The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a Prime Video comedy series that debuted in 2017 and just went into its fourth season, follows the story of a 1960s housewife who becomes a controversial comedian after her husband leaves her for another woman. Season four of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel resumes right where it left its viewers at the end of season three, with Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) being left on the tarmac in front of a Europe bound private jet, after being fired as the opening act for one of the most famous singers in North America. After being let go by the Johnny-Mathis-esque pop star, Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), minutes before leaving on a European tour, Midge must re-adapt to life as a struggling comedian and mother. She buys back her Upper West Side apartment and attempts to resume her life as “normal,” i.e. tupperware parties, designer dresses from B. Altman, and lunches at the Stage Deli with her curmudgeonly manager, Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein). However, a wrench is quickly thrown in her plans when she realizes that she has no money, and must resort to borrowing from her ex-father in law.
Struggling to get back into the comedy scene after her major loss, Midge gets a job as an MC at a strip club, a more “taboo” setting than many mid century period pieces are apt to have as a primary location. This new season dives deeper into Midge’s feminist journey, learning to be an independent, unmarried woman in a very male dominated career during the early 1960s. Injustices that she had been peripherally aware of begin to truly anger her more than they did when she was with Joel, her cheating ex-husband, living her lofty Upper West Side life.
Stella Wunder, a drama student at NYU who was a background actor in season four, says, “I think one of the things that I love about it, is that it’s about women just existing and trying to make their way in the world. I think it’s very realistic and Rachel Brosnahan does a great job of capturing this woman who is not perfect, and she makes mistakes, she’s playing her cards, she’s got aces up her sleeve and she’s a feisty lady. I love that she represents a very modern woman despite the show being set in the 1960s.” Season four keeps its heavily stylized nature, incorporating a broad selection of early 60s music, costumes, props, and sets, keeping the immense level of razzle dazzle that Maisel viewers are used to seeing. In a new decade from the previous three seasons, new styles of clothing are incorporated into the show. The full-skirted silhouette of the 1950s is beginning to be done away with, featuring Midge in more sleek A-line dresses and even the occasional pair of pants. But of course, Midge’s hat collection remains just as impressive. In any given episode there is an immense attention to detail to ensure every single shot stays true to the time period. “They take so much care with everything. We do something called a prop lineup where when you go to set you go to the props booth and they’ll give everybody something to hold, like a newspaper, book, or a fake cigarette. Just making sure that every single little detail is taken care of,” says Wunder.
This season, I enjoyed seeing the evolution of the relationship between Joel (Michael Zegan) and Mei (Stephanie Hsu), a young woman who is working in her parents’ underground gambling ring while studying to be a doctor. Their story dives into the difficulties of being an interracial couple in 1960, which added a really interesting side to both Joel and Mei’s characters. Also this season, Midge and famed comedian Lenny Bruce finally act on the chemistry that has been building up between them since season one, putting an end to their “will they, won’t they” storyline. I look forward to seeing where season five takes their relationship. Additionally, I am curious to see if season five will incorporate more of the African-American entertainment scene that was happening at the time, as it lightly touched on in season four when Susie’s new secretary, Dinah (Alfie Fuller) takes her to see a black comic for Susie to consider representing.
I do wish that the first few episodes of this season had been slightly more focused and connected to the overall plot, but it all really came together in the latter half of the season. The end of this season certainly leaves its viewers wanting more, and I wait anxiously to see what the next and final season will bring.