life and has no desire to return home.
Over dinner at a local café, Midge and Abe attempt to convince her to go home. Over steak tartare, Rose babbles on about how wonderful Paris is – which she is correct. So far, the episode has done nothing but shown us how marvelous the decorum, culture and people are. Like the movie, ‘Midnight in Paris’ but with faster, even wittier phrasing.
When confronted again about returning home, Rose still says no. Abe storms off, as Midge gets on her mother’s case about her commitment to her husband. And in an acerbic retort, Rose replies, “Look who’s talking?”
Hurting Midge rather personally.
She wanders the streets in a moment of self-reflection. Midge ends up at a nightclub, as it’s her go to haven as a comedian – though this one is filled with drag queens performing as women on stage. Midge accidentally finds herself onstage as well, which leads her to perform a stand-up set, a fellow New Yorker luckily in the audience, playing impossible translator to the fast-talking wise cracking Mrs. Maisel.
As expected, she does well, the audience is captivated. At least, until the end.
This leads to the most important part of the episode: a flashback to the evening of her stand-up set at the end of last season. Joel was in the crowd that night. Midge didn’t know and wanted to tell him she was a comedian personally.
Especially because her material was heavily based on their failed marriage.
So she chased after him, wanting to explain things… But he in return, gave back his wedding ring back to her… effectively ending their rekindling relationship.
Midge gets off stage and wanders Paris alone. But everywhere she turns were some harrowing reminders of romance from the city of love. Midge calls Joel – begging to fix things, especially for the kids. Although Joel loves her, and she in turn loves him, he realized that night, that he can’t be the butt of her joke. That if she’s going to do stand-up, he would never be able to be her embarrassing husband…
Yet at the same time, wants her to live out her dream all the same.
It’s sad, really. Which makes for a good season opener. On a lighter note, Susie gets taken away by some tough thugs who intend to murder her – but instead, they end up becoming the best of friends, in one of the funniest side stories of the season.
Ep. 2: Mid-Way to Mid-Town
Midge is home in New York. Susie is crashing at her place in attempts to hide from the goons Harry Drake sent to hurt her. She’s relishing in Midge’s lifestyle – bubble baths and pink face soaps, late night TV, maids and sandwiches galore.
But after a funny little encounter with Imogene, Midge’s best friend, who catches Susie living at her parents luxurious apartment – Susie realizes she has to have a sidebar with her client.
Confused as to why nobody knows Midge was performing comedy for Suzie at the Gaslight nightclub, she talks with Midge. Midge realizes she’s going to have to tell her parents she’s a stand-up comedian. Preferably soon as Susie gets more and more press for her client.
It’s only occurring to her now that being a successful comedian means having your face known. Her secret nightlife as a stand-up, can’t remain a secret forever.
Meanwhile, Abe remains in Paris with Rose, and immediately starts taking a liking to the culture. Wearing berets and sipping coffee over conversation. We see how wonderful the pair adapt to the style and culture; the two very much enjoying their lives there, discussing philosophy and art and Proust.
Yet for all it’s worth, Abe’s still tries to get Rose to go back with him. He has to return to his work. She has to watch after their family.
In an oddly sweet partnership – after some serious consideration by Rose, the two do eventually end up returning home by episode’s end. Though what’s most noticeable, is how amenable it is. How great of a couple the two make.
Abe, very much in love with his wife, convinces the university to allow her to audit some art courses – as art history was one of the things about Paris Rose absolutely loved.
It’s a prominent arc this season, where we start to see why they work as a marriage. It’s also engaging that we see Rose in a different light.
Back in New York, Joel wants to buy an apartment for Midge and the kids. He also wants to get his life together. He starts by trying to fix-up his father’s textile manufacturing business.
On the stand-up end, midge performs a gig that’s still a ways away from midtown (remember, she’s banned from a lot of clubs due to angering Harry last season). Her set is postponed many times, and her outfit is worse for wear, more as the evening wears on.
She’s also made fun of throughout the night for being a woman. But conflict is what gets Midge to do her best, so when she finally does her set, she nails it – making fun of the haters and getting back at her heckling cohorts.
It’s a statement about women in comedy, especially on oppression. The routine generates some serious laughs. Yet despite that they got paid, they also pissed off some ego hurt males along the way.
Which is funny, because this club ends up being Midge’s most constant gig in town… more on that later.
Ep. 3: The Punishment Room
By now, the series has really showcased just how dependent they are on Zelda, their maid/nanny. Which is why this opening bit, during Zelda’s day off, works:
The family prepares to go about their day, each member hastily getting ready to do what they need. Yet, coincidentally as everyone is good to go and out the door – they immediately return: because no one is sticking around to watch the kids!
It showcases this is a family filled with people that’s focused an awful lot on themselves. Which is funny, given how judgmental they are about keeping secrets, when in truth – they’re all not very good at listening.
We cut to Midge’s job, as she’s temporarily promoted back upstairs to coat check-in. An upgrade from the operator room, and within reach of her old girlfriends at the cosmetics counter.
Reconnecting with old friends, Midge offers to help plan a coworker’s wedding for free. Why? Because she doesn’t know how to nosy in. Also, she likes anything involving style and taste – wedding planning would come naturally.
At the venue, Midge convinces the pastor to grant her friend a more spacious location for the wedding; getting out of the punishment room (yes, that’s what it’s called; yes, it’s just as depressing as it sounds) and into the window room (essentially, a small hall with windows).
The wedding is executed a lot better. People are enjoying and it’s a beautiful little occasion as compared to a somber affair in a tiny punishment room.
Despite this, just when all seems well, Midge proves to be her own undoing. During an opportune moment for a toast where she’s given thanks – Midge takes the microphone and proceeds to kick into stand-up, roasting her Catholic audience – delivering offensive, after offensive, after sexually charged yet creepily insinuating puns!
This does not bode well. The best bit: when Midge jokes that the bride is only committing because of a pregnancy out of wedlock. Because she is! Which leaves her friend in tears, in a hilariously awkward, yet ultimately self-destructive moment of this season.
As for the parents, Rose is dealing with being back in New York and has started auditing classes thanks to some pull from Abe. She starts with good intentions: doing well in class and having discussions; yet, she somewhat scares her younger art school friends. Rose provides some revelations to her younger cohorts that artists rarely become successful and encourages them to find husbands at the business school over small talk. Surprisingly, all of them follow suit. The women in art class abandon their dreams and drop out of the art program thanks to Rose’s advice.
Thus, the department threatens to kick Rose out. But with some persuasion from Abe, they hilariously work a deal out. Mostly by confusing the Dean together with some truth bombs (Literally, Abe saw nothing wrong with Rose’s doings – even suggesting maybe hiring more women professors), showcasing yet again the oddly funny yet enigmatic power couple the two make when working together.
Meanwhile, Susie rents her place out to an Italian family to save money, only to realize her phone provider is charging an arm and a leg for long distance calls. Which also happen to be any call up to two miles away. So basically, every phone call.
Joel starts looking through his mother’s accounting books – First to apply for a loan; then to go on a quest…
In one of the funniest side stories this season, Joel must go treasure hunting. His mother’s books are indecipherable, but they do contain plenty of maps to hidden stashes of money. Joel’s parents, apparently preferring to hide their cash in random locations instead of trusting a bank.
Later on, Midge tries to apologize to her friend whose wedding she ruined, all the while, working the coat closet. When she refuses to talk, Midge breaks the only rule of being a coat checker: never leave your station. She tries to apologize, and of course is caught, causing her to go back to the basement.
Ep. 4: We’re Going to The Catskills!
What do you do when you have an entire Summer to dedicate into breaking in as a stand-Up Comedian?
For Midge Maisel, you take a two-month vacation.
These are sort of the standard expectations of living in an upper-class family with privilege in Manhattan’s upper west side; the lifestyles of Midge Maisel and the Weismann family.
What’s crazy is how long of a break that is for the average person.
What’s even crazier? Is that it’s spent at a Jewish sleepaway camp set in the late 1950s.
There’s this recurring bit this episode: who’s the child and who’s the parent? We see this from the opening with Ethan, Midge’s son, playing with Grandpa Abe’s tiny models of the family luggage and U-haul truck. Tiny toy-like models which, according to Abe, is not for children…
The camera then cuts away to Midge and Rose, who sort through two racks of hanged-up dresses, playing dress up and looking for what outfits to wear the entire summer.
It’s strange. So much about the Catskills getaway seems like it’s for children. The glasses of juice, the games of Simon Says, the fireworks and the row boats and tumblers… the three episodes taking place here – very much upping the cheesiness factor, along with playing with our expectations about what it means to be an adult.
So the family goes to the Catskills. It’s a perfect sort of family vacation. Yet, shortly upon arrival, Midge realizes she’s being treated differently. Given the separation with her husband, the community starts ostracizing her. Treating her, and later, Joel with a cold shoulder out of fear of their reputation.
Joel makes a scene when he arrives, defending his ex-wife and demanding fair and equal treatment – the same as they had gotten in the past. He is especially pissed when he finds out that Midge is not allowed to partake in the swimsuit competition due to their recent separation and the negative attention that may bring.
On the comedy side of things, Susie refuses to do spend two months doing nothing and so joins her client, sneaking into the resort with a perfect disguise: A Plunger!
She carries it with her, oddly affectionately as the episodes go on, and the disguise works swimmingly: everyone believes she’s maintenance crew.
Susie is determined to find Midge gigs around the luxurious Catskills – all the while, crashing at the lodge in rather hilarious fashion.
Unfortunately, Joel forgot to book a room himself, and so is relegated into staying at the Weismann family’s sunroom. Although Abe warns him, that he likes to get up at 5am for morning exercise in his one-piece Romper – in a humorous morning bit.
Finally, Rose decides to try to set up Midge with an oddly quirky doctor. Who is none other than Benjamin, a tall and fit Zachary Levi coming off the Shazam set, doing his best to be obnoxious (And failing because let’s be honest, we know where he’s going – that Chuck).
Towards the end, we see Joel looking on at Midge and her parents rather longingly. He wants his old life back. He later meets Ben, a complete stranger, and asks about the nature of forgiveness – the two disagreeing.
It’s Joel’s character arc this season, and it’s surprisingly well done.
Ep. 5: Midnight at the Conchord
Whereas most of the episodes were sudden jumps into new locations, this episode saw Midge get back on track with her comedy. Showcasing her wit, but also, perseverance even at the most awkward of moments.
Midge gets a call from the B. Altman department store, informing her that she can have her make-up counter job back if she can show up today.
Immediately, she drops her vacation at the Catskills and does what she can to head back into the city, moving so fast there wasn’t enough time to inform Susie that she was leaving.
Susie, meanwhile, is still wandering around the resort trying to find Midge work. A fellow scammer who also uses objects to hide in plain sight, seems to be onto her and the two have a funny game of, “I know what you’re doing” with each other. Eventually, she’s able to book Midge a pretty big gig at the Conchord.
Without other options, Midge reluctantly catches a ride with Benjamin back to New York. He’s on his way back to the city as well, as he’s a surgeon but also, doesn’t enjoy the Catskills too much – only staying long enough to eat an entire box of cereal. Very much showcasing that Ben is just as strange as Midge is in a lot of ways.
On the road trip over, the two make for poor company. Ben drives in silence, and then intentionally bores Midge by playing news radio. All-in-all they’re terrible together, that is, until he cuts the radio out, and she begins playfully riffing and ad-libbing her own broadcast. Ben quickly takes a liking to her comedy, and we begin to see a shift in their relationship.
Back in the city, Ben asks her on a date, and she agrees.
The show skips over Midge’s reclamation of her make-up counter gig entirely. Focusing instead on her and Ben’s evening date. What happens next is indeed, a sappy happy romance. As Midge and Ben clearly have chemistry together and spend the night playfully joking with each other.
First, they skip out on the second half of a Broadway play that neither find all-too exciting, save for the mutual riffing about how awful stories featuring trials are. Afterward, they drop by Lenny Bruce’s set at a club, as Ben gets a semi-introduction into Midge’s world, which seems to work for him. At the usual Diner, the two hit it off too, and Midge, seeing where this is going, confesses to Ben that she’s a comedian. He finds it weird, which is actually a great thing, as Ben really likes that in a partner.
This is a significant step for Midge, as she has yet to reveal the secret even to her own parents. But Ben brushes off the secret and isn’t freaked out by it. Something Joel didn’t do.
Speaking of which, Joel seems to be doing quite alright for himself as well at the Catskills. Numerous women are interested in him. But he doesn’t seem to truly try. It’s obvious he’s still enamored with Midge, though it seems like only a matter of time until they both move on with other people – or so this episode implies.
Susie then informs Midge she’s got a spot on the Concord, which turns out to be the largest gig she’s ever played at. She performs rather admirably and is nailing her set until she notices… her father, Abe Weismann, in the crowd.
Earlier at camp, we’d seen Abe wander off and fake being sick to avoid spending time with the Maisels (Joel’s parents) – secretly sneaking off to apparently see this show. As the set continues, we notice he’s quite unsettled at his daughter’s jokes, much of which, are made at the expense of his family. Midge keeps going, maintaining composure while also apologizing to the crowd in an awkwardly funny bit.
Abe addresses his daughter after the show. She’s horrified. He takes both her and Susie back to the cabin, the two get inside the back of his car like a pair of children deeply in trouble with dad – which very much is the case.
Ep. 6: Let’s Face the Music and Dance
A telling title for the following episode.
After being driven back to the lodge after the set at the Concord, Midge and Susie wait on the couch, Abe’s shock still apparent – as the tune of flight of the bumblebee plays in the backdrop highlighting his mind’s anxiety. He leaves them be for what’s assumed to be a moment.
They wait until next morning for his condemnation, but it never seems to happen.
Susie then returns to the workers camp and find out that everyone has been searching for her throughout the evening – concerned that she’d gone missing.
It’s touching, as Susie is sort of a recluse loner, yet here, the camp counselors and staff have seemed to have really taken a liking to her – she’s sorely missed and well loved upon her return – the gang providing her blankets and even feeding her soup.
The next morning over an awkward breakfast, Abe asks Midge about her standup choices. She tries to reason with him, reassuring that this is what she wants. However, Abe is still disgusted with her. Midge wants to tell her mother, but Abe is adamantly against it.
Coincidentally, this is the last of Abe’s problems. When a surprising call from Bell labs forces him to return, he soon learns of a grave secret: That his clearance is of little importance. Equal to that of a Janitor. Moreso, that his own son, Noah (Will Brill), has been secretly working on an even larger project for the government – something gravely overshadowing his father.
It’s refreshing to see Abe at a low point. A man, who had believed for so long to be in charge and in control – seemingly realizing how small he is. His career greatly overshadowed by his son, and his daughter, secretly living a secret life as a comedian under his nose.
At the same time, nothing really changes for him – Abe and his family are very much the same. He now just knows the secrets – which in turn, changes him in a way.
To get more information, he schemes with his wife, Rose – in a very funny bit playing on women’s roles and expectations in Jewish culture. Rose ‘interrogates’ Noah’s wife, preying on her delirious nature due to her own fasting over religious protest.
The episode concludes with a dance (an homage to Dirty Dancing, which also took place at the Catskills) and the night ends with a moment between Midge and Joel.
The two acknowledge that things have changed.
Oddly enough, by embracing their honesty with each other and by being supportive of one another; they’ve finally become the people each other needed when they were together…
But it’s all too late. They’re not together. They’re separated and looking for a new dance partner. The episode ending with this bittersweet sentiment.
Ep. 7: Look, She Made a Hat
The episode begins with a date at an art show. Midge and Ben, now official, are shaking hands with some of New York’s finest artists. Midge buys a painting in the back room, in the lesser-known discounted section.
It’s this purchase, out of a heartfelt connection with art, that piques the interest of a Declan Howell, an eccentric, yet isolated Artist who also happens to be one of Ben’s favorites. They meet him at a tavern filled with fellow artists, and immediately Ben is smitten.
See Declan rarely sells his pieces. He’s an artists’ artist and a well-known drunk – a boisterous, albeit brilliant – rebel of sorts.
Naturally, Midge decides to try and convince Declan to sell Ben a piece. Using a bit of that Midge Maisel charm, they agree to meet at his place at a later date.
At this point, we’re seeing Ben’s utter infatuation with Midge. He’s obviously in love with every little thing she does: her observations, her jokes, her stubbornness, and even slight narcissism. It’s hard not to notice these things, especially given how much we follow her story. Especially because we know that Ben’s right.
Midge is marvelous in many ways.
Meanwhile, Joel officially buys the building of his father’s business, allowing the company more control over the rent, and perhaps the ability to fix things – as the business is struggling.
They celebrate the occasion with libations and a small party. We soon notice that Joel is in fact ‘courting’ multiple women at once – thought it’s all consensual.
But by the end of the night, we realize that despite his success at this job, and the many women that want to date him, and the may people that like him; Joel is miserable. What he actually wants is forgiveness: For what he did to Midge, and for how he destroyed his family.
For the past few episodes, we’ve seen Joel slowly grow into this surprisingly caring person – a contrast to his selfishness last season. He plays savior to both his parents, and the people that work for his father, and is especially supportive to Midge and the kids; but this moment provides some clarity, that in the end, all Joel just wants is his old life back – and more than anything, to fix the wrongs he did.
Elsewhere, Susie, in a small side plot, meets her family and makes plans to go on a tour with Midge. Yet she needs money, and maybe a car, to get them there. Her family is as expected: sleazy and unreliable – but Susie is able to get what she needs with some family advice from her sister.
Back at Declan’s place, after some bouncy conversation, Midge is able to get a private moment with the artist. He takes her out back and is allowed to look at his masterpiece. It’s then, that we get to know the real Declan.
He admits that he had given his passion his everything: at the cost of anything else he’d ever loved. His family. His personal life. It’s something Midge takes notice of and reflects upon about her own decisions – which is an important beat in story.
A hesitant and concerned Ben calls for her at the front. She departs, with Declan allowing her to gift Ben any of his pieces in the front gallery.
During Yom Kippur dinner, Midge finally confesses to her loved ones that she’s a comedian. Which goes over as you’d expect it to: hilariously.
Ep. 8: Someday…
The road trip episode! After signing her first ever autograph, Midge and Susie get ready to gig across the east coast. But first, Midge decides to do damage control.
First, Midge visits her dad, who is listening to Ethan’s (Midge’s son) records about potty training as he’s trying to teach a computer how to sing; children’s songs being the easiest to teach a computer. She takes this chance to invite him to see her perform – but he’s not having it. He emphasizes that so long as she gets married, everything will be fine.
Then, Midge visits Imogene, her best friend who was also at Yom Kippur dinner. She’s treating Imogene to lunch at the ‘Diner’ her stand-up friends attend. She feels guilty about not telling her sooner about the stand-up career.
Imogene is having a baby shower that Midge wouldn’t miss for the world.
On the road, Midge does a set in Washington D.C. and is on fire – getting laughs and winning the audience. She jokes about her dad’s project on stage, the children’s records he was listening to and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, her father was never potty trained.
Her set is cut short by the manager who is screaming ‘Fire!’ in the kitchen…
That evening, Midge and Susie share a room at a motel. We get a sense that Midge is a bit high strung and high class, expecting the over-the-counter guy who checked them in to bring her bags up, and freaking out about the ‘Lots of things to say hello to’ in the room (the gross things you’d expect at a cheap motel).
Still, she’s staying positive and treating this as an adventure. The episode plays with the differences in class between Susie and Midge; how particular and finicky Midge is; how lax and tough-natured Susie can be.
The next morning, Midge calls Joel to make sure Ethan and the baby are alright. We phone call, showing just how well-adjusted they are in their separation. We also get to see Joel accost Susie in making sure no harm happens to Midge, in an oddly gallant yet also brutish display that’s funny but also excessive. Though we understand: Joel truly cares about her.
That being said, the gigs don’t seem all too promising, as the next one in Philly plays to a mostly empty audience. The next motel: even worse than the last. Susie wakes up with a very noticeable rash on her face, and in a moment of hysterics, Midge realizes she mixed the dates up for Imogene’s baby shower – as it’s today.
Imogene forgives her over the phone rather quickly, yet Rose is not happy with her daughter – as they’re hosting the shower at their house. When Midge does eventually get home at the episode’s end, Rose leaves the mess from the baby shower up to Midge to clean up.
It’s interesting because we start to notice something: Midge is disregarding her duties to her family and friends, in favor of her Stand-up career, despite how poor the situation may be. An important thing to notice as she’s slowly but surely transforming – more on that later.
Things aren’t too promising in Pennsylvania. As their next gig is canceled and they’re forced to sleep in their car in the rain. To make matters worse, for their final gig in New York: their coordinator is skimping on paying, despite a solid performance because they’re ten minutes late (thanks to traffic on the tunnel in from NJ).
Susie is then locked in a closet when she tries to ask the money from the club manager. Midge, desperate and frustrated to no end, calls Joel who roughs the guy up to get their cash, while Susie makes a funny statement about the quality of the plunger in their closet (a callback to the Catskills; Susie again, quite enamored with plungers).
Ep. 9: Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy
The episode begins at the Diner, where everyone is gossiping about a big arthritis telethon looking for acts. The booker for it, who happens to be eating at this very diner (because this is the magic of television: convenience).
Susie works her magic and hustles a slot in for Midge, in a fun table hopping segment while Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive and Wail” plays.
Cut to a scene later, and although it’s going to be her first television performance, Midge’s parents aren’t all too impressed.
Abe’s life has been miserable as of late. He’s awful to be around and performing terribly as a teacher, especially since the news of his son’s higher clearance than his, working for the CIA and Midge’s revelation of being a stand-up comedian. The university requests he go on sabbatical as the uptight Abe apparently has become a loose cannon (which sound silly, I know).
At the club, Midge tries out some TV-appropriate material on stage. A supportive Ben cheers on in the audience. They seem to be doing well together. That is, until he later meets her children at the park the next day. It startles her as she’s not ready for the encounter.
This is odd. Especially, because while Ben was allowed into her secret comedy life rather easily, her family – particularly her kids, whom she shares with Joel – seems to be a different issue.
Speaking of which, even though he single-handedly saved the company, Joel is offered $60,000 in an offer to leave, from his father. His dad wants him to figure his life out – fearing to see his son trapped and not moving on with his life.
Midge and Susie check out the telethon that evening and it’s impressive. It’s a refreshing change of scenery being in a studio – With snazzily dressed artists, engaging dancers, and a vibe that jives of the 1950s. It appears the gig is going to be quite a hoot – that is until they discover Sophie Lennon is also in attendance.
Much of the story then pivots to how Sophie sabotages both Midge’s screentime (she’s off camera for the telethon portion) and airtime (she’s put on dead last). Though not without Susie having a few words with Midge’s comedic rival – in a heated angry rant about how she shouldn’t mess with her client.
Surprisingly, Midge errs on the side of wisdom and tries to not stir the hornet’s nest – being amiable and trying best to not get in Sophie’s way. Especially when she realizes, from the many talents around her – that everyone sees Sophie as a talentless hack, just like she does. Yet still, one that needs to be feared.
After an invigorating performance by the singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), Midge encounters him in the bathroom – declaring how much her mother loves his music. She leaves a formidable impression with him… but more on that later.
Midge does her stand-up set at the end of the evening. Unsurprisingly she nails it yet again, being both humorous and charming, surprising everyone at the end and winning over the late callers of the evening.
Abe even watches her set on the television, as do the neighbors. And just for a moment, we’re even able to catch Abe smile, a nice contrast to his grumpy nature as of late.
Episode 10: All Alone
What I like about the season finale is how subtle the story has been building up to this. As I mentioned in the season review, the signals have been there throughout the season about how the season was going to end.
If you look at how the show portrays artists: mostly deadbeats and struggling people, those successful, the casualties of sacrifice. There’s this theme this season of how impossible it is to have your cake and eat it too.
The episode begins at a fortune teller’s place, the same one Rose frequented last season. She asks about her daughter’s future; the soothsayer, describing seeing Midge with a microphone, which Rose takes as getting married again. Seconds later, she reveals that she was seeing her in a black cocktail dress – the same one she uses performing stand-up.
Flashback to college, and Joel’s providing a snarky proposal to Blonde haired Midge albeit without obtaining permission from her father. Even though it’s not the most forward proposal, it is executed in a very romantic way – the duo ending up dancing together on the street.
Admittedly Joel is charming. The scene sees him at his best: both romantic and convincing.
Back to modern day, we see Ben meet with Abe, requesting Midge’s hand in marriage. But it’s an awful lot like a job application – Abe seriously vetting his to be son-in-law by requesting personal histories, bank records and hobby lists. He wants to be sure everything is done right this time, and that Ben is the right partner for his daughter.
Meanwhile, Midge looks at dresses with her mother, who goes over appropriate choices for her second wedding. No to Champagne colors. Yes, to finesse with practicality.
At the factory, Joel seemingly stays at his job despite being paid by his father. He even brings his children around. Ethan leaves hints about Ben in his drawings. In a funny scene where Joel teaches Ethan how to pee properly, he speaks to his son about mommy’s new friend: when Ben visited in the park and caught Midge off-guard.
When Midge picks up the kids from Joel at the factory, he passive-aggressively hands them off. She notices something is wrong. He asks her why she’s got ‘friends’ talking to his children. They fight over it and it ends poorly. We then see Joel and Archie, Imogene’s husband, swing at some baseballs in a field with their baseball bats. Joel realizes, perhaps it wasn’t comedy – but a career in owning a nightclub that he always wanted to do. This may be an introduction for a new story arc next season.
Abe asks Midge about what she said about him during a stand-up routine. He’d been informed that she somehow is tied to a leak in security. She admits in D.C. during the road trip (Episode 8) that she talked about the his teaching a computer to sing on stage.
Abe proceeds to speak to the Bell labs department and explains she didn’t know what he was working on. Still, they think he’s too loose and a security risk – his daughter, possibly included.
Defensive, Abe reminds them that they asked him to come there. That they wanted his expertise. They threaten that they own that, along with his intellectual properties. In a surprising act of defiance, Abe gets defensive about his work and his daughter. He storms off with an idle threat and no intention of returning.
At the only club in town that doesn’t hate her (The one in episode 2), Midge does a set but is kicked off for talking about pregnancy. Apparently, jokes about lady parts don’t swing well in this venue.
Bemoaning, she goes to a bar and visits Lenny Bruce. They mope about how shitty the business can be. Lenny tells her that he’s banned from yet another city due to his comedy but also, that Steve Allen has given him a few minutes to perform on TV. Midge agrees to accompany him in support.
Susie gets a summons from Sophie Lennon. She goes to apologize for Midge’s sake. Expecting to get her comeuppance, she has a surprising heart to heart and finds out that one time, Sophie had wanted to be a serious actor. That everyone in Sophie’s corner is worried that if she tried to get away from her routine, her career would be over. Sophie wants a manager who believes in her.
Sophie wants Susie.
Midge gets a call from Ben, who wonders how long it’ll take to get the yes from her hand in marriage. She reassures him. Shortly after, she gets a call from Shy Baldwin – the singer she’d encountered in the bathroom. He loved her performance at the telethon. He offers to let her open for his act for six months – all while touring in Europe, all expenses paid. She says yes without hesitation. It’s an action that has ramifications later.
Shortly after, Midge informs Susie, who doesn’t speak about the meeting with Sophie Lennon. After shopping for outfits for their trip, Midge returns home and her father tells her yes about Ben…
The look on her face is telling. So caught up in the offer, she’d completely forgotten about Ben, her life here, and the decision that she made. Most importantly, she doesn’t know how to tell Rose, who arrives shortly after.
Abe beats her to the punch. In a bold move, he tells Rose that he wants to leave his job at bell labs and the teaching position at Columbia. He also has more news to tell her… (implying, that he’s going to break the news about Midge and Ben).
This is a very poetic point in the story. At the beginning of the season, Abe wouldn’t leave it all behind; yet now, he is trying to find a lost sense of purpose on the way.
Which leads us to the famous Lenny Bruce set. If you don’t know, this performance is one of Lenny Bruce’s rare moments on TV, the actual comedian very much banned from most performances, much like his fictional counterpart in this show.
Lenny Bruce on the Steve Allen show
Midge is there to support. And while Lenny sings all alone, it’s a beautiful reminder of everything that has happened this season.
She knows what this means.
Midge goes to see Joel. She acknowledges that everything is different. She can’t go back to her life before, and she made a choice: to be all alone, for the rest of her life. And for just a moment, Midge to be with someone who loves her.
So she visited Joel… and they share an intimate moment before cutting away. It’s a powerful way to end the season. And looking back, we see evidence of this everywhere.
Declan talked about leaving his family to give his all towards creating his masterpiece. Sophie Lennon, gave up all hopes of being a serious actor to guarantee her success as a sellout. Rose, gave up her dreams of being an artist to be a mother. Even Abe, after his bell labs experience, questions how he’d gone from wanting to make a difference as a young man – to just some cog with no authority, operating within someone else’s system.
What you have, are stories about people chasing dreams yet having to give up something along the way. A dilemma Midge has been in all season: about who she really wants to be. Despite this, she knows, in but a brief few seconds, that she’d already made her choice the second she agreed to tour in Europe. But we, as the audience, know and have seen over-and-over…
That Midge has been choosing this since the beginning.
You can see season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime