The storyline for Mrs. Maisel seems to be focused on hitting the future. One where Midge is successful, though the future, still feels complicated at best. Last week we learned what happened to Midge and Susie, where bumbling decisions and surprisingly complicated storylines established for seasons have come back to haunt the family.
It’s a good story. One that still hits all the right beats that made this show enjoyable: funny moments of Midge disrupting the industry on her reach for stardom. Where it’s different then, is that there is a sense of doom that comes with success. Along any sort of rise comes the fallout from the ones we love. Which has been hinted at all throughout the season.
In this episode, we see The Maisel Family struggle to learn independence in a world without Zelda, their housekeeper. It’s a silly episode but one that sees all our characters grow. Whether it be Midge’s mother, Rose finding her place in life in her own ventures of financial independence or Abe, a successful but albeit poor writer (don’t I know that feeling) still the intellectual but finding himself out of touch with the times due to his stubbornness of what ‘taste’ and ‘intellectualism’ means. This episode also features a surprise cameo with Hank Azaria, who plays TV star, Danny Stevens.
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In this episode, the family learns to fend for themselves without Zelda. The former housekeeper has to show up rather frequently, much to her husband Janusz’s displeasure. It’s a funny scene that showcases a lot of the stunted characterization of these characters, in just how privileged and outright helpless, the Weissman family can be. Zelda even creates a book on how to do things that she’s left at their home.
Where it’s most evidently poor is in terms of neglect. Because Ethan shoves an entire giant toy boat down the drain of the bathtub causing the entire apartment to flood. The funny scene serves as an important beat in the story that accomplishes in highlighting just how hopeless this family is without Zelda. But it’s also important in acknowledging just how much of a dunce Ethan seems to be—a thread later explored in this episode. As a result of the flooding, Rose’s matchmaking service business has to delay their plans in a scene that serves as an allegory for one of the sadder beats of this episode. A powerful woman who’s often delving in the mess of her life, though finding family as a solace.
At the Gordon Ford show, they prepare for Danny Stevens’ guest appearance that night. Meanwhile, Mike Carr makes an announcement that he’s been made the new senior producer on the show. Later, Midge gets to meets Danny Stevens in the writers’ room, who soon shares that he’s got a new book coming. He wants to tell jokes in the show but finds it’`s bad material and he’s struggling to come up with content to promote his book. Midge suggests he just be honest, suggesting that he just talks about himself and find the funny in his own life (which, has always worked for her regarding her standup career).
When the show happens, we see Midge’s in-laws (Joel Maisel’s parents, Moishe and Shirley) in attendance thanks to the tickets she provided them. The show goes off with a hitch, with Danny Stevens talking not only about his book, but also, in a bit of a shocker: his family’s origins story as an immigrant Jewish family post-Holocaust. It’s incredibly heartbreaking and yet he spins it to make it funny. Thankful for how much the appearance killed it thanks to Midge’s advice, the famous comedic actor asks to buy her out which makes it awkward for Gordon Ford. The scene plays out in ways you’d not expect, as the next day, Gordon Ford gives Midge a raise (she’s now paid the same rate as the male writers now).
Abe, meanwhile, is dedicated to trying to get Ethan to be smart by teaching the boy classical piano. His logic is that it will somehow activate the kid’s inner intellectual potential. So when asked by Midge to bring Ethan to his school for gifted kids, Abe agrees though ends up very upset about it. The one-time brilliant professor learns that Ethan’s in a ‘special’ group, just a bunch of normal happy kids pursuing, well, happiness. This terrifies Abe Weissman as he grows concerned that the boy may skip a generation of Genius.
After this harrowing truth, Abe NEEDS the school to retest Ethan as he knows that the boy has to be a genius. Every male in their family is! Meeting with Joel, he seeks to find out why his grandson Ethan, is an idiot. It’s revealed that at the age of 6, the Maisel intelligence is meant to kick in, especially as he’s adamant that his genes will be dominant—so Ethan needs to be ready. Abe gives Joel advice on how to help his son: ignore Ethan entirely. Don’t be a good father. At least, until he’s reached the age of 6 so that he’ll become a genius just like other first-born Weissman males. Joel of course, refuses to neglect his son.
It’s funny seeing how later at dinner, the entire Weissman family actually believe Abe is correct about the first-born son thing. How it’s all attached to Abe’s belief that successful people can’t be happy. Which… is strangely, poetic and sadly relatable, in one of the show’s funnier arc bits.
On the brightest side, the episode concludes with Esther playing the piano: perfectly. It’s a world shocker to Abe, who’d spent so much time trying to be sure Ethan would be the genius only to neglect: his granddaughter, Esther. A young girl whom, if you remember back in the flashback in the first episode of the season, has in fact proven herself in the future to be: a genius. So obviously Grandpa has a new favorite.
There’s this scene in the show where an opportunity slips by. A moment where Susie does her best to sell Midge a role at a nightclub in terms of getting more breakout roles. Instead, attention is apparently aimed for James Howard, Susie’s other client, as his career is about to take off thanks to that movie Susie helped lock him in for by visiting that producer at a bathhouse earlier in the season.
While funny, there’s also this harsh realism standing out that affected me. How, despite having never seen the young comic even speak, there was a desire to see him as he’s a hot ticket commodity. It’s how buzz works in the industry, and unfortunately, this is the reality: you’re only beloved if you’re the hot ticket person of the moment. The rest, doesn’t matter no matter how good you are.
Atop of this, I have to say I’ve come to love Jason Ralph as Mike Carr, whose most famous for his role as Quentin in The Magicians. Married to Rachel Rosnahan in real life, he really has grown into the role and you feel for him. As for the time skips and conflict of this episode—which often sees friends become enemies, is really good. And the ending of this episode is some of the most slowly sentimental moments of the series thus far. Kudos to Hank Azaria for reminding us what The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does so well: Emotion.
FINAL SCORE 4.5/5
It’s amazing how you’ve labeled Ethan as a “dunce” and an “idiot” because he is not an intellectual genius like his sister. I find it amazing and just as cruel as Abe’s decision to ignore Ethan in favor of Esther.
I was using some of the terms Abe used. But at the same time, I think everyone in the show sort of acknowledges this to some extent, even Midge. Still… Ethan is happy. That’s actually pretty big to me and much more important than intelligence as they say.