8:30am PT by Emma Dibdin
'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel': 6 Burning Questions for Season 4
[This story contains spoilers from the season three finale of Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.]
After three seasons of steady and almost unimpeded career success, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) experienced her first real professional blow in the closing moments of the season three finale, “A Jewish Girl Walks Into The Apollo…”. Intimidated by the prospect of opening for pop star Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) on his home turf — Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater — Midge turns to Shy’s straight-talking manager, Reggie (Sterling K. Brown), who tells her to endear herself to the audience by focusing her set on Shy. “Shy’s like family to these people,” Reggie explains. “They want to hear stories about him. Stories about the road. Late night craziness, gossip, tantrums.”
Good advice, in theory. But unbeknownst to Reggie, Midge knows Shy’s most tightly-guarded secret — that he’s in the closet — and her stand-up set about him ends up hitting far too close to home. In the most brutal moments of the season, Midge and Susie (Alex Borstein) arrive at the airstrip with bags packed, only to be told that they’re not going on tour; Shy doesn’t want Midge to open for him, or indeed speak to him, ever again.
This gut punch feels like a turning point for Midge, who had adapted to life on tour with surprising ease and doesn’t seem to have much else lined up, commercial work aside. As Daniel Palladino reminded The Hollywood Reporter during an interview with TV’s Top 5 podcast, Midge is still early in her career relative to the show’s length. “We’re only about two years into her journey, because time has kind of slowed down in TV Land for us,” he said, adding that he and Amy Sherman-Palladino “have an idea of emotionally where we want the Midge character to end.” This endpoint isn’t tied to any specific plan in terms of a number of seasons, he said. “We don’t know exactly how long it’s going to take … but we don’t feel any pressure [to end the show].”
In a move that surprised nobody, Amazon officially renewed The Marvelous Mrs Maisel for a fourth season last week. So since Midge is sticking around for the foreseeable future, here’s a few questions to ponder over the hiatus.
How will Midge recover from her first major career setback?
Midge’s disastrous set at the Apollo is a stunning demonstration of just how much self-awareness she often lacks. Between calling Shy flamboyant and feminine, the story about meeting him in the ladies room and the reference to Judy Garland, it’s hard to believe Midge didn’t know what she was doing here — but she was getting laughs, and in the moment that’s all that mattered. Aside from the glamour of getting to go overseas for the extension, Midge has a lot at stake on the tour both professionally and financially (she just bought her own apartment!) and it doesn’t seem as though she has much of a fallback plan. She’ll bounce back, of course, but how long will it take? How much will the bad publicity from getting cut from Shy’s tour hurt her? And how many corn syrup radio ads will she have to do to scrape by in the meantime?
How long before Midge discovers Susie’s gambling problem?
As had been hinted at throughout the season, the finale confirmed that Susie’s gambling has gotten steadily out of hand, to the point where she’s now thousands of dollars in debt. Far more shocking is the revelation that she’s been gambling not only her own money, but Midge’s as well. Though she’s able to dig herself out of the hole for now — the insurance money from burning down her late mother’s house will cover Midge’s lost earnings — it’s surely only a matter of time until the truth comes out.
Susie also makes the dubious decision to pull Joel (Michael Zegen) into this mess, asking him to take care of Midge’s money because she can’t trust herself with it. “I can steer her career, I’m gonna make her a very big star, but the money… I need you to protect it,” she explains to an uncomfortable Joel. Though this makes sense as a desperate move, secretly entrusting Midge’s earnings to her husband — just as she finally feels truly independent in purchasing her own home — is almost as severe a betrayal as the gambling. This blowout is going to be ugly.
Will Susie take on more clients?
Though the loss of projected income from Shy’s tour is a problem for Midge, it’s a much bigger one for Susie, who’s back to being a one-client manager after Jane Lynch’s gloriously unhinged Sophie Lennon torpedoed her own Broadway debut. Since ten percent of Midge’s radio commercial earnings isn’t likely to get Susie far, she may be forced to start seeking out new business in a more aggressive way than she has before. “You’re gonna be right where I am someday, you’ll see,” Reggie tells a devastated Susie right before the jet leaves without them. Is he right?
How will the show address Lenny Bruce’s death?
Given that Bruce died in 1966, this likely isn’t a question that will come up in season four, barring a huge time jump. But given Bruce’s ominous final line in season three — “Maybe someday, before I’m dead” — viewers have more reason than ever to wonder how the show will handle his grim real-life fate. “The minute you put Lenny Bruce in it, you know where you’re going,” Sherman-Palladino told THR. “You can’t pretend it’s not gonna happen.” She went on to suggest that Lenny may come to represent a cautionary tale for Midge: “I actually think the fact that we know where he’s eventually going to end, it adds to the cautionary tale of ambition and following your dream and the fact that every dream comes with consequences, and it can go great, or it can go off the rails.”
Sherman-Palladino also downplayed the possibility of a romance between Midge and Lenny, who came close to crossing the line in season three. “It’s about the fact that this is a time where she’s entering into a male-dominated world, there weren’t that many female comics, this is not a hospitable world for her to be entering into at all. And yet one of the legends, one of the bravest of the brave, one of the people who was trying to push comedy into a different realm ... looks at her as an equal, looks at her not as a skirt, not as a piece of ass, looks at her like a legitimate comrade in arms,” she explained. “That is a very big deal for someone like Midge. These are two people who are sort of swimming upstream together, her because she’s a woman, him because he’s simply doing something that society is not quite ready for. “
Are Midge and Joel ever going to get divorced again?
After a truly farcical roller-coaster ride which saw Midge and Joel getting divorced in episode two, then drunkenly remarried in Vegas two episodes later, the couple went several episodes without much interaction. But the finale brought them back together to bicker over their son Ethan, and specifically the disturbing news that he may not be able to attend their dream school on the Upper West Side now that neither of his parents live in the neighborhood any more.
Though this problem is solved within the hour — Midge purchases her old UWS apartment, using her own earnings as a down payment — the couple’s reunion, along with flashbacks to their happier past, revive the age-old question of exactly where their relationship is heading. Both Midge and Joel agree that they should get divorced again as soon as possible, but this hasn’t happened yet as of the finale (Midge introduces him as her “again soon-to-be-ex-husband”), and knowing these two there’s a strong chance that it never will. On the other hand, Joel’s relationship with Mei (Stephanie Hsu) is going from strength to strength, and she doesn’t seem like the type to just sit back and accept her boyfriend being accidentally married to another woman.
Will Abe and Rose be able to get their old life back?
Since losing their Columbia-owned apartment on the Upper West Side early in the season, Midge’s parents have been thrown into an identity crisis — not to mention an untenable living situation with Joel’s deeply annoying parents in Queens — without an obvious way out. But the finale offered some light at the end of the (Midtown) tunnel, with Abe receiving an unexpected job offer: theater critic for the Village Voice. Aside from befriending a crowd of aimless young beatniks, Abe hasn’t exactly turned into the revolutionary rebel he was aspiring to be when he quit his post at Columbia, so it seems likely he’ll jump at the chance to get back into a full-time job.
“Part of the problem here is that he does have a foot in both worlds,” Shalhoub told THR of Abe’s conflict. “He is an idealist, and he's still got some fire in his gut, but he's gotten very used to all those creature comforts. Parting with them, and making a clean, abrupt break from those creature comforts, is a bit of a challenge for him.” But even with the new job, it’s not clear whether Abe and Rose will be able to afford all the same creature comforts they once had, since the Village Voice gig isn’t likely to come with a lavish riverside apartment, and Rose no longer has any money coming in from her family trust fund. At the very least, Rose can probably go without picking up dollar bills from the subway floor now.
Listen to the Palladinos' interview with TV's Top 5 hosts Lesley Goldberg and Dan Fienberg, below, starting at the 24:44 mark.